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According to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, two more Cuban defectors will be declaring for free agency in the coming weeks. Both players happen to play at positions of need in the Red Sox organization though they may not be as Major League ready as recent Cuban born players to join the league, Yoenis Cespedes and Aroldis Chapman.
Almedys Diaz is a right-handed shortstop who defected during a tournament in the Netherlands last year, and he has been training in Mexico City. He turns 23 years old in January and will become eligible as an international free agent that will not have to follow Major League Baseball’s new international player signing policies. He has been touted as an above-average shortstop with a quality arm, good speed on the base paths, and the ability to hit for average with a little pop.
With the Red Sox in such confusion about the future of their team at shortstop, Diaz would make a good signing for the future. Xander Bogaerts currently projects as the team’s shortstop of the future, but his size may limit him from being a successful defender. He could eventually be moved to another position, corner infield or outfield being the preferable home for a player with his abilities. Jose Iglesias is slated to be the starter next season, but his inability to get on base makes him less than the ideal candidate. Both of these players were signed as international free agents by the Red Sox, pointing towards success in developing that talent.
The team’s only other real shortstop prospect in the system is Deven Marrero, but he was just drafted out of Arizona State in the 2012 draft and will need years of seasoning in the minors before he is ready to fully contribute. Look for him to come up in 2015 with September call-ups and have a chance to make a real impact in 2016. If Diaz could be convinced to join the Red Sox farm system, you could see him as early as September, pending the development of Bogaerts.
Dariel Alvarez is a righty as well, and he can play all three outfield positions. He has been cited by scouts at having an impressive arm. He is not quite as ready as Diaz to contribute in the near future, but, as with shortstop, outfield is a position of weakness on the Red Sox roster. Their top prospects for the outfield are CF Jackie Bradley Jr. and corner outfielder Bryce Brentz, both of whom will probably not see time until September of 2013. Corner outfield is especially a position of weakness, as their major league system and farm system contain few can’t miss prospects or players at the position. This lack of talent is what has led in recent weeks to discussion of trading starter John Lester to Kansas City for top prospect OF Wil Myers.
Adding Alvarez could prove to stabilize the Sox farm system as well as save them from having to trade valuable players to restock their outfield. There has also been much speculation that this will be the last season Jacoby Ellsbury plays in a Red Sox uniform, and if that is the case, the need for outfielders grows even more.
Neither one of these players should command the kind of contracts that recent Cuban players have signed, like the four-year, $36MM contract signed by Cespedes last winter. Even so, if they develop, the cost of signing them could become mush less compared to some of the moves they are trying to make now. Signing one or both players would further prove front office dedication to maintaining the future prospects of winning for a team that has fallen apart in recent years. Both players could become key factors on teams in the next few years; why shouldn’t it be for the Red Sox?