According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Cuban free agent Aledmys Diaz took part in a workout in Jupiter earlier today. Diaz, a shortstop in Cuba is expected to receive an offer from the Cardinals shortly. According to the article,
The Cardinals' extended pursuit of Diaz shows the franchise's initial willingness to engage in high-end negotiations for a major league-ready international player. The Cardinals are believed to be among four teams that have shown most interest in him.
This is not the first time the Cardinals have been reportedly in interested in Diaz. Diaz was hopeful of becoming a free agent at this time last year. However, difficulties with his age caused a one-year penalty on his signing. Last year, Dan Moore offered a solid write-up on Diaz (click here). As he noted
In any case: It looks like Aledmys Diaz can hit, for a middle infield prospect, and he might be able to really hit...It's a little harder to place him in the Cardinals' system, but if he impresses the scouts I think you could put him on a tier with Kolten Wong-which at shortstop could well put him in the major leagues in 2013.
Fast-forward a year and a lot has changed. Last year, Diaz had a clear road to playing time in the majors with only Kozma and Jackson in the way to regular playing time at shortstop. Jackson is gone. Kozma was given a full year to show he could hit enough to be more than a replacement player, and was unable to do so. Of course, the Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta to a four-year contract to man the position, leaving Diaz with no clear path to playing time in the majors.
As far as payroll goes, the Cardinals appear to have the room to sign him. After Furcal, Westbrook, and Chris Carpenter all came off the books and mostly cost-controlled players moving up the ranks, the Cardinals payroll is situated closer to 100 million dollars than the 115 million dollar payroll from 2013. The Cardinals also front-loaded Peralta's contract, making him easier to trade or easier to stomach as a bench option in the latter years of his contract.
Diaz is still just twenty-three years old. It's easy to forget that last year, Yasiel Puig did not make the majors out of spring before being called up. If he signs with the Cardinals, Diaz would likely have to force his way to the majors by proving himself in AAA. The Cardinals current roster crunch has Daniel Descalso as the utility infielder with Kozma possibly not making the team. It is somewhat difficult to envision regular at bats for Diaz outside of injury to one of the infielders or complete dissatisfaction with Kolten Wong at second base.
Given Diaz's options, and he likely will have several , he may choose an organization, like the Yankees, that can promise him more immediate playing time. It is also tough to envision the Yankees being outbid for Diaz's services given the current state of their infield. They have balked at paying for Stephen Drew, perhaps because Diaz is an option. Rumors currently place a deal around 30 million dollars. The Cardinals are clearly interested. Over the next week, Diaz and his agent will find out just how much the Cardinals want him.