Is Matt Diaz a viable righty OF/DH option for the Yankees?


As the year winds down, so too does the number of right-handed hitting outfielders the New York Yankees can choose from to help balance the all lefty-hitting starting three. Could soon to be 35-year-old Matt Diaz be the answer?

Matt Diaz, shown here during his short stint with the Pittsburgh Pirates, could be an option for the Yankees’ vacant OF/DH role from the right side. However, his recent performance suggests he shouldn’t be the only alternative heading into Spring Training. (Image: Charles LeClaire-USPRESSWIRE)

Well, right off the bat he fits the Yankees age requirements — I jest. Diaz is apparently healthy again after playing in just 51 games last season due to a thumb injury that required season ending surgery in August. Is there anything about Diaz that makes him a better option than Scott Hairston? Nope. Would he be a better fit than Vernon Wells? Just about anyone would.

So, what is in Diaz’s DNA which might entice the Yankees to make a run for him as their answer from the right side? Many have pointed, like New York Daily News reporter Mark Feinsand in this tweet, to his career slash line of .324/.364/.498 against left-handed pitching in just over 1,000 plate appearances. He’s hit 31 of his career 45 home runs against southpaws. That’s attractive, right?

Not so fast. Looking at career numbers is a great and all, but a longer look at more recent statistics and we see that much of that damage was done well over two seasons ago.

There is no telling how much his thumb was bothering him in 2012, but his performance in 2011 may have been a sign of things to come. There is no doubt that Diaz had some successful seasons in Atlanta as recently as 2010, but should the Yankees be willing to give Diaz the role of their right-handed outfielder/righty DH?

Diaz is at a stage in his career where he may catch lightning in a bottle one season if everything clicks, but the Yankees are hoping for that from regulars all over the diamond in 2013. Unfortunately, the options out there are not plentiful, but if anything, Diaz fits the Yankees’ desire to find a short-term and inexpensive option.

The important question is whether Diaz could make extended starts in the outfield due to an injury of Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson or Ichiro Suzuki? Could he take on a full-time role if needed? Possibly, but I’m not sure he could be relied on for very long.

In my view, Diaz would be a good idea to sign to a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite. He could be willing to take on such an offer after two down seasons with the most recent being cut short by a thumb injury. At most, signing him to a very cheap one-year MLB deal could be in the cards, but I’d rather go the first route and see what he has to offer before giving him a guaranteed contract.

At this point, checking in on Diaz as a fallback is not a bad idea, but he should be looked at as that only — a fallback, one with a slight chance to make an impact. If Hairston’s desire for a mulityear deal excludes him from consideration, then Diaz is surely an option, but the Yankees cannot go forward with him being the only alternative in my opinion.

What do you think?