The Yankees have signed outfielder Matt Diaz to a one-year, minor league contract that will be worth $1.2 million if he makes the team and another potential $800K in incentives, according to Mark Feinsand of the NY Daily News and Marc Carig of Newsday.
Diaz, 35 in March, is a career .291/.339/.431 hitter and those numbers jump to .324/.364/.498 against lefties which makes him an ideal candidate to platoon with their all left handed hitting outfield.
Diaz struggled big time last season, but he was limited to just 51 games because of a thumb injury that eventually required surgery. He also had surgery on the same thumb in 2010. Diaz was a 114 OPS+ hitter before the surgeries and a 83 OPS+ hitter since. If he’s actually healthy next season the Yankees could be getting themselves a big steal here. That certainly isn’t a lock though hence the non-guaranteed deal.
Diaz is a natural left fielder, but can play right field as well. His career UZR is negative-3.4, but he’s a plus-1.6 overall in left field. That’s a good thing for the Yankees considering he’ll probably be platooning for Curtis Granderson, who is expected to be moved to left field next year, so he’ll be playing his strongest position most of the time. Ichiro Suzuki will no doubt take some time off too particularly if he struggles against lefties the way he did for the last year and a half for Seattle.
The Yankees have been looking for a right handed hitting outfielder for a couple of weeks now and they might have found him. However, since this is a minor league deal, thus non-guaranteed, the Yankees could still consider other options and if they find something have a competition in Spring Training.
The next big thing though is finding a DH. Alex Rodriguez will no doubt get a ton of DH at bats once he returns in June or July. That does create a problem because the Yankees are probably not going to be willing to spend a lot or some veteran DH’s could get scarred away if they think they’ll lose playing time in the second half. So Yankees GM Brian Cashman is probably going to consider every available option before actually settling on one.
There are a few options available for DH. None are really optimal, but two intriguing possibilities are Jim Thome and Lance Berkman. Neither played a lot last season, but both did well. Thome hit .252/.344/.442 in 58 games while Fat Elvis hit .259/.381/.444 in 32 games. Ideally, the Yankees could get both on minor league deals and have them battle it out in Spring Training, but that seems like a long shot. Thome is 42 and Berkman is 37 and both are coming off injury riddled seasons so perhaps it’s possible.