Born: March 3, 1978
Height: 6′ 1″
Drafted: 17th Round, 505th Overall, 1999
How Acquired: Free Agent
Agent: Larry Reynolds
WTM’S PIRATE PLAYER PROFILES
|The Pirates signed Diaz to a two-year contract worth $4.25M. The Braves let him go after they obtained Dan Uggla and announced that Martin Prado would move to left. Diaz made a career in Atlanta as a lefty masher who mainly platooned in left. In most years he had roughly the same number of ABs against LHPs as RHPs, which is typical of a RH-hitting platoon player. (A LH-hitting platoon player generally gets very few ABs against LHPs.) The one exception was 2009, when he played regularly for the season’s last two months. He has a large platoon split for his career: 335/373/533 vs. LHPs and 269/327/382 vs. RHPs. He’s not much inclined to draw walks, but it doesn’t seem to have affected his hitting over the years. According to both UZR and the Fielding Bible’s +/- metrics, Diaz is at worst an average defensive player in left. He’s seldom played right (which is where he’ll likely play with the Pirates) except in 2009, when he played 66 games there. Both metrics rate him poorly in right, but a little more time there should help. His arm is mediocre. Diaz was very highly regarded in Atlanta for his attitude.
1999-2003: Made slow progress through minors, generally taking over a year to get acclimated to new levels. Finally caught on for good in AA in 2003 and consistently wrecked minor league pitching after that. Once he started hitting, he generally hit for very high averages with more doubles than HR power, and low walk totals.
2004-05: Got stuck on the depth chart behind Tampa Bay’s horde of top outfield prospects and was placed on waivers, eventually signing with Royals as free agent. Continued to blast AAA pitching, but missed time with injury in 2005 and didn’t catch on with poorly run KC team.
2006-07: Went to Braves for marginal reliever and quickly established himself in platoon role. Turned into pretty much the same hitter in majors as he’d been in minors.
2008: Started season as everyday player, with Chipper Jones moving back to third. Got off to slow start and then injured knee, requiring surgery in late May. Played in only one late September game after that.
2009: Rebounded with career-best season. Played regularly much of second half, after team Jeff Francoeur to Mets and Garrett Anderson flopped. Even posted decent walk rate.
2010: Got off to miserable start. Eventually proved to have thumb infection due to foreign body, which had to be surgically removed. Was hitting 178/231/247 at time of surgery in mid-May. Hit 285/333/530 after return.
Diaz represents an interesting departure for the Pirates in two respects. First, a number of big players, including the Yankees, Red Sox, Dodgers and Phillies were interested in signing him. Typically, once any team has shown an interest in a player, the Pirates have been left out in the cold. Second, the Pirates have said he’ll platoon with Garrett Jones in right. For many years the team has had an overwhelming and self-defeating resistance to platoons, despite the fact that they offer about the best prospect for overcoming a lack of legitimate everyday talent at the corner positions. The Pirates’ preference instead has been to play poor hitters at those positions and hope against all logic that they somehow turn into something they’re not. It’s still possible the Pirates will revert to form, but the signing of Diaz indicates they may finally be willing to show some flexibility in addressing their chronic inability to field a major league lineup.
Diaz brings some risk with him. “Late bloomers” tend to decline early and Diaz will turn 32 shortly before the 2011 season starts. He also seems to have a limited tendency toward nagging injuries. He has a very successful track record, though, and his hitting in the second half of 2010 suggests he’s not ready to decline yet.
|2 year/$4.25 M contract (signed December 2010)
2010: $2,550,000 (avoided arbitration)
|Signing Bonus: N/A
MiLB Debut: 1999
MLB Debut: 7/19/2003
MiLB FA Eligible: N/A
MLB FA Eligible: 2013
Rule 5 Eligible: N/A
Added to 40-Man: 12/7/2010
Options Remaining: 0 (USED: 2003, 2005, 2008)
MLB Service Time: 5.157
|June 22, 1999: Drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 17th round, 505th overall.
June 24, 1999: Signed by the Tampa Bay Rays to a minor league contract.
July 18, 2003: Contract purchased by the Tampa Bay Rays.
December 9, 2003: Outrighted to AAA by the Tampa Bay Rays.
February 18, 2005: Released by the Tampa Bay Rays.
February 25, 2005: Signed by the Kansas City Royals as a minor league free agent.
April 22, 2005: Contract purchased by the Kansas City Royals.
December 16, 2005: Designated for assignment by the Kansas City Royals.
December 19, 2005: Acquired by the Atlanta Braves from the Kansas City Royals in exchange for Ricardo Rodriguez.
December 2, 2010: Non-tendered by the Atlanta Braves.
December 7, 2010: Signed by the Pittsburgh Pirates as a free agent.