A's maximize versatility with 2-year deals for Díaz, Peterson

December 14th, 2022

OAKLAND -- The A’s have long been a club that places a high value on players who can handle multiple positions, and their latest additions are a signal of that philosophy carrying over into 2023.

The signings of infielder/outfielders and to two-year deals were officially announced by Oakland on Tuesday. Peterson’s contract is worth $9.5 million and Díaz’s is worth $14.5 million, a source told MLB.com.

Throughout this offseason, A’s general manager David Forst has expressed a desire to add utility players with Major League experience to the roster. It doesn’t get much more versatile than these two. Peterson appeared at six positions with the Brewers in 2022, and he has played every position except catcher over his nine big league seasons. Díaz received time at six positions with the Astros last season, including all four infield spots.

“We like the flexibility and versatility,” Forst said of the two signings. “Jace’s defense at third base was outstanding last year. We actually had lunch with Aledmys, and he talked about how second is his favorite spot, but he’s comfortable at short and third. … I just think they add a lot to the team in terms of experience and Major League quality players at whatever position you throw them out at.”

Peterson said he expects to play all around, though the A’s are likely to frequently deploy him at the hot corner. It’s where he received the majority of his playing time with Milwaukee last season and thrived. According to Statcast, Peterson’s seven outs above average (OAA) were tied for fifth-most among Major League third basemen, while his five runs prevented were also tied for fifth-most. Switching over to FanGraphs, Peterson’s 11 defensive runs saved were fourth-most among Major League third basemen with at least 600 innings logged at the position.

Given the generous foul ground that the Oakland Coliseum provides, having a plus defender at third base is of tremendous importance for the A’s. Multiple Gold Glove winners, including Eric Chavez and Matt Chapman, learned to master that spacious territory over the past two decades, and now Peterson will look to try his hand at it.

“I feel like that’s a lot of opportunity to go out and make a play,” Peterson said of the Coliseum foul ground. “I feel like I’ve made some good plays throughout my career, whether it’s popups that are behind me or balls to the left or right. That’s a place where you saw Chapman do it for a long time. He was one of the best at it. That’s fun and adds an exciting aspect to it. I’m looking forward to that challenge.”

The A’s must also improve an offense that ranked last in MLB in OPS (.627), batting average (.216) and on-base percentage (.281) in 2022. Peterson, who has earned the nickname of “On Base Jace” over his career, will look to help that turnaround, having slashed .238/.337/.373 with 16 home runs, 26 doubles, 70 RBIs and 23 stolen bases in 232 games over the past three seasons with the Brewers.

Díaz is a player with whom the A’s are quite familiar from their battles with the Astros in recent years. The 32-year-old utility man slashed .255/.313/.424 with 32 home runs and 107 runs with Houston from 2019-22, and he is a .266 career hitter with 74 homers, 269 RBIs and a .763 OPS in 582 games across his seven seasons in the Major Leagues.

“The quality of the at-bat is what really sort of jumps out at you,” Forst said of Díaz. “You go through that Houston lineup and obviously are worried about the usual suspects like [Yordan] Alvarez, [Kyle] Tucker and [Alex] Bregman. Your tendency is to kind of take a breath and relax a little bit when it gets to Aledmys, but the problem is he makes contact or he takes a walk. He can pump one out on you if you’re not careful. He just really puts up a real quality at-bat, and that’s something we wanted to have more of in our lineup.”