The New York Yankees signed right-handed hitting outfielder Matt Diaz to a minor league contract Wednesday. The deal comes with an invitation to Spring Training and could be worth up to $2 million ($1.2 million base with up to $800K in incentives based on at-bats) if he makes the major league club.
Diaz’s allure is a career slash line of .324/.364/.498 against lefty pitching. While the career numbers are nice, he has not hit them as well since 2010 as I wrote yesterday before the Yankees pulled the trigger on a deal.
I specifically said that bringing in Diaz for a minor league contract and an invitation to Spring Training made sense; only because if he doesn’t show any improvement from his last two seasons against lefties, they haven’t really lost anything.
The Yankees are desperate for a right-handed bat to offset the lefty hitting outfield of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki. Diaz, should he regain his form from his “prime” days in Atlanta, could provide some balance against tough southpaws. Diaz could also become one-half of platoon for the vacant DH position.
Diaz’s signing in no way signals that the Yankees have found their man for the OF/DH vacancy, but merely provides them with an option with few strings attached. If he shows something in Spring Training the Yankees get him for an inexpensive price. If he falters they let him go. The only issue would be if Diaz has a great Spring and it is a facade for the regular season. But, that’s how it goes with lightning in a bottle deals.
Diaz, who will turn 35 in March, was on the Yankees radar during the 2010 offseason, but he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates instead. Diaz felt that if the opportunity presented itself again, he would jump on it since he dreamed of the chance as a young fan.
I’m very excited and thankful to be goin to camp with the Yankees!This little boys dream come true!!!!
— Matthew Diaz (@diazfoundation) December 26, 2012
Diaz said that he is completely healthy from a thumb injury which held him to just 51 games last season in a quote from Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News.
“I’m healthy and I feel like I can go to camp and show what I can do. If I can go and do what I do, which is hit lefties and take tough at-bats against them, that’s what the Yankees need and want. It will be a good fit.”
Diaz’s signing should not be looked at as the answer from the right side, but it is a clear indication that signing Scott Hairston may not be in the cards of the Yankees. Hairston is arguably the best available right-handed hitting free-agent left on the market. He is said to be looking for a multiyear deal, something the Yankees are not excited about handing out with their eyes on lowering payroll for the 2014 season.
Diaz’s signing could also portend to more of the same type of deal for others over the rest of the offseason, in which the Yankees may bring in several players to Spring Training with hopes of a competition determining their choice for the righty OF/DH role.