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Matheny eager to see newly signed Diaz in games

2014-03-09T14:20:00Z 2014-03-10T12:45:14Z Matheny eager to see newly signed Diaz in gamesBy Derrick Goold dgoold@post-dispatch.com 314-340-8285 stltoday.com

VIERA, Fla. • The Cardinals' biggest splash in the international market will be in camp Monday and could be in games soon after.

The Cardinals have agreed to terms on a four-year, major-league deal with shortstop Aledmys Diaz, a Cuban who defected from the country and had to wait out a year's suspension before being eligible as a free agent. The team announced the deal Sunday afternoon.

Manager Mike Matheny said he expects Diaz to play in games in the near future if the medical staff agrees he won't risk injury.

"He’s going to get in games very soon, depending on what the feedback is," Matheny said. "If he’s ready to go, then we will see what that looks like. We want to see him."

The Cardinals scouted Diaz several times, and they invited him to the Roger Dean Stadium complex earlier this spring to get their coaches and front office officials a look at the 6-foot-1, 195-pound righthanded-hitting infielder.

He will report to spring training on Monday and join the team.

He is the 40th member of the team's 40-man roster.

Financial contract details were not immediately known.

Before the deal was announced, a Cardinals source described Diaz's market as between $15 million and $20 million based on the recent free-agent signings.

Whatever the final numbers it will be the biggest contract the Cardinals have ever given to an international player, free agent or amateur.

The New York Yankees also had a private workout with Diaz and reports surfaced soon after that they would not make an offer to the infielder, who has the potential for a potent bat. Diaz worked out for the Cubs on Wednesday in Arizona, MLB.com reported.

Diaz could play shortstop, second base, or third base. An NL scout said earlier this spring after seeing Diaz that his bat has the potential to play at any of the positions, and that his ability to stick at shortstop had a greater likelihood than some of the other Cuban infielders chances of being offensive threats.

Diaz, 23, hit .315 with 12 home runs in his last professional season with Cuba. He has not played a game in 18 months.

"He looked like a very experienced player for as young as he is," Matheny said. "Natural things you could see. Clean fielding the ball. Kind of a different slot, but good carry on the ball. The ball jumped off his bat. He just looked pretty polished."

Mozeliak called the signing "a significant benchmark" for the team as it looked to expand its presence in markets outside of the United States and Latin America and into what Mozeliak called "emerging markets" like Cuba and Asia.

Check back throughout the day here for updates on Diaz.

Derrick Goold covers the Cardinals and Major League Baseball for The Post-Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at @dgoold or on Facebook at Facebook.com/BirdLandPD

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Baseball writers Derrick Goold and Rick Hummel cover the Cardinals for the Post-Dispatch and STLtoday.com. They'll provide daily Cardinals updates here, from the start of spring training through the end of the season and beyond.

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