I am very excited about the news that the St. Louis Cardinals are a serious player for Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz.
The defector had a private workout with the Redbirds Wednesday at their spring training site in Jupiter, Fla., according to multiple reports. It is expected to make a decision by this weekend about where he'll sign. Between four and seven clubs are expected to be serious contenders for his services.
Mike Axisa, of CBS Sports, said the Birds have been hot and heavy for Diaz since at least December when they watched him work out in Mexico.
The word is that Diaz may be ready to play in the major leagues as soon as this April. And that might make him seem like a bad fit for a club that just signed a veteran shortstop to a four-year contract.
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But that's not necessarily the case for a variety of reasons.
First, Jhonny Peralta not only has enough flexibility -- but he may be better suited -- to play third base if the Cardinals add a shortstop with more range. Perralta is thought of as a steady, yet not spectacular glove man. So he may fare better at the hot corner where range is less of a factor.
Second, the Cardinals saved a ton of money by letting the contracts of Chris Carpenter, Jake Westbrook, Carlos Beltran and Rafael Furcal expire. They have a roster filled with young, cost controlled talent. Their payroll is currently down about $15 million from last year. So the team could afford to take a chance on a high end young player who would help not only this season but in years beyond.
If I was in charge, and Diaz proved to be the real deal, I'd try to move Peralta to third, put Diaz at short and move Matt Carpenter back to second base where he was an All-Star last season. While the team could leave Peralta at short, leave Carpenter at third and put Diaz at second, the word is that Diaz is concerned not only about money but about playing opportunity. So asking him to switch positions could be a deciding factor in where he lands.
Teams also thought to be in the derby are the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and the San Francisco Giants.
The Yankees have an obvious need for a shortstop with Derek Jeter announcing he plans to retire at the end of the season. But I'm not sure if I was Diaz that I would want to be the guy to have to replace a first ballot Hall of Fame player -- in New York of all places.
The Blue Jays and Giants both have shortstops in place. Toronto is paying big bucks to Jose Reyes who was acquired in trade from the Miami Marlins and the Giants have Brandon Crawford who will start his fourth season in the majors. Crawford is something of a glove specialist. He's a .248 hitter the last two years with a .304 on base percentage. So there's room for improvement at the plate. But Crawford, as a young player, is cost controlled and it would be a gamble for the giants to spend $6-$7 million to incrementally improve a spot they have already filled.
The best bet for the Cardinals, besides making a competitive financial offer, would be to pitch the idea that Diaz would be in an open competition to play his preferred position -- and the worst case scenario would be that he'd have a chance to play regularly in the big leagues at second or third base.
According to scouting reports, Diaz has quick hands although he has something of a long swing. He has a good power stroke for a middle infielder and scouting site itsaboutthemoney.net predicts he could be a 20 homer guy in the big leagues. Writers at that site believe the Yankees are going to go hard after Diaz because of the loss of Jeter and the fact that they have no obvious replacement in their farm system.
That may be the case. But if I was the New York general manager I might be more interested in hiring an experienced shortstop for the job, especially when Stephen Drew is sitting there for the taking. Then they could take two or three years to try to develop a more permanent replacement who wouldn't have to stand directly in Jeter's Hall of Fame shadow. Maybe the Yankees haven't bitten on Drew because they're waiting for the Diaz situation to develop. But they're typically big fans of stealing free agents from their arch enemies in Boston whenever they get the chance.
Online video indicates that Diaz has a strong arm from the shortstop hole. But there didn't seem to be any video available that showed a true test of his range.