Note: the editor of this post played no part in the composition of its despicable title. All grievances should be directed to the author, Craig Edwards.
Baseball is full of April surprises. Players who come seemingly out of nowhere. Albert Pujols was one such player back in 2001. So was Chris Shelton back in 2005, Devon Travis last year, and Trevor Story already this season. As Trevor Story has seen his production decline, another surprise has risen in the form of Aledmys Diaz, the Cuban-born shortstop for the St. Louis Cardinals. While many players have come over from Cuba after having received considerable attention and bonus money, Diaz entered baseball in the United States with much less fanfare. Two years after his signing, he is having one the most surprising — and one of the best — starts to a season of all time.
With few exceptions, Cuban players take an unusual route to professional baseball in the State — due, of course, to the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. For Diaz to sign with an MLB team presented difficulties. Under the rules at the time of his defection, players from Cuba who (a) were 23 or older and (b) possessed a certain amount of professional experience, were exempt from international bonus pools. When Diaz entered the country in the middle of 2013, he indicated he was born January 8, 1990 (1/8/1990) which would have made him a free agent exempt from bonus pools. Other documentation contradicted that statement, indicating he was born on August 1, 1990 (8/1/1990). Due to the inaccuracy, MLB prevented him from signing for another six months.
Diaz worked out for many teams, eventually signing with the Cardinals to a four-year, $8 million contract in March. By the time Diaz started playing for the Cardinals, it had been a year since he had played competitive baseball on a regular basis. Diaz hit pretty well in 2014 but, due to injury, played in fewer than 50 games between High-A and Double-A — a result, possibly, of the increased workload after a period away from the game. Diaz then started slowly in 2015 — so slowly, in fact, that the Cardinals decided in July they could put him through waivers and remove him from the 40-man roster ,as they didn’t want to risk doing the same to Pete Kozma. With around $5 million remaining on the contract, there were no takers. Immediately thereafter Diaz started hitting, and he has not stopped.
Read the rest of this entry »