Diaz, 27, joins the Blue Jays via a trade with the Cardinals, with outfield prospect J.B. Woodman heading to St. Louis in return.
Here’s what you need to know about the Blue Jays’ newest shortstop.
Name: Aledmys Díaz
Height: Six foot one | Weight: 195 pounds
Contract status: Under team control for the next five years and will be arbitration-eligible for the first time in 2020.
He was an all-star as a rookie
Diaz’s path the major leagues wasn’t necessary a smooth one—his MLB eligibility was delayed as a penalty for lying about his age following his defection from Cuba in 2012, and he finally signed a four-year deal with St. Louis in 2014—but once he did arrive on baseball’s biggest stage early in the 2016 season, his impact was immediate.
Diaz was one of the 2016 campaign’s best surprises. He was originally slated to spend the season in triple-A, but ended up as the Cardinals’ starting shortstop just a few days into the MLB season. He established himself as a promising young offensive player, singling on his first major league at-bat and hitting his first home run just a few days later.
As strong as his batting was in 2016, questions about his defence arose. While he greatly improved that aspect of his game as the season wore on, Diaz finished 2016 with 16 errors—fourth league-wide in that category.
As the season progressed, Diaz’s hitting earned him all-star honours and eventually ranked him fifth in National League Rookie of the Year voting. By year’s end, his stat line featured a .300 batting average, 121 hits and 17 home runs in 111 games to go with 69 RBIs and .369 on-base percentage.
He was close friends with Jose Fernandez
One of Diaz’s closest friends growing up in Santa Clara, Cuba was late Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez. The two grew up on the same street and spent their childhoods playing baseball both with and against one another. In fact, according to Cardinals beat writer Derrick Goold, Diaz’s father and uncle were the ones who encouraged Fernandez to pick up baseball in the first place.
After news of Fernandez’s death in a boating accident in September 2016, Diaz vowed to honour his childhood friend throughout his baseball career.
He also honoured him with an incredible grand slam—the first of his career—in his first game back following his friend’s funeral, an emotional moment for every baseball fan watching.
“He loved this game and liked to compete,” Diaz told Benjamin Hochman of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch at the time. “That’s what he gave us as baseball players and friends. Every time I get the chance to put on the uniform, I want to give everything to the fans.”
His game took a step back in 2017
Diaz’s sophomore season started on high note with his first multi-home run game on April 8, but his game struggled as the season went on, in part due to a lingering thumb injury. The Cardinals eventually sent him to triple-A in Memphis midway through the season in an effort to help him develop his game on both sides of the ball.
He finished the 2017 season with 74 hits, seven home runs, 20 RBIs and .290 on-base percentage while committing six defensive errors in 79 games—including an eight-game September call-up.
So, what does this mean for the Blue Jays?
As we mentioned up top, all signs point to Diaz being a younger replacement for Goins, 29, with a bigger offensive upside.
As Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi reminds us, Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins said his priority this off-season was on bringing in a versatile, offensively-inclined middle infielder. Diaz is just that—and at a low cost, to boot. Though Diaz has spent most of his defensive innings at the shortstop position, he also got a few reps as a third baseman, second baseman, and in left field.