Ever since the days of Pat Mears or Christian Guzman, the Minnesota Twins have struggled to field a legitimate shortstop who they can count on holding down the position for numerous years. The strategy the Twins seem to be employing is a wait and see or quick-fix, bandaid type players that do not project to have staying power in the big leagues; so under that notion, one would think the Twins would do something to address this shortcoming. The Twins—in theory—are constantly searching for ways to improve their team, but the problem is that the Twins aren’t doing enough to address the issue.
The team does have a promising young shortstop by the name of Daniel Santana down on the farm that could one day be the next Guzman or Mears that establishes themselves as a building block for this organization; however, Santana is still a project and he is not expected to be able to contribute at the big league level quite yet. Even when he is ready, there is no guarantee that Santana will pan out anyway or contribute. This leaves the Twins with many questions still to answer at the shortstop position and yet, an answer is sitting right in front of them and they—at this moment in time—are not willing to make the necessary steps to complete this deal and improve the franchise.
The answer I am referring to is a Cuban shortstop by the name of Aledmys Diaz. The Twins have had interest in Diaz since the rumors began to circulate that he had defected from Cuba and was training in Mexico, but the Twins believe the asking price for Diaz is too high. There are also questions surrounding the validity in the age of Diaz, who claims he is 23 years old. The reason that age is such an important factor in this decision making process is because Cuban defectors with three years of professional baseball experience who are 23 or older are given special exemption from the new Collective Bargaining Agreement’s international spending limits. This would allow teams to bid as high as they wish on Diaz and not worry about all the other international players they might want to sign this year because they could spend highly on them as well. If it’s determined that Diaz lied about his age, he will likely be ineligible to sign with a big league club for a year.
Regardless of what happens with the age investigation, the Twins should be willing to sign Diaz for whatever the asking price may be. We have seen the impact that Yoenis Cespedes—who signed a four-year, 36 million dollar contract with the Oakland Athletics last season—can have on a lineup, so why not make the jump and sign this talented player? The Twins have had success with signing international players in the past—outside of the Tsuyoshi Nishioka disaster—especially with the homerun they hit when they signed their number one prospect Miguel Sano out of the Dominican Republic. The team was not hesitant to make a move then—and it worked out beautifully for them—and they shouldn’t be hesitant to make a move now. Diaz is known for his ability to hit for power and average, and also possess an above-average arm defensively.
If Cespedes can sign a four-year deal worth roughly nine million a year, why can’t the Twins offer the same to Diaz? With the contract of Justin Morneau coming off the books or returning at a reduced rate at the end of the year—barring an extension—the Twins will have ample room to sign Diaz without crushing their payroll, so what exactly are they saving their money for? For nine million dollars a season, Diaz could be another building block for this rebuilding team. Picture an infield of Sano, Diaz, Eddie Rosario and Chris Parmelee with Aaron Hicks, Byron Buxton and Oswaldo Arcia in the outfield with Joe Mauer behind the plate and Morneau as a designated hitter. Sounds like a potent lineup to me; but if the Twins fail to solve their problem at shortstop, none of these pipe dreams will matter. Like a quarterback in football, shortstop is a premier position in baseball’s infield and defense. A good shortstop makes a team great; a bad one holds a team back for years.