The Yankees took a low-risk gamble Wednesday in hopes of filling a hole on the roster, signing righthanded-hitting outfielder Matt Diaz to a minor-league deal.
If he makes the team out of spring training, Diaz would make a base salary of $1.2 million with incentives that could tack on $800,000, according to sources familiar with the team's thinking.
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Diaz presents the Yankees with a much-needed alternative to balance out a lefty-heavy outfield, though a source would not rule out the Yankees pursuing other candidates for the job.
Diaz, 34, hit just .222 last season with two homers and 13 RBIs in 51 games for the Braves. It was arguably the least productive year of his career, weighed down by his woeful 3-for-30 (.100) performance against righthanders.
Recurring issues with his right thumb also played a factor. He underwent thumb surgery in 2010 and again last July, which cut his season short.
Nevertheless, against lefties last year, Diaz hit .269 with an on-base percentage of .329.
He is a career .324 hitter against lefthanders with an on-base percentage of .364. Of his 45 career homers in parts of 10 seasons, 31 have come off lefties.
Diaz has primarily been a corner outfielder in recent years. If he makes the team, he would complement lefties Brett Gardner, Curtis Granderson and Ichiro Suzuki in the outfield. At various points, all three have had their at-bats limited against lefties by manager Joe Girardi, creating a need for a righthanded hitter such as Diaz.