Cuban shortstop Aledmis Diaz has been declared a free agent by MLB officials and will be looking to join a Major League Baseball club. Could he be a fit for the Mets in 2013?
Aledmis (alternatively, Aledmys) Diaz is believed to be a 22 year-old shortstop from Villa Clara, Cuba, who defected from his Caribbean home over the summer. Standing at 6-1 and weighing in at 185 pounds, the right-hander was the starting shortstop of one of Cuba’s best teams and a member of the Cuban National Team. Since defecting, he has been living and working out in Mexico.
His stats in Serie Nacional de Béisbol (Cuba) are as follows:
Year Age AB AVG OBP SLG HR SB
Aledmis is very well rounded offensively, and this is a bit surprising for a player who is so young. Over three seasons, he has demonstrated the ability to draw walks and hit for power and average. That he has put up those numbers from a middle infield position makes his bat all the more noteworthy.
Defensively, Diaz has an above-average arm, but has been prone to making errors. In the 2009 season , he made 24 errors over the course of the 90-game season, good for the third most errors in the entire National Series for a shortstop. One year later, he made 18 errors, good for fifth most among all shortstops. Still, his he has the reaction time and fielding speed to play the position.
Does He Make Sense For The Mets?
Aledmis was born in January, so he is still 22. As such, the CBA rules that allow Cuban defectors over the age of 23 to be classified as free agents, who are not subject to international free agent restrictions, do not apply. Given that only a few weeks need to pass for him to clear this hurdle, it is unlikely that any team signs him between now and his twenty-third birthday.
Shortstop is one of the few positions at which the Mets don't have a need for the foreseeable future. Ruben Tejada is coming off of a 2012 season that saw him hit .289/.333/.351 in 114 games while showing a solid-if-unspectacular glove at the position. For the Mets to make room for Aldemis Diaz at shortstop, Tejada would have to be moved, either to a different position or to a different team. Such a move would not be beneficial.
Diaz’s main strength is his bat, not his glove. Moving a competent shortstop off of the position for a player who has shown defensive deficiencies does not a smart move make. So, to make room for the Cuban defector, second base would have to be opened up.
The current second baseman, Daniel Murphy, is coming off of a relative down season in which he hit .291/.332/.403, but the 27-year-old possesses a career .292/.339/.427 batting line. Defensively, Murphy has been a something of a liability, enough so that he needs to provide excess value with his bat to be an average big-league second baseman.
It is likely that moving to a position of less difficulty would benefit both Diaz and Murphy. But there's no easy place to move Murphy. First base and third base are both occupied, and nobody wants to see the Murphy-to-the-outfield experiment again. Moving Aldemis Diaz to second base, at the expense of Daniel Murphy, doesn't make sense.
Conversely, Diaz could be converted to another position himself. His strong arm would seem to be a match with the outfield, but he has no experience playing there. His speed is considered average, so it wouldn’t be a Lucas Duda or Wilmer Flores scenario. This, of course, would put added pressure on Diaz. In addition to having to learn how to hit in MLB pitching, he would have to learn a whole new position.
So, all in all, Diaz does not seem to be a very good fit for the Mets at this time. This is unfortunate because he has shown the ability to hit for average and power and get on base at a good rate. A spot could be made for him, but doing so involves too many moving pieces to be considered realistic.
A few weeks back, we took a look at the market for international free agents. For previous entries in this series, check out the storystream.