Phillies Nation

2010-11 Free Agency

Free Agent Option: Matt Diaz

Finally, we can talk about Matt Diaz. Not about how he’s killing the Phillies or tripping trespassers wearing ridiculous spandex suits (see below), but about how he can actually help this Phillies club with his skill at the plate.

Diaz was non-tendered by the Atlanta Braves yesterday, meaning he’s a free agent and ready to mingle. Could the Phillies have interest in the 32-year old outfielder? You bet your baseballs.

For the better part of five seasons in the National League East, Diaz has had the Phillies number hitting .338 over 165 plate appearances. There’s always a guy who isn’t a stud – normally just a role player – that your team can’t get out under any circumstance. Matt Diaz was that guy.

Now, the Phillies have the opportunity to sign him to be part of the solution of losing Jayson Werth. It wouldn’t be the worst move in the world, either. For what Diaz would command on the open market, Ruben Amaro would be shrewd to thoroughly kick the tires on this right field option. With a pairing of Diaz and Dom Brown in right and Ben Francisco and Raul Ibanez in left, two platoons wouldn’t be an ideal scenario, however, it’s a risk worth taking at a time when the free agent landscape is filled with has-been outfielders. As we’ve talked about for the past few weeks, the trade market is thin as well.

Diaz is an eight-year vet, although most of his early seasons were spent shuffling between the minors and the bigs. His career .301 average from the right side would play well here, although he’s not a power alternative to Werth. In 2009, Diaz hit a career high 13 home runs in 125 games – not exactly Aaron-esque. Still, he’d surely have the opportunity to knock in runs at a healthier clip than Atlanta in this batting order.

The better news: he hits lefties well. Try .335 against them with 29 homers and 100 RBI in 735 plate appearances; basically just a shade more than a seasons-worth. Hell, Jayson Werth has only hit .292 against lefties in his career, so this move would be a bit of an upgrade to combat the left-handed problem the Phillies face every night.

An underlying factor would be his lineup-balancing. Placido Polanco is currently the only Phillie who seems to have any sense of how to use situational hitting to his advantage. Diaz is another threat to hit the ball to the opposite field with runners in scoring position, a trait missing from the DNA of this team.

As far as his glove is concerned, Diaz is just ordinary. His UZR for the past five seasons averages to roughly 1.8, meaning he’s basically a replacement-level defender. No matter who you put out there, few will have the speed and athleticism to play right field like Werth did, so even at replacement-level, Diaz will do just fine because of his prowess with the bat.

Are you on board with Diaz? He’ll likely come cheap since he’s been nothing but a platoon player. And if he and Brown co-exist together splitting at-bats, would anyone object to a .290 average with 25 total home runs and 80 RBI between the two? On the other side of the coin, signing Diaz pushes the Phillies into platoon mode. In any case, it’ll be nice to know Diaz would no longer haunt the Phillies if he’s wearing their jersey.

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