Rays close to contract extension with Yandy Díaz

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The Rays and the infielder yandy diaz are close to finalizing a contract extension, reports MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter link). The deal is a three-year, $24 million deal that contains a club option for 2026, according to Feinsand and his MLB.com colleague Juan Toribio (via Twitter). Díaz is represented by the Octagon Agency.

The extension would cover Diaz’s final two years of arbitration control and at least one of his free agency-eligible seasons. Diaz and the Rays were scheduled for an arbitration hearing to determine his 2023 salary after failing to reach an agreement by the filing deadline: Diaz was seeking $6.3MM and the club responded with $5.5MM.

Instead, it now appears Diaz will be the third hard-of-hearing Tampa Bay player to sign an extension this week. jeffrey springs signed a four-year, $31MM extension on Wednesday, while Pete Fairbanks agreed to a deal worth $12MM over three guaranteed years on Friday. An arbitral hearing is usually the result when the two parties fail to agree on a year’s salary before the figures exchange deadline, however clubs often try to pursue multi-year deals as a loophole around the self-imposed “file and trial” strategy deployed by most of the league.

Diaz, Springs and Fairbanks were three of the seven Rays players who did not agree to terms by the deadline, and even the remaining group of four (Harold Ramirez, colin poche, ryan thompson, jason adam) still represents an unusually large number of players who will address audiences. It certainly wouldn’t be surprising to see the Rays work on at least one more extension before hearings begin in the coming weeks.

For Diaz, the new contract ensures some long-term security and the first major payday for a player who turned 31 last August. Beginning his career in his native Cuba, Diaz was arrested twice before finally defecting on his third try and later signed with Cleveland for a $300K bonus. Díaz did not debut in the MLB until 2017, when he was already 25 years old.

In December 2018, a headline-grabbing three-team trade between the Rays, Indians and Mariners saw Diaz head from Cleveland to Tampa as part of the five-player trade. The Rays had an interest in Diaz’s ability to make contact and draw walks, and those skills have certainly translated as Diaz’s career has progressed. As of the start of the 2020 season, Diaz ranks sixth among all qualified hitters in walk rate (13.7%) and ninth in strikeout rate (13.1%).

Diaz hit .266/.359/.418 during his first three seasons with the Rays, good for a solid 117 wRC+ in 1026 plate appearances. However, Diaz took production to the next level last season, posting a wRC+ of 146 while hitting .296/.401/.423 with nine home runs over 558 PA, and finishing in elite percentiles in several major Statcast categories. For a right-handed hitter, Diaz’s career numbers against left-handed pitching had been relatively modest heading into 2022, but last year he crushed lefties with an .892 OPS over 145 PA.

One flaw in Diaz’s performance was a lack of glove work, as public defensive metrics have indicated he has been well below average in 1,282 1/3 innings at third base over the past two seasons. This stands out even more in a defense-conscious club like Tampa Bay, though ideally the Rays should look to use Diaz more often at first base in 2023 or over the course of the longer-term deal.

In the big picture, locking up Diaz seems like a smart move for Tampa. While a 146 wRC+ is a high water mark for Diaz, there wasn’t much (other than an increase in hard-hit-ball rate) to suggest that his 2022 numbers were a departure from his previous career numbers, for which is reasonable for him. The Rays expect more or less similar production over the life of Diaz’s contract.

Perhaps the most intriguing element is that the Rays have now extended a 31-year-old, as it’s fairly common for the team to buy players as they become more and more expensive. However, there was no real trade buzz surrounding Diaz and thus the Rays have now locked up three members of their infield (Díaz, roam frankY brandon lowes) though possibly the 2026 season, depending on the status of the club’s options for Diaz and Lowe. Of course, the Rays could still end up buying Diaz, Lowe or possibly even Franco down the road, especially if the club continues to generate quality infield prospects from its minor league pipeline.

Between the as-yet-unknown details of Diaz’s contract numbers and unresolved arbitration cases, the Rays are likely to match or surpass the previous franchise record for payroll, even if their overall spending remains fairly modest by all-American standards. the league. Tampa Bay’s Opening Day payroll last season was about $83.86 million, and Roster Resource currently (without a Diaz extension involved) projects the Rays for about $76.86 million on the books in 2023.

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