ATLANTA -- When Braves general manager Frank Wren called Matt Diaz on Wednesday to inform him that it didn't appear he would be re-signed for the 2011 season, the outfielder graciously said, "Don't forget about me."
Anyone who was associated with Diaz over the course of the past five seasons will have a tough time forgetting about how nice it was to have him in Atlanta. Fans will remember him as the reliable offensive threat who tortured left-handed pitchers and proved that he was far from being a defensive liability.
Always willing to provide fans a smile, autograph or charitable time, Diaz was a popular clubhouse figure appreciated by teammates, media members and those members of the club's management who were forced to bid him adieu.
The farewell was made official Thursday, when the Braves announced Diaz would be the only of their arbitration-eligible players who wouldn't be tendered a contract for the 2011 season. Dan Uggla, Jair Jurrjens, Martin Prado, Eric O'Flaherty and Peter Moylan were all tendered contracts, which simply makes them eligible to enter the arbitration process.
"[Diaz] is such a great person on and off the field," Wren said. "We all were very appreciative of what he did here over the past five years. But with the way our roster has changed, we didn't see the same role being available for him next year. For us to go to arbitration with him, we had to see a significant role for him."
Diaz spent most of the past five years serving in a platoon role in left field. The need for him to fill this role this upcoming summer was essentially erased when the Braves acquired Uggla from the Marlins and then announced Prado would be moving to left field.
Once Chipper Jones proves that his surgically-repaired left knee is sound, the right-handed-hitting Prado will likely find himself in left field on a daily basis. Eric Hinske, a left-handed hitter, and Joe Mather, a right-handed hitter, will likely serve as his primary backups.
Diaz batted .305 with an .815 OPS during his five-season stint in Atlanta. This was certainly much better than the Braves could have envisioned when they acquired him from the Royals for Minor League pitcher Ricardo Rodriguez.
During his first two seasons with the Braves, Diaz hit .327 with an .838 OPS. A knee injury wrecked his 2008 season and began an injury-plagued span that included a battle with an infected right thumb both of the past two seasons.
Diaz hit just .250 with seven homers and a .739 OPS in the 84 games he played this past summer. This likely wasn't going to earn him a significant bump from the $2.55 million he earned this past season. But the Braves determined his cost would be greater than the value he could have brought in a reduced role.
Diaz should draw plenty of attention from clubs looking to add a right-handed hitter to their bench or in a platoon role. He has hit .335 and produced a .533 slugging percentage in his career against left-handed pitchers.
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is among those making a push to acquire Diaz. The two live close to each other in the Auburdale, Fla., area and one of Diaz's closest friends happens to be one of the veteran skipper's sons.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.