Ken Rosenthal reported earlier tonight that the Pirates have signed veteran outfielder Matt Diaz to a two-year deal. Diaz was non-tendered by the Braves after a rough 2010 season, but he was drumming up interest from the likes of Phillies and Yankees, so I guess that’s good. I doubt that they were offering him two years or any significant playing time, though, which is how guys like Diaz end up on the Pirates.
I’m admittedly of two minds when it comes to this signing. Diaz isn’t really a bad player and he’s a pretty solid platoon guy. His career OPS against lefties is .907 compared to .710 against lefties and even though he’s going to be 33, his defense grades out as fairly strong in the corners. I’m much happier with him than I would be with a guy like Jeff Francouer, who the Pirates didn’t even pursue by about any account.
My problem with the signing is that Diaz is going to be 33, two of his last three years weren’t good, and the Pirates released a younger version of him just last week in Lastings Milledge. Charlie has already compared the two; I wasn’t nearly as upset as some people when they non-tendered Milledge, but I’ll take the 26-year old over the 33-year old in this situation every time here. There’s a chance that Diaz can be flipped for something valuable come July if he plays well, especially given the interest shown by contenders in him, but that’s assuming a lot of things.
There’s a bit of talk on Twitter right now about how Diaz and John Bowker and Steve Pearce and Garrett Jones will make a nice four-way platoon in right field and first base, but I’m kind of skeptical about how that will play out. Hurdle doesn’t have a history of platooning, and I’d be a little surprised if Diaz signed with the Pirates because Neal Huntington told him that he’d only be playing on days that John Bowker was getting the night off. That’s obviously all stuff that will shake out in time and I could be wrong about it, but I kind of have this nightmare vision of the Pirates giving 1000 plate appearances to Diaz and Garrett Jones this year without optimizing for matchup, and that just doesn’t seem like something a team in the Pirates’ situation should be doing.
This isn’t really all that different from the Correia move; Diaz will probably be a little bit better of a hitter than Correia will be of a pitcher (though that’s far from certain) and the only people that might lose playing time are Pearce and Bowker, who (like Charlie Morton) I think deserve a longer look, but aren’t likely to amount to a whole heck of a lot other than bit players. Something about this signing just doesn’t sit right for me, though. It’s not a bad signing, per se, but I guess I’m a bit worried about the decision-making process that leads to signing Diaz over tendering Milledge an arbitration contract.