I had no intention of writing a third shortstop piece for the Cardinals, but I have to. Unsurprisingly, none of the options I proposed previously got a whole lot of support, because none of them are great. Some of you like the idea of Rafael Furcal again (which I’m not entirely opposed to), but he’s not phenomenal, either. I was pretty well convinced that there weren’t any other great options — at least not obvious ones.
I was wrong. This is my final vote for the St. Louis Cardinals shortstop plan in the 2014 off-season: Aledmys Diaz.
I don’t know how I missed him in all of the hullabaloo about him early this year, but now I want him. He’s exciting, and could turn into a serious player.
Tracking down his stats is a little bit hard, but it looks like in 1413 plate appearances (including playoffs) at the Cuban league, he has a .303/.372/.440 slash-line, with 30 home runs, 179 RBIs, and 209 runs.
Of course, Diaz hasn’t proven himself at the big league level, but I’d still be very interested in him because of the real dearth of free agents on the market this off-season. As far as shortstops go, I think I’ve demonstrated that there aren’t any outstanding options, and I’m not terribly excited about any of the other free agents either. So here’s what I’d do if I were Mozeliak.
I’d go pick up a cheap SS option who is slightly better than Kozma and Descalso (Dee Gordon, Freddy Galvis, Rafael Furcal, Nick Punto, or Yuniesky Betancourt), keeping that contract as far under 2 years and 2 million dollars as I could. He could be the Cardinals starting shortstop until Aledmys is ready or a bigger name becomes available at the trade deadline.
Then I’d start talking to Aledmys, offering him no more than 5 years and 5 million dollars a piece (at the high end). I know that sounds like an awful lot for an unproven prospect at this point, but the Cardinals will have a little money to throw around this year, and most of the other decent offensive free agents are either old, left-handed, or players too big to bother looking at (Cano and Ellsbury). Honestly, I’d rather overpay for a prospect that could become great than for an aging star.
In addition, the Cuban players currently playing Major League Baseball have done pretty well. The list of currently active Cubans includes names like Yoenis Cespedes, Yonder Alonso, Aroldis Chapman, Yunel Escobar, Yasmani Grandal, Jose Iglesias, Alexei Ramirez, and Yasiel Puig. Since Diaz has held his own at the Cuban league, it’s reasonable to assume that there’s a solid chance that he can perform well at the Major League level.
In addition, scouting reports suggest that he’s a decent fielder with a plus arm, that he hits for average, and that he’s developing some power (he hit 12 home runs in just 270 at-bats in 2012, the most of any season to that point). They also indicate that he’s a polished player, nearly Major League ready. Those reports continue to encourage faith in the young shortstop.
Given the recent success of Cuban defectors, I’d be very interested in jumping on that bandwagon. Hopefully, maybe even in just a few months, Diaz would be ready to take the field in St. Louis, and we could have our own Cuban superstar at what could turn out to be a severely discounted rate. Regardless, he doesn’t have to do terribly well to be an improvement over the Cardinals’ current situation.
Of course, I don’t have the ability to see Diaz work out, and actually seeing him in person would have to play a large role in Mo’s decision. If he sees something he doesn’t like, then he shouldn’t drop big bucks. Barring a major problem, however, Aledmys Diaz could be the most exciting shortstop option on the market.
After some issues with the league over age, Aledmys will be eligible to sign February 19, 2014.
UPDATE: As a note that I should have thrown in earlier, the Cardinals were looking very seriously at Diaz early this year before the age issue got out of hand. I believe that they were one of the first (if not the first) teams linked to Aledmys. Given the fact that the Cardinals shortstop situation hasn’t done anything to get better, you would think that they would continue that pursuit.