If Diaz, Why Not Scott Hairston?

The free agent market always gets a bit more interesting in early December, after the non-tender deadline. A new crop of free agents become available, and every year it seems as though two or three players generate a ton of interest. This year Matt Diaz ranked among them. Despite his injury-shortened 2010 season, plenty of teams saw value in his bat, especially in a platoon role. The Pirates won the sweepstakes, signing him to a two-year deal. There was another, less heralded player on the market whose skills are somewhat similar to Diaz’s. Yet Scott Hairston has barely received a mention this winter.

Diaz’s draw is obvious, since his value comes on offense. He owns a career .348 wOBA and mashes lefties to the tune of a career .387 wOBA. In three of the last five seasons he has eclipsed a .350 wOBA. Any team that needs to balance their lineup to better match up against lefties will find plenty of use for Diaz. Any of the 29, or maybe 28, teams that missed out on him can find similar value in Hairston.

That’s not to say that Hairston’s bat matches Diaz’s in any way. He has a career .320 wOBA, though he does redeem himself against lefties with a .355 career wOBA. Those numbers, however, don’t come particularly close to Diaz’s. In addition, Diaz has hit righties a bit better in his career, a .312 wOBA to Hairston’s .300. It’s clear, then, why Diaz drew more interest. But as we know, offense doesn’t count for the entirety of a player’s value.

On defense Hairston has been the better player in terms of both UZR and DRS. Since 2004 Hairston has accumulated 14.3 UZR and 26 DRS, while Diaz has been quite average, accumulating 1.6 and 2. Even if we throw out the defensive numbers and go with the eyeball and scout test, Hairston easily grades out as the better defender. Hairston’s defensive value has led to seasons that, in some ways, have been as good as, if not better, than Diaz’s. See the chart below:

This isn’t to say that Hairston is a better choice than Diaz. Given the choice between the two players I would take Diaz. His bat has historically been better, and while both players have had injury problems, Diaz’s haven’t been quite as bad — Hairston has hit the DL every year since 2006. But I don’t think the difference between these two has been reflected in the free agent market. Diaz got plenty of bites and ended with a two-year contract. Hairston has received little interest, and hasn’t been mentioned on MLBTR since December 18.

Teams seeking a right-handed platoon bat who can also serve as a fourth outfielder can find value in Hairston. He’s not a starter, and he’s not going to put on a hitting display, but he can be a solid contributor off the bench to a contending team. I’m a little confused as to why he’s received no attention, while seemingly every team wanted Matt Diaz.



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Joe also writes about the Yankees at River Ave. Blues.


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OmarStrollin
Member
OmarStrollin
5 years 4 months ago

I’ve been advocating for Hairston on the Twins for months… and that was before we saw fit to dub Jason Repko as our de facto fourth outfielder yet again. Please Twins… let’s get this to happen. Minimal investment, solid defense, decent speed, and far more offense than Repko. Given the atrocity that is our bench right now, I’m willing to trade a little of Repko’s plus defense for some offense to balance out the other three bench… “bats”… we currently have.

KM
Guest
KM
5 years 4 months ago

If the Yankees do no sign Andruw Jones, they Scott Hairston makes perfect sense for them. I hope they move quickly on Jones, so in case something goes wrong Hairston is still available.

Bill
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Bill
5 years 4 months ago

I don’t understand this. If the Yankees need a glove they sign Hairston. If they need a bat, they sign Jones. I don’t understand how a failure to sign Jones means they need to sign Hairston. The Yankees should be looking to fill specific needs with their bench not simply going for value.

phoenix2042
Member
Member
phoenix2042
5 years 4 months ago

they need a right handed fourth outfielder who can hit lefties above average and play decent defense. jones offers a bit more offense, while hairston offers a bit more defense. both would be good fits with jones being the preferred one.

KM
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KM
5 years 4 months ago

I don’t think they’ll sign both, or that either would sign with the Yankees if the other signs. Jones is better offensively and still a little above average defensively, so I think he’s the safer option. That’s why I view Hairston as the lesser option, but either would be a nice improvement over their current bench options.

Table
Guest
Table
5 years 4 months ago

Dodgers

Dan
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Dan
5 years 4 months ago

He would make sense for the Braves in that he’s good enough to play center on a short term basis, and he could help balance the lineup against lefties.

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
5 years 4 months ago

Not sure I get this. Hairston is a better fielder, sure, but definitely not elite. His bat is below average, so the only value he really brings is that he can play in centerfield without hurting you (and given margins of error, he’s probably only average out here).

Matt Diaz isn’t a great player, but he’s generated a higher WAR than Hairston every year in the past 5, excepting his extremely injury-laden 2008.

I think I can understand teams not being eager to sign a 31 year old whose value comes largely from his outfield defense, which isn’t even THAT good.

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
5 years 4 months ago

Clarification: Hairston isn’t 31 yet, but he’ll be 31 for most of next season-I meant to express that better in my last comment.

chuckb
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chuckb
5 years 4 months ago

The value he brings is that he’s versatile, plays pretty good defense, and hits lefties quite well.

Bronnt
Member
Bronnt
5 years 4 months ago

I guess? I mean, we’ve been told to heavily regress all L/R splits, and 634 career PAs against left handed pitchers, I’m not sure just how good he is against lefties.

The entirety of his versatility is tied into his ability to play decent in CF, but such things are fickle. He’s this year’s version of Ryan Church, (who was 31 last year) except right handed. Church’s ability to play in center either fell off, or he fell completely out of favor after one bad season.

Bo
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Bo
5 years 4 months ago

I had NO idea Matt Diaz is 32. For those keeping score at home, he’s a mere one year younger than Andruw Jones.

AA
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AA
5 years 4 months ago

And how many pounds lighter?

mother
Guest
mother
5 years 4 months ago

This is one where the scouts may beat the stats: in watching Scott Hairston play–when healthy–he is a better than league average player. However, it seems he is constantly getting nicked up, plays through the injury with his football player mentality, bats horrendously, and finally is convinced to go on the DL; upon returning–if healed up–he starts to get back into it, but sustainable success is aborted by the injury cycle starting up again.

His talent is what caused the Padres to bat him third/fourth when they acquired him, but his inability to stay healthy is what has held him back from major league success.

chuckb
Guest
chuckb
5 years 4 months ago

How do the stats not reflect all the things you just mentioned?

chri521
Member
5 years 4 months ago

This is probably why the Mets are now after Scott Hairston.
Health jokes aside, fits in as organizational depth and given our track record of injuries and his good platoon split, he’ll be in the running for a 4th or 5th outfielder spot.

moot
Guest
moot
5 years 4 months ago

On what planet is Hairston a better fielder than Jones?

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