Looking back on the St. Louis Cardinals’ Aledmys Diaz trade

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SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 31: Aledmys Diaz #16 of the Houston Astros looks on before the game against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 31, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - JULY 31: Aledmys Diaz #16 of the Houston Astros looks on before the game against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on July 31, 2021 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /
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The St. Louis Cardinals have traded away promising players to fill holes on the major league roster. How have they fared on other rosters?

In March of 2014, the St. Louis Cardinals signed Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz to a four-year, $8 million major-league contract, dipping into the international free agent pool in hopes of finding at the very least a solid infielder.  In an ideal world, he quickly would earn a starting spot in the major league lineup.  How did reality shake out?

After a mediocre season and a half as Diaz worked his way up the minor league ladder, St. Louis actually designated him for assignment, hoping another team would snap him up based on the promise he held and take on the remainder of his contract.  When that didn’t happen, Diaz was outrighted to Triple-A Memphis, getting him off the team’s 40-man roster.

His contract was selected again in Nov. 2015, and he surprised pretty much everyone the following spring with a blazing .423/.453/.732 April that included four home runs, eight doubles, and a triple.  While Diaz slowed down from that pace, continued solid numbers led to him being selected to the All-Star Game.  And despite a fractured thumb sidelining him for six weeks in August and September, Diaz finished in fifth place in Rookie of the Year Award voting.

The 2017 season was a significant step back, as Diaz struggled to a .259/.290/.392 line, was sent to the minors for a couple of months, and eventually was deemed expendable with Paul DeJong taking over the starting shortstop job.

That winter, the Cardinals traded Diaz to the Toronto Blue Jays for minor league outfielder J.B. Woodman.  Woodman played 68 games with the Cardinals’ High-A affiliate in Palm Beach in 2018 and hasn’t been in affiliated ball since.

Diaz had a reasonable bounce-back with Toronto in 2018, batting .263/.303/.453 with 18 homers in 452 plate appearances while playing a lot of shortstop and some third base.  The Blue Jays then dealt Diaz to the Houston Astros for pitcher Trent Thornton, who has been serviceable over the last three years for Toronto.

Houston has played Diaz all over the diamond in the ensuing three seasons, with center field, catcher, and pitcher being the only positions he has not filled at some point with the Astros.  Diaz’s bat has been essentially average during his time in Texas, while his glove has been acceptable enough to put him where needed while also not good enough to earn him a starting role anywhere.

Could the Cardinals have used a player over the last few years who displays Diaz’s versatility?  Sure, just about any team would appreciate such flexibility.  Could St. Louis have kept a roster spot available for him all this time and deemed him worthy of the $2-$3 million annual salaries he’s been earning?  Maybe, maybe not.

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Diaz was a shot worth taking at the time of his signing, and he brought some benefit to the Cardinals.  Trading him away for essentially nothing indicated St. Louis didn’t think particularly highly of his skill set.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained.  From Diaz’s perspective, he’s been in the big leagues for six seasons now and earned nearly $15 million. I imagine he’s pretty happy with those results.

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