A bigger deal after Diaz?


LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — When it became clear the Braves would non-tender Matt Diaz, it wasn’t hard to figure he would be a good fit with the Pirates. Corner outfielder. Reasonably priced ($2.55 million this past season). A bit of pop in the bat. Solid against lefties. Used to a platoon role. And, by all accounts, a really good guy in the clubhouse.

So I was not stunned early this morning when Diaz agreed to a two-year, $4.25 million deal with the Pirates. What interests me a lot more, in fact, is what might come next — perhaps another, bigger deal?

One fellow scribe last night described Diaz as “the flavor of the day” at the Winter Meetings. At least a half-dozen other teams expressed interest in him, though it’s not yet clear whether any of them made formal offers.

The Pirates did not sign Diaz to be their everyday right fielder. Most of his experience has been in left field, so there will be a bit of an adjustment period — especially as Diaz learns to play balls off the Clemente Wall at PNC Park. Also, GM Neal Huntington said on Day 1 of these meetings that Ryan Doumit would get the bulk of his playing time in right field this summer and sometimes spell Chris Snyder behind the plate.

Against left-handers, Doumit is a career .256 hitter with a .694 OPS. Diaz hits .335 with a .907 OPS against southpaws. Guess who starts in right when there’s a lefty on the mound?

Does a platoon role justify Ryan Doumit’s $5.1 million salary in 2011?

And what about the starting rotation? Adding Kevin Correia and Scott Olsen creates a bit of a crowd. Huntington mentioned yesterday that he’d be open to trading “one of our established pitchers.” Unless the Pirates plan to flip Correia or Olsen right away, their list of “established” starters pretty much starts and ends with Paul Maholm.

Maholm will make $5.75 million this coming season with a club option for $9.75 million in 2012. He nearly was dealt to the Dodgers last July. And, perhaps coincidentally, Maholm chose last weekend to take a Disney vacation, coming to Orlando just as Huntington and other MLB execs were pouring in for the Winter Meetings.

After back-to-back disappointing seasons, will Maholm rebound in 2011 and improve his trade value before the deadline? Or will Huntington play it safe and take what he can get now?

The Winter Meetings will wrap up in about 25 hours, but that’s plenty of time for more intrigue.