So, some mildly interesting news this morning: the Braves agreed to a $2.55 million contract with OF Matt Diaz to avoid arbitration. Hooray!
Diaz was an absolute force for the Braves this year, collecting career highs in plate appearances, walk rate, OBP, OPS, ISO, and BB:K while getting time in all 3 outfield positions. Diaz was horrendous defensively in right, where he got most of his playing time, but slightly above average in left. Critics will point to Diaz's insane .384 BABIP as the reason he was so successful offensively, but I'm not so sure about that. Diaz has proven he can maintain a high BABIP over his career, as his career mark is .366. Diaz doubled his career walk rate this year up to 8.6% after languishing at 4.3% or lower for all of his Braves career. If Diaz can keep the walk rate up, he should be able to continue to produce at a high level for the Braves.
One more thing. Everyone knows Matty kills lefties (1.103 OPS against them this season, .921 for his career), but what about his numbers against righties? Well, in 2009, Diaz upped his OPS vs righthanders to a respectable .749, compared to .722 for his career. Diaz is probably best in a platoon situation, but if the Braves can't get a big bat in the outfield, he should be a solid enough fill in in left field.
The Braves only have 3 players still eligible for arbitration: Peter Moylan, Boone Logan, and Kelly Johnson. Moylan is a lock to return, and I'd assume Logan would as well, though he could be nontendered. Johnson on the other hand, is the big mystery of the group. Do the Braves want to pay upwards of 3.5 or 4 million for someone who isn't even the starting second baseman right now? Common logic dictates they wouldn't, but I'd sign him anyway. Kelly is still a valuable asset for the team, even if he's not the starter. Even with all his struggles in 2009, he was still worth $3.2 million to the team. Having Johnson on the team in 2010 can only lead to positive things. Kelly will be 28 when the season begins and just entering his prime. He's shown flashes of brilliance, and you can't let someone like that get away.
UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal is reporting that the Braves are trying to trade Johnson, and if they aren't able to, he'll be nontendered. Well that sucks.