After weeks of rumors linking him to the Phillies, Braves, Padres, and Giants, Yasmany Tomas has reportedly signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. The deal guarantees Tomas $68.5 million over six years, but critically, it apparently contains an opt-out after the fourth year; a concession which may have allowed the D’Backs to sign Tomas for less than the reported asking price.
Kiley McDaniel wrote up Tomas back in September. I’ll quote liberally from that piece here:
The consensus is that as a prospect Tomas ranks behind White Sox 1B Jose Abreu, who got six years and $68 million before the season, as Tomas is a riskier bat with less of a track record and a little less raw power. Many scouts prefer (Rusney) Castillo, who got seven years and $72.5 million last month, as Castillo is a plus-plus runner that can play an up-the-middle position and is a little better bet to hit for some scouts, as well.
That said, Abreu and Castillo were both signed for their age-27 seasons while Tomas will be 24 next year and should be big league ready at some point in 2015. Scouts on the low-end for Tomas mention Dayan Viciedo as a comparable while more scouts think Yoenis Cespedes is a better offensive comparison, though Cespedes is quicker-twitch athlete with more speed and defense value.
While Kiley was attempting to compare and contrast the recent Cuban free agents for market valuation reasons, his projected peak line is almost a dead ringer for what Justin Upton has done in the big leagues, as I noted last week. Kiley’s guess of a .275/.350/.480 would equal out to about a 130 wRC+ in a neutral park, so even if he’s a minor defensive liability, that line would still make Tomas an above average player, probably in the +3 WAR range.
However, reports suggested that some teams felt that he profiled more as a DH, and if the defense is more Michael Morse than Brandon Moss, that could limit his overall value, especially in the National League. Whether this turns out for Arizona might depend entirely on how well he’s able to field his position; the D’Backs probably don’t need another Mark Trumbo, though Tomas will also expected to be a better hitter.
With just four team-controlled years, the D’Backs are buying Tomas’ age 24-27 seasons, and allowing him to potentially hit free agency again at perhaps the peak of his career. This seems like a near perfect fit for Tomas, as he gets $68 million in guaranteed money if he sucks, and yet he still gets a chance for a mega-contract if the power is as advertised. The opt-out could even give him the leverage to renegotiate into a much-larger deal with Arizona in a year or two if he follows the Cespedes/Puig/Abreu career path, as I’d imagine the White Sox would already be looking to tear up their deal with Abreu if he was only three years away from free agency.
By giving the fourth year opt-out, the D’Backs are limiting their own upside if Tomas hits, while still taking on all the risk associated with projecting performance from a guy who has never played in the U.S. before. However, a $68 million risk isn’t really that substantial of an investment anymore, and if he hits like scouts have been projecting, he should easily be worth the contract before he opts out. If Arizona backloaded enough of the money so that they can substantial value in the first four years of the deal, then the benefits could easily be worth the risk.
If Tomas is more of a DH than an outfielder, or if his raw power isn’t accompanied by a decent approach at the plate, the D’Backs could end up paying $68 million for a player who might fit better in the AL. That said, even if that does prove to be the case, he’d probably still have some appeal to teams in the junior circuit, and the price tag is low enough that he shouldn’t be too terribly hard to move if it comes to that; after all, we just saw Billy Butler get 3/$30M from the A’s, and Tomas has now signed for a similar annual average value.
Cuban free agents have proven to be remarkable bargains of late. The opt-out will serve to make this one less of a bargain, most likely, but it still seems like a reasonable risk for the Diamondbacks to take. $11 million per year for right-handed power might quickly look like a bargain if the rest of the skillset is even reasonably passable.