The Pirates appear to have landed the right-handed-hitting outfielder they coveted, as an industry source confirmed late on Tuesday that free-agent outfielder Matt Diaz has agreed to a two-year deal with the club. The deal is believed to be worth approximately $4.25 million.
The Pirates have neither confirmed the deal nor commented on the reports. Diaz, 32, met with Clint Hurdle on Monday night and said that he came away impressed by the Pirates' new manager.
Pittsburgh had plenty of competition in its pursuit of Diaz, who was non-tendered by the Braves last week. The Pirates have been looking for someone who could be a threat against left-handed pitching, and Diaz fits that mold precisely.
He has a career .335 batting average and .533 slugging percentage against southpaws in parts of eight seasons in the Majors. He hit .273 against lefties last season.
Diaz's numbers dip against right-handed pitching, but the Pirates have left-handed-hitting options to complement Diaz in right field. Pittsburgh is expected to consider a platoon with Diaz and Garrett Jones, who offers a .282 career average against right-handers. Ryan Doumit is another candidate to split playing time in right, though the Pirates are known to be making him available in a trade.
Though Diaz played mostly in left field while with Atlanta, the transition to right shouldn't be much trouble. He has played 78 career games there and is considered an average to above-average defender.
Diaz missed a little more than a month dealing with an infection in his right thumb last year and finished the season with a .250 average in 84 games. He batted .313 in 125 games in 2009, one year after a knee injury limited him to 43 games.
Diaz was squeezed out of a spot in Atlanta's 2011 plans when the Braves acquired Dan Uggla in November. The addition of Uggla shifts Martin Prado to left field, where Diaz had served as a vital platoon player for the club. As a result, the Braves made Diaz a free agent by opting not to offer him a contract in his final year of arbitration-eligibility.
Acquiring Diaz is the latest move in what has so far been a busy week for Pittsburgh at the Winter Meetings. The Pirates are close to finalizing contracts with free-agent starters Scott Olsen and Kevin Correia, and those deals could be officially announced as early as Friday.