Pirates To Sign Matt Diaz

The Pirates will sign outfielder Matt Diaz to a two-year deal, Ken Rosenthal reports. Diaz was non-tendered by the Braves a few days ago. We'll see how much this costs, and if it's $2 million or something I suppose it's fine, but what does Diaz offer that Steve Pearce doesn't? True, Pearce hasn't played much outfield recently, but I'm not really sure he would be worse at it than Diaz is, at this point in their careers. Diaz's defense isn't much, and like Pearce, he's potent against lefties but doesn't hit righties. And it may or may not be significant, given the sample size, but his hitting took a big step backward in 2010.

You know what, forget Pearce. Here's a fun game:

PLAYER A

Vs. RHP .223/.283/350

Vs. LHP .273/.318/.512

PLAYER B

Vs. RHP .256/.287/.315

Vs. LHP .320/.414/.512

Player A is Matt Diaz, who will be 33 in March. Player B is Lastings Milledge, who will be 26 in April. Player A was evidently worthy of a two-year contract, while Player B was unworthy of, like, a million bucks in arbitration.

Granted, Diaz has a .301 career average and hit very well in part-time work in 2009, but again, he's going to be 33. I'm not sure I see that coming back.

The Pirates' offseason doesn't impress me at all so far.

UPDATE: WTM points out in the comments that Diaz had thumb surgery last May. In April of last year, he had a .490 OPS. In May he had a .456 OPS. Then he returned in July and hit well the rest of the season. I didn't know that, and if I had I would have framed the Player A / Player B thing a little differently. There's obviously the possibility that Diaz's overall stats last year were brought down by injury, and that he's likely to hit better over the next couple of years.

Then again, he's also about to head into his mid-30s, when these kinds of annoying injuries typically get even more annoying. And there's also the danger of assuming a cause and effect relationship here when there might not be one, or at least it might not be as big an issue as we think. About seven times out of ten, when there's an explanation like this for a hot streak or a cold streak, it turns out that the explanation was just noise. For example, after a slow start to the 2006 season, Adam LaRoche started taking ADHD medication, and he hit like crazy throughout the second half. By the time the Pirates acquired him a year later, it looked like the medication had him on the path to stardom, but it turned out to be completely irrelevant - LaRoche always hit poorly in the first half and brilliantly in the second, as it turned out.

My point is that the injury is just one explanation. Another possibility is that he just had a poor first half and a good second half and declined overall because he's getting older, and the overall results tell the story. (This possibility is particularly important to consider given that Diaz was a part-time player, and thus the sample size is small.) Another one is that the injury was a key reason Diaz struggled, but that at his age, he's likely to have more injuries in the next couple of years. Like I said, I didn't consider that an injury could be to blame for some of Diaz's struggles last year, and there's really no excuse for that. But I think there are still ample reasons to believe that Diaz's poor performance at the beginning of last year shouldn't just be tossed out. And I also don't want to lose sight of the fact that the Pirates just gave a two-year deal to a guy who will soon be 33 and has never been much more than a platoon outfielder. That said, it does make the signing appear to be a somewhat better gamble than I initially made it look. My fault.

UPDATE: The contract is for two years and $4.25 million, which isn't too bad.

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