Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz signed a four-year major league deal with the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, moving past a yearlong suspension for lying about his age to ink the latest in a long line of big contracts for defectors, a source told Yahoo Sports.
The Cardinals announced the contract for the 23-year-old Diaz, to whom they'd been linked since he defected in July 2012. Terms of the deal were not immediately available.
Diaz is expected to start the season in the high minor leagues, with the Cardinals' infield depth well set. Still, should rookie Kolten Wong or Mark Ellis struggle at second base, Diaz, who can play all three infield positions, provides depth for a team already with significant flexibility.
The emergence of high-profile Cuban players since Yoenis Cespedes arrived two years ago has grown this offseason, with Jose Abreu signing with the Chicago White Sox for six years and $68 million, and the Los Angeles Dodgers nabbing infielder Alexander Guerrero (four years, $28 million) and shortstop Erisbel Arruebarruena (five years, $25 million).
Like Guerrero, Diaz's bat is his hallmark, as scouts wonder if he has the range to stay at shortstop long-term. The Cardinals signed Jhonny Peralta to a four-year, $53 million deal this offseason to fill what has been a shortstop vacuum, especially in recent seasons when the Cardinals have been in World Series contention annually.
Diaz spent the last year in limbo after an investigation by Major League Baseball showed he had falsified his age in an effort to make himself look older – and not fall under the league's international bonus cap that does not apply to players 23 years old and up. The league suspended him for one year. Diaz was eligible to sign Feb. 19 and held both a public showcase and private workouts for interested teams.
He is expected to report to Cardinals camp in Jupiter, Fla., on Monday.
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