One of the last Cuban players to remain unsigned, Aledmys Diaz has made a decision, choosing to join the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization. Diaz, a 23-year-old infielder, is reported to have signed on Sunday after getting interest from several other teams including the Blue Jays, Padres, Giants and Phillies. Despite the hype for Diaz, the signing is reportedly for four years and less than $20 million dollars which is far from the heights of other players like Yoenis Cespedes and Yasiel Puig.
In a interesting turn of events, the contract for Diaz is much smaller (both in terms of length and average annual value) than that for Erisbel Arruebarrena (5 years, $25 million) and Alexander Guerrero (4 years, $28 million), both signed by the Dodgers this offseason despite Kiley McDaniel predicting that Diaz might get a figure in the same range at around $5 to $7 million per year.
Diaz probably would have signed earlier, except for the fact that he was under investigation from MLB over discrepancies in reports of his age. To MLB, he reported that he was born on January 8, 1990, making him 23 years old (as of the July 2 cutoff) and exempt from the his contract being limited by the bonus pool for international free agent signings under 23. Another document was unearthed that gave his birthdate as August 1, 1990, slipping him just under the age limit at the July 2 cutoff for internationals. Yet more confusion came from a roster from the 2010 Pan Am Games had his birth year of 1991 and another roster from a tournament in the Netherlands gave his birth date as August 1, 1991. MLB decided that, since they couldn’t verify his actual age (although his residency application for Mexico was gives his birth date as January 8, 1990), they declared him ineligible to sign with a club until February 19, 2014.
Diaz is projected to be at least a utility major league player and a decent shortstop at best. One scouting report I read suggested his swing was very long but had good bat speed and he didn’t take much of a stride. Kiley McDaniel reports that scouts grade his bat at a 55 or 60 on the 20-80 scale and Diaz could be a .270 or .280 hitter with below average power. His arm appears to be decent but some evaluators think that his range is a little limited for shortstop and that his best position would be second base.
Diaz is likely to start the season in the minors with Kolten Wong and Mark Ellis expected to split duties at second base at the major league level and Jhonny Peralta, signed to a four-year, $53 million deal this offseason, will be at short.