As everyone has heard, the Cardinals have signed Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz; according to Derrick Goold, the deal is 4 years and $8M, a steal compared to the $15-20M that was originally thrown around. It makes the deal a lot easier to swallow. Another thing to think about is this contract will carry Diaz through his first year of arbitration; if he’s that good, they’ll have 2 additional years with him before he hits free agency.
Diaz is an interesting prospect; he’s got a pretty good bat and should be able hit for a decent average at the major league level. He has absolutely no power though; he’ll probably top out at 2-3 a season. His glove is also a concern; many scouts don’t believe he’ll stick at short in the long run. Typically, a player like this will be moved to second or third; extreme circumstances will see an athletic shortstop move to centerfield (a la Billy Hamilton of the Reds). This could be the reason his price dropped; if he were able to stick at short, it’s a given the Yankees would have paid him.
The move can be interpreted in a few ways: mainly, the Cardinals are getting insurance on Kolten Wong. As recently as last fall, the team was still very high on Wong, even with his lack of hitting after his August call up. There are whispers this spring that Wong could start the season back at Memphis after many people, Cardinal brass included, penciled him in as the starting second baseman; they signed a shortstop (Jhonny Peralta) and moved Matt Carpenter back to third base to accommodate Wong.
This move gives the Cards plenty of options, depending on who is hot and who is on the roster.
- Wong starts the season in St. Louis at second, Peralta at short and Carpenter at third base. The team gives Wong the shot to start; this means Diaz starts the season at Springfield or Memphis, which is what many analysts are anticipating.
- Wong starts the season in Memphis, Peralta moves to third and Carpenter back to second. The team will have to keep Diaz at the Major League level and hope he’s better than the scouting reports. Peralta played third before he was traded to Cleveland in 2010. This is unlikely due to the fact that the Cardinals have already said Diaz will start the season in the minors.
- Wong starts the season in Memphis, Peralta stays at short and Carpenter sticks at third. That means some combination of Mark Ellis is your everyday second baseman. It’s not a bad option; Ellis was signed as insurance for Wong and is being paid starter money. Also, it allows for Wong to slide into the role when he’s ready.
The best thing for the team long-term is to allow Wong to start at second and play through his learning curve. His struggles in 2013 can be tied to a new role – coming off the bench. It’s something he’s never done before and he didn’t respond well. He’s struggled this spring, but he’s still learning. Thing about this…Allen Craig didn’t hit well upon his initial promotion and he ended up all right (they let a potential Hall of Famer in Lance Berkman walk so he could play every day).
In the end, the Cardinals brought additional depth to their organization that didn’t use draft picks, impact their international spending cap, or tie up major funds; middle infield is a weakness in the system. It gives them additional flexibility at both the Major League level and the minors. If Diaz doesn’t stick at short, or becomes a utility player, then you didn’t break the bank to sign him.
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