The Rays and Infielders Yandy Diaz are close to completing a contract extension, reports MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand (Twitter link). According to Feinsand and his MLB.com colleague Juan Toribio, the deal is a three-year, $24 million deal that includes a club option for 2026 (via twitter). Diaz 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-agent-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 sought $6.3 million and the club countered with $5.5 million.
Instead, it now looks like Diaz will become the third hearing-related Tampa Bay player to sign an extension this week. Jeffrey Springs signed a four-year, $31 million extension on Wednesday Peter Fairbanks agreed to a deal worth $12 million over three guaranteed years on Friday. An arbitration hearing is usually the result when the two sides fail to agree on an annual salary before the deadline for exchanging figures, but clubs often seek multi-year contracts as a sort of loophole around the self-imposed ‘file and trial’ strategy which Used by most players in the league.
Diaz, Springs and Fairbanks were three of seven Rays players who had not agreed to terms by the deadline, and even the remaining group of four (Harald Ramirez, Colin Poche, Ryan Thompson, Jason Adam) still represents an unusually large number of players to be brought to a hearing. It certainly wouldn’t be surprising if the Rays worked out at least one more extension before hearings begin in the coming weeks.
For Diaz, the new deal means long-term security and the first big payday for a player who turned 31 last August. Early in his career in his native Cuba, Diaz was arrested twice before finally defecting on the third attempt, and then signed with Cleveland for a $300,000 bonus. Diaz didn’t make his MLB debut until 2017, when he was already 25 years old.
Back in December 2018, a headline-grabbing three-team swap between the Rays, Indians and Mariners resulted in Diaz traveling from Cleveland to Tampa as part of the five-player swap. The Rays were interested in Diaz’s ability to socialize and draw walks, and those skills certainly carried over through Diaz’s career. As of the start of the 2020 season, Diaz ranks sixth in walk rate (13.7%) and ninth in strikeout rate (13.1%) among all qualified batsmen.
Diaz averaged .266/.359/.418 in his first three seasons with the Rays, good for a solid 117 wRC+ over 1026 plate appearances. However, Diaz has taken production to a higher level this past season, posting a 146 wRC+ while hitting .296/.401/.423 with nine home runs over 558 PA and finishing with elite percentiles in several major Statcast categories. For a right-handed hitter, Diaz’s career numbers against left-handed pitchers have been relatively modest heading into 2022, but last year he smashed southpaws with the tune of .892 OPS over 145 PA.
There’s more to come…