In 2012, before shortstop Aledmys Diaz had left Cuba, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak wondered why the Redbirds hadn’t been active in the Cuban market and pushed for organizational changes, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch details. “I was trying to find different ways to look at the future, and we were hearing a lot about Cubans signing, all the time, and not hearing much from us,” Mozeliak said. He added that the Cardinals “needed boots on the ground wherever a Cuban team played. We needed more information. We needed to learn more about the market so we could make better decisions.” The organization’s newfound focus on Cuba eventually led it to Diaz, whom it signed to a four-year, $8MM deal in March 2014. The Cardinals were patient with Diaz (now 25) – as evidenced by the fact that he didn’t make his major league debut until this year – which was a factor in his decision to sign with them. “I think in the end you’re looking for a good bonus, a good contract, but you also want a good reason (to sign),” Diaz said. “They showed me a lot. They gave me a lot of time.” Diaz has repaid the Cardinals’ patience with an astounding .400/.436/.695 batting line, five home runs and nearly as many walks (six) as strikeouts (eight) through his first 101 major league plate appearances.
More from the National League:
- With a .324/.447/.552 line in 132 PAs, Giants first baseman Brandon Belt has been one of the majors’ premier hitters this year. Belt has long been a terrific offensive player, but he’s easily on track for his best season and his 2016 outburst has come thanks to some notable changes, writes FanGraphs’ Owen Watson. Belt has shown remarkable strike zone mastery in walking 18.9 percent of the time and striking out at a 14.4 percent rate. Those marks are significantly better than his career rates (10.3 percent and 23.8 percent, respectively). He’s also swinging at far fewer pitches outside the strike zone (and fewer pitches in general) while making more contact with the offerings at which he does swing. The 28-year-old now clearly holds his hands lower than he used to before the ball is thrown and isn’t standing as upright – two adjustments that could be helping him see the pitch longer – Watson notes. Belt’s also combating defensive shifts, which teams commonly deploy against him, by hitting the ball to the opposite field more often.
- The Pirates sent a scout to watch Tim Lincecum’s showcase Friday and have done their “due diligence” on the free agent right-hander, general manager Neal Huntington said Sunday (Twitter link via Dan Zangrilli of 93.7 The Fan). Given Ray Searage’s reputation for reviving pitchers, it would be fascinating to see how Lincecum would fare as a Pirate. A Searage-Lincecum union probably isn’t in the offing, though, as Orioles GM Dan Duquette said earlier Sunday that Lincecum is likely to sign west of the Mississippi. That would obviously rule out Pittsburgh.