Everyone knew the time would come when Derek Jeter would not be manning shortstop for the New York Yankees. And everyone knew that time was coming soon.
But a bit of shock still rippled through Yankee-land when Jeter officially announced that 2014 will be his final season. With the announcement comes the reality that the Yankees need a new shortstop of the future, and as of right now it doesn’t look like that man is in the organization.
By the end of the week, however, that man could be a Yankee if the team gets serious and throws some money at 23-year-old Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz.
In recent years, Cuban imports have made immediate impacts with major league clubs. The Oakland Athletics made a splash in 2012 when they signed phenom Yoenis Cespedes to a 4-year, $36 million deal. He has rewarded them with 49 home runs, 162 RBI and 23 steals in two seasons. This year it was the Chicago White Sox who joined the trend and signed 27-year-old slugger Jose Abreu to a 6-year, $68 million contract. Abreu was a perennial 30 home run player in Cuba and the Sox hope to see that tremendous power translated to the bigs. Jose Iglesias, Leonys Martin, Aroldis Chapman and Kendrys Morales are among other young Cuban-born players who have made their impact in MLB in the past few seasons.
The Yankees have dabbled in Cuban talent in the past with varying success, grabbing Orlando ‘El Duque’ Hernandez in the late 90’s and Jose Contreras in 2003. But since then the team has missed out on so many talented names mentioned above, and it’s time the team jumps back into the game with Diaz.
The young shortstop couldn’t sign until Feb. 19 due to an age discrepancy, but with that date passed he is now showcasing his talent to teams in Spring Training and is expected to sign as early as the end of the week. Jesse Sanchez of MLB.com recently tweeted some news that should excite Yankee fans:
Aledmys Diaz (SS) & Odrisamer Despaigne (RHP) Florida showcase tour continues. Both Cuban prospects expected to work out for NYY on Thurs.
— Jesse Sanchez (@JesseSanchezMLB) February 20, 2014
With this news combined with other reports, it appears that the Yankees are serious contenders for Diaz. The 6-foot-1 shortstop hit .315/.404/.500 with 12 home runs in 270 at-bats in the 2011-12 season in Cuba, his last before defecting, according to Mike Axisa of CBSSports.com. Defensively the reviews are mixed, but there is very little tape on him. Teams should have a better idea of what he can do during these in-person workouts.
The latest reports have Diaz commanding $20-30 million, which is a pretty small investment for the Yankees in a possible shortstop of the future. If the team takes a look at him Thursday and likes what they see, there’s little reason to not take a stab and give Diaz a shot to be the successor to Jeter: an unenviable task for anyone.