Cardinals make international splash, sign Diaz

The St. Louis Cardinals and Cuban free agent infielder Aledmys Diaz agreed to terms today on a four year deal. While the financial terms weren’t readily available at signing, there have been numerous reports that it is worth less than $20 million in value. (Edit: Derrick Goold reports on Monday that the total value is 4 years, $8 million.) That’s a far cry from the five year, $25 million deal that Diaz’s agent had been publicly aiming for.

Diaz, 23, defected from Cuba last year but was suspended by Major League Baseball for an age discrepancy on his paperwork. He made himself older so that he wouldn’t qualify under the new international signing caps for younger players. That pushed him back to this year’s international signing period. After drawing interest from several teams, the two that seemed the most interested in him were the Cardinals and the New York Yankees. Both teams had Diaz come do private workouts for them in Florida this spring, but after theirs, the Yankees announced they weren’t planning to offer him a contract. That potentially opened put the door for the Cardinals to grab a good deal.

Diaz hit .315 with 12 home runs in a little over 200 at bats in his last professional season in Cuba. But just how does that translate into US baseball? Viva El Birdos tried to answer this when they talked with Joe Kehoskie earlier in spring training. Kehoskie has been an agent and a baseball consultant and he likens the Cuban leagues to equivalent to a high A ball team.

Reading many Derrick Goold chats over the last few weeks, it seems like there is a large contingent of fans who expect Diaz to arrive and make a play for a major league roster spot. While he’ll be on the 40 man roster, when you consider the Cuban equivalency to high A ball and that he hasn’t played competitive baseball in 18 months, I think he’d be lucky to even start is US career in Triple-A with Memphis. Probably more likely he’d end up in Springfield.

Diaz has been advertised as a shortstop, and that seems to be where he’s had most of his playing time, though his agent has said he’s played second base and third base. Many believe that Diaz will need to move to second base because of his defense, though the future of his bat doesn’t seem to be in doubt.

This will be an interesting step for the Cardinals who are still working on an over decade long plan to expand into international signings. Now they make their first major international signing. Will it be successful or will it fail? Only time will tell.

But it is interesting to consider where this leaves the Cardinals, a year from now when Diaz would be making a play for a major league spot. They have their big dollar free agent shortstop (Jhonny Peralta) under contract for $53 million through 2017. They have their expected second baseman (Kolten Wong) under team control through 2019. And they just locked up their third baseman (Matt Carpenter) to the tune of $52 million through at least 2019. So if and when Diaz does make it, how does he slot in?

For his part, Mike Matheny seems eager to get Diaz into games, saying he plans to work him in as soon as he receives the approval of the medical staff. So it appears that we will get our first real glimpse at him rather quickly, maybe even this week. I’m not quite sure just how much we can expect to get out of him right away, all things considered. As always though, hoping for the best.

Updated 3/10 @ 12:14 pm with Derrick Goold report on contract amount.