SARASOTA, Fla. — When the Pittsburgh Pirates claimed him from the Miami Marlins in late November, Lewin Diaz received several messages wishing him the best of luck with his new organization and opportunity. They flooded in again two weeks later, when the Orioles grabbed him on waivers after the Pirates let him go, too.
There were no such messages when the 26-year-old first baseman made his way to his fourth team in five weeks, traded to Atlanta after the Orioles also designated him for assignment. It took two more DFAs for Díaz to finally reach a standstill. Within a month of first designating Díaz, the Orioles reclaimed him from the Braves and designated him for assignment him once more before he at last cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A.
It meant Díaz spent the final month of the offseason off a 40-man roster, but in some ways, the end of his odyssey was a bigger relief.
“I was to the point where I was like, ‘You know what, hopefully, I just get to stay here and be done with this process finally and start to get to work pretty soon,’” Díaz said through Orioles interpreter Brandon Quinones. “Obviously, it was very complicated, a lot of movement. It’s something that I’ve never been through my career. It was a lot going on, to say the least. But towards the end of it, I was like, ‘OK, now it’s gonna slow down, for sure.’”
Designated for assignment five times, claimed three times and traded once all between mid-November and mid-January, Díaz is now among the collection of candidates in the Orioles’ spring training camp to be their backup first baseman. In 112 games with the Marlins over the past three years, he hit .181 with 13 home runs and a .567 OPS from the left side; at Triple-A, he’s hit 39 home runs and slugged .504 over two seasons. During his time in the majors, he has rated as a strong defender, performing positively in outs about average and defensive runs saved.
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Díaz might have the most defensive upside of the Orioles’ deep group of candidates to complement Ryan Mountcastle. He’s one of five nonroster invitees in the mix, with Curtis Terry being the only right-handed hitter in a group that also includes Ryan O’Hearn, Franchy Cordero and Josh Lester. Catchers Adley Rutschman and James McCann could be in the mix, as well as outfielder Anthony Santander and second baseman Terrin Vavra.
“I think everything happens for a reason, and I’m here for a reason now,” Díaz said. “I think that good things are gonna come out of this.”
His wife, Selenia Calicchio, delivered that message to him consistently throughout the offseason, especially as bouncing from one organization to another began to frustrate Díaz. He was in the Dominican Republic playing winter ball, an experience he said was his “refuge” throughout the flurry of transactions. As others stopped reaching out with each new move — “They were like, ‘You know what, maybe we feel bad for him,’” he said with a smile — Calicchio continued to remind Díaz a positive outcome was still possible.
“She would call me and tell me, ‘Things happen for a reason. You’ve just got to stay strong and get through it. Your time will come, so just stay patient through it,’” Díaz said. “I was like, ‘I’m tired. I’m tired with this process. I can’t wait to get [it] over,’ and she was like, ‘You gotta keep going. You’re gonna get through it very soon.’”
On Jan. 5, the Orioles claimed Díaz for the second time in little over a month. On. Jan. 11, they designated him for assignment for the second in three weeks. On Jan. 17, Díaz’s voyage at last came to an end, when none of the other 29 teams decided to claim him and he officially settled into Baltimore’s organization.
To manager Brandon Hyde, Diaz’s circumstances were reminiscent of Hanser Alberto, who during 2019 spring training flew from Florida to Arizona and back when the Orioles designated him for assignment before reclaiming him after the San Francisco Giants put him on waivers. Alberto ended up as a popular player on the 2019 and 2020 Orioles, showing the destination can justify the journey.
“I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far,” Díaz said. “I think that if I just continue to do good things and go about my work in a good way, then good things are gonna come out of it.”