Cardinals Flip Diaz to Toronto for Minors Outfielder Woodman

photo: J.B. Woodman (Butch Dill/USA TODAY Sports Images)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced this evening (Friday) that they have acquired minor league outfielder J.B. Woodman from the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for infielder Aledmys Diaz.

J.B. Woodman (Lansing Lugnuts)

Woodman, who turns 23 on December 13, was the Blue Jays second round pick (57th overall) in the 2016 draft out of the University of Mississippi.  He spent the 2017 season playing mostly center field and right field for Lansing (A) in the Midwest League, where he appeared in 96 games batting .240 with 87 hits, 19 doubles, five triples, seven home runs and 45 RBI.

The left-handed hitting Woodman is 6-foot-2, 195 pounds and throws right-handed.  He helped Ole Miss reach the College World Series in his freshman year, and by his junior year in 2016, he tied for the Southeastern Conference lead with 14 home runs and was named a college All-American.  After signing with the Blue Jays in ’16, Woodman hit .272 at short-season Vancouver before a late-season promotion to Lansing.  Woodman, a native of Orlando, Fla., was previously drafted by the New York Mets in the 40th round but did not sign.

Diaz, 27, was named an All-Star in 2016, after making his debut on April 5 of that season.  In his first professional season, he hit .300 and finished 5th in National League Rookie of the Year voting.  Diaz began the season with St. Louis in 2017 and finished out the year with triple-A Memphis before a call-up to St. Louis to finish out the season in September.

The Cardinals also announced this evening that they have tendered contracts to the remaining players on their 40-man Major League roster who were not already signed for 2018.   Following today’s trade, the Cardinals roster currently stands at 38 players.

Brian Walton’s take

Let’s take the last points first. Oddly, the Cardinals chose to leave out the names of Tyler Lyons, Randal Grichuk and Michael Wacha, the three players eligible for arbitration. The trio are considered signed, though their 2018 salaries are not yet set.

Having two open 40-man roster spots gives the club additional flexibility. They can use the open positions for trades, free agent signings, in the December 14 Rule 5 Draft, or a combination.

The Cardinals continue to thin their roster with their third trade of a major leaguer for a minor leaguer since May. First, Matt Adams went to Atlanta for Class-A corner infielder Juan Yepez, followed by starter Mike Leake, sent to Seattle with cash and international bonus money for high-A shortstop Rayder Ascanio at the end of August.

In each case, St. Louis sold low, buying a lottery ticket on a youngster in return.

Aledmys Diaz (USA TODAY Sports Images)

A year ago, no one could have foreseen how far and how fast Diaz’ stock could drop. The 2016 National League all-star looked to have a firm hold on the starting shortstop job, but struggled to open 2017.

Without his offense to compensate for his below-average defense, he soon found himself back in Triple-A. The emergence of Paul DeJong eliminated any path for Diaz to reclaim his job, nor did his play in Memphis help his chances considerably.

Diaz completed his original four-year, $8 million contract following the 2017 season. However, the shortstop could remain under team control for another five years based on his MLB service time – but with just one minor league option year remaining.  One has to assume that Diaz being traded despite the Cards’ ability to stash him for another year at Memphis if needed is a pretty clear signal that the organization did not see him contributing for them in the future.

From the Cardinals side, the biggest winner in this trade is Greg Garcia, who no longer has to compete with Diaz for the reserve infield job.

I do not have a great concern about diminished middle infield depth due to Diaz’ departure. My current projected 2018 starters at Memphis did not include him, anyway, with Breyvic Valera and Wilfredo Tovar up the middle, backed up by Alex Mejia. Also looking to push their way up from Springfield are prospects Darren Seferina and Tommy Edman.

In Woodman, the Cardinals have added what appears to be another tweener outfielder. Defensively, the almost-23 year old has the ability to cover center adequately, but was not used there exclusively by the Jays. Scouting reports suggest he eventually may end up in right where he can maximize his best tool, his arm.

The challenge is that his offense is definitely not corner-worthy.

The left-handed hitter got off to a good start in short-season Class-A in 2016, but had a very rough time in the Midwest League this past summer. In 414 plate appearances with Lansing, Woodman slashed just .240/.320/.378/.699 while striking out in an alarming 37.9 percent of his plate appearances.

(In reference, Patrick Wisdom has never fanned at a 30 percent rate, though he has been close. Randal Grichuk has two career seasons over 30, with his peak at 31.5 percent in 2015.)

In an initial consultation with TCN’s Derek Shore, we have decided not to alter our in-process Cardinals top 50 prospect ranking countdown to include Woodman, despite his placement at #28 on MLB Pipeline’s Blue Jays rankings at the time of the trade. He will have to earn his way onto our list during 2018.

Outfield playing time is going to be tight this coming season, especially at Peoria with Bryce Denton, Chase Pinder, Scott Hurst and Wadye Ynfante among ranked prospects expected to move up to compete for jobs. Other outfield prospects in this countdown who played in the Midwest League last summer are Nick Plummer and Dylan Carlson.

Ideally, Woodman would not repeat the MWL (ideally, no player would repeat any level) and there looks to be less outfield competition ahead at Palm Beach. However, the Florida State League is often hard on hitters and Woodman hasn’t hit well enough to earn the promotion, in my opinion.

In other words, neither of his 2018 options look optimal. The bottom line is that Cardinals already had a lot of sorting out to do from among their many Class-A outfielders in the spring. The addition of Woodman adds to its importance.

For more

To track the status of the Cardinals’ 40-man roster as well as all players in the system by position and level, check out the Roster Matrix, always free and updated here at The Cardinal Nation. Also included is every player transaction across the full organization all year long.

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