The Pittsburgh Pirates have agreed to sign outfielder Matt Diaz to a two year deal, according to Ken Rosenthal. Diaz was non-tendered last week by the Atlanta Braves, and we heard shortly after that the Pirates were looking at him as a corner outfield option.
Diaz essentially replaces Lastings Milledge, and the two are very similar. Consider the following:
-Diaz has a career .335/.373/.533 line against left handers. Milledge has a career .282/.332/.386 line against left handers. It should be noted that Milledge hit for a .320/.414/.512 line in 2010 against left handers.
-Diaz has a career .269/.327/.382 line against right handers. Milledge is almost identical, at .269/.328/.394.
-Diaz has a career 2.8 UZR/150 in left field, and a career -9.7 UZR/150 in right field, although he’s had a very limited amount of playing time in right. Milledge has a career 2.8 UZR/150 in left field, and a career -14.6 UZR/150 in right field. Milledge also hasn’t seen much time in right.
Diaz is a strong bench player, and a platoon option against left handers that the Pirates can pair with Garrett Jones or John Bowker. However, he’s not really an upgrade over what they had in Lastings Milledge. In fact, I’d argue that it would be better to have Milledge. Diaz turns 33 in March, and he’s not going to improve from his current status as a platoon player. Milledge hasn’t lived up to his potential so far, but he turns 26 in April.
Diaz has been historically better against left handers, and Milledge has only started to have success in that area during the last two seasons, which is why Diaz has the better career numbers. It’s likely that Diaz and Milledge will provide the same output in 2011, as both will be bench players and platoon options against left handers. But if there’s one player who has a chance to break out of the bench/platoon role, and have a surprise season, I’d bank on Milledge. As I said, Diaz isn’t getting better at the age of 33. Milledge is still young enough that he could finally realize his top prospect status. There’s also the concern that Diaz is on the decline in his career, as he’s coming off a year where he hit for a .250/.302/.438 line in 224 at-bats for the Braves. No financial terms have been announced, but I can’t imagine Diaz will make less than what Milledge would have made in his first year of arbitration. Personally I would have rather stuck with Milledge.