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. Continue reading

The 2014 Pittsburgh Pirates

2013 Results: 94-68, 2nd in NL Central (3 games behind)
Key Arrivals: SP Edinson Volquez
Key Departures: SP A.J. Burnett, 1B Justin Morneau, OF Marlon Byrd, 1B Garret Jones, C John Buck, SP Jeff Karstens

The Pirates will be once again depending on the emergence of its young talent to continue its run to the top of the NL Central. They finally broke through, getting into the playoffs as a Wild Card, and then beating Cincinnati in the Wild Card Game. On the arms of their super rookie Gerrit Cole, the Pirates took the Cardinals to five games before Adam Wainwright did them in with the series on the line.

Their pitching staff was their hallmark last season once again, this time reinforced from the minor leagues. Much like the Cardinals did, the Pirates had several pitchers make starts. Their performance is definitely a credit to Russell Martin, the Pirates’ catcher who is known for his ability to handle pitching staffs. But this year they will be lacking AJ Burnett, who has headed that rotation the last two years. They will be hoping that Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole create the Pirates’ new 1-2 punch and that Wandy Rodriguez will be able to stay off the DL. Continue reading

The 2014 Cincinnati Reds

Continuing the NL Central Preview series, I am taking a look at each of the NL Central clubs and looking at their additions and figuring out what I project they could do in 2014.

2013 Results: 90-72, 7 games back
Key Arrivals: 2B Skip Schumaker, C Brayan Pena
Key Departures: OF Shin-Soo Choo, RHP Bronson Arroyo, C Ryan Hanigan, SS Cesar Izturis

The Reds were a lucky team in 2013. They managed to stay relatively healthy. Four of their five starters made more than 30 starts. Six of their eight position players started over 150 games. After they lost the Wild Card Game to the Pirates, the Reds decided to fire manager Dusty Baker. In his place, they promoted pitching coach Bryan Price to his first major league management position.

The Reds offense was rolling in 2013 thanks to the .423 by Shin-Soo Choo leading off games for them. Joey Votto struggled though, only racking up 73 RBI despite playing in all 162 games. The Reds also had a very top heavy lineup with Votto, Choo, and Jay Bruce being the only three Reds starters to post an above average OPS+. Replacing Choo in the lineup this year will be base stealing threat Billy Hamilton. Hamilton may be a quality player, but those are big shoes to fill offensively in center field. Continue reading

The 2014 Milwaukee Brewers

Continuing the NL Central Preview series, I am taking a look at each of the NL Central clubs and looking at their additions and figuring out what I project they could do in 2014.

2013 Results: 74-88, 23 games back
Key Arrivals: SP Matt Garza, RP Will Smith, 2B Elian Herrera, 1B Mark Reynolds
Key Departures: RF Norichika Aoki, Mat Gamel

The Milwaukee Brewers are an interesting look for 2014. The 2013 Brewers weren’t really good at anything. They stacked up 19th in hitting and 16th in pitching. None of that really explains why I think the 2014 Brewers are going to be as good as I do.

For starters, let’s begin with the return of Ryan Braun. Hopefully all the steroid controversy is behind him and the team this season and he can stay clean the rest of his career. The upside for Milwaukee was the emergence of Khris Davis who took Braun’s spot in the lineup. Davis hit .279/.353/.596 with 11 HR and 27 RBI over the 56 games. The emergence of Davis also freed up the Brewers to deal Norichika Aoki to the Royals for some pitching help. The Brewers should have both Braun and Davis in the lineup this season and that should be a big addition to a lineup that has lacked punch alongside Ramirez. Continue reading