Yasmany Tomas is a good player, and signing him was a good move. It seemed like a particularly great idea for the D-backs to sign Tomas as far back as early last September, because it represented a way to add talent without subtracting talent — signing him did not mean forfeiting a draft pick, and unlike most free agent deals, there was reason to think Tomas would get better over the duration of his contract, not worse. Based on information available at the time of the signing, it still looked like a good, inventive move. And if you happen to prefer outcomes-based analysis of transactions, the signing looks just as good right now.

The contract itself, however, was and is the biggest player contract in the history of the franchise — and given the opt-out clause it contains, the contract makes navigating payroll issues a little more complicated for the team. By way of example and as Jeff and I just talked about on The Pool Shot, the Tomas contract makes trading for James Shields especially dangerous — it’s one thing to have so much of a team’s payroll assigned to two players, and another to face a scenario where the team is paying $44M to Shields for 2017-2018 (including 2019 buyout) and $32.5M to Tomas for 2019-2020 only if those players aren’t worth nearly that much on the free agent market at those times.

Meanwhile, a wild trade deadline may have taught us a few new things about the trade deadline:

  1. Signing bonuses for international free agents can lead to trade opportunities.
  2. Players with real versatility have seen their value stay high or increase at the trade deadline.
  3. Trading for good starting pitchers is at least as difficult, if not more difficult, than it’s ever been.
  4. The new normal for a whole bunch of teams is to be open to making moves with next year in mind.

Bear with me. #1 requires a bit of explanation, more so than the other three.


With respect to #1 there, I’m referring to the ridiculously complicated deal that saw the Dodgers pick up short-term assets Mat Latos, Jim Johnson and Luis Avilan, as well as Alex Wood and intriguing prospect Jose Peraza — all for good-not-great reliever Paco Rodriguez, mid-tier prospects Zachary Bird, Kevin Guzman, Jeff Brigham, and Victor Araujo, and recent Cuban free agent Hector Olivera. Without knowing all of the players too well, it looks to me like Jose Peraza might be worth about as much as three of the four prospects that the Dodgers gave up. This is, essentially, a king’s ransom for Hector Olivera.

Why? The Dodgers made Olivera much more handsome an asset by paying (eating?) his signing bonus, now and apparently in the future ($12M is already paid, $7.5M is due on Saturday the day after the deadline, $8.5M is due in December, according to Cot’s Contracts). That makes Olivera a good deal for what is likely all of his remaining prime years, including just $32.5M for five future seasons, 2016-2020. The contract even includes what we might call a “Lackey clause,” a $1M option for 2021 if Olivera requires Tommy John surgery (which was, specifically, a risk when he signed). What a deal!

If you were looking for how Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi would flex the financial muscles they never had with Tampa Bay and Oakland, here it is. This is the beginning of a bigger wave of a new type of move, one that some teams have been strangely hesitant to pull the trigger on: using money to turn contract liabilities into assets worth giving up talent for.  This is not a me idea, as many others have weighed in here, maybe most notably Sam Miller and Ben Lindbergh of the Effectively Wild Podcast.

The Red Sox kinda/sorta just did this in trading Shane Victorino to the Angels, but really, think about it: what kind of return could the Padres get right now for anyone on their roster, from Matt Kemp to James Shields, if they ate most of the money owed? The Padres can’t afford to do that, of course — that’s precisely why this type of thing could work for the teams with more money to spend than current Collective Bargaining Agreement constraints allow them to spend on high-return investments. The D-backs are probably in the Padres category, not the Dodgers category — but hold on to that thought.


Just over two months of Ben Zobrist just netted Sean Manaea, a really strong haul for a player who, although he’s hit better lately, is not the offensive monster that he was in 2009, or the well above average hitter he was in 2011-2012. He’s above average, it seems. But he can still play some shortstop, and any team would be comfortable putting him at second or at an outfield corner right now. He’s expensive, and while a good fielder, he’s only adding about as much value in the field as he is at the plate, which is some. It’s versatility.

We looked at the extra value (not captured in a stat like WAR) that versatility can provide in looking at Martin Prado just over a year ago. Over a full season, it’s maybe worth a full win — and it’s worth noting that the Marlins seem to think they can get something good for Prado right now, too. One probably can’t make any player a “Zobrist type,” but if a player could be that, that’s value a team can add to an asset almost for free, so long as the opportunity is there. Also, it may be that a plus player who can be moved around the field will always fetch a nice price at the trade deadline; there will always be teams that need to plug a hole, and many of them have a Plan A where that hole is, either on contract for future seasons or even due to return from injury before the playoffs begin.


Yeah. Cole Hamels just netted a boatload of meaningful prospects, headlined by catcher Jorge Alfaro. And if you don’t think Alfaro is a huge prize, you should pay more attention to how many teams are looking for catchers right now, and how many teams have really struggled to make that kind of move. The Phillies are eating some of the Hamels money, a difficult figure to pin down exactly as I’m not sure how the teams value Matt Harrison or his contract.

Look at this list from MLBTR’s Steve Adams from a few days ago. We’ll know more shortly, as the Tigers are apparently open to moving David Price, and it would not be a surprise to see one or two more of the “Second Tier” starters moved (Latos is the only one of the six moved thus far, although with three SPs on the same team, it’s not like all six will be traded). Everyone wants one of these pitchers, Red Sox especially included, and there aren’t many. You could say that the Blue Jays moved for Troy Tulowitzki because of that scarcity; a playoff starter was a much more pronounced need, but it just wasn’t out there.


It’s a weird market. There aren’t just buyers and sellers; teams who are out of it but think 2016 is a reasonable target are also active right now, attempting to get multi-year assets. The Red Sox traded John Lackey last year at this time, for no apparent reason. The Tigers, Rangers, Red Sox, Indians, Mariners, and Reds are all focused on 2016. A lot like the Tigers, the Orioles, Rays, White Sox, and arguably the Padres have all had a hard time figuring out which course to take right now. Despite all that, the D-backs may be the best example of all.

Sure, sellers were always interested most in guys who could contribute soon — they’ve always had more value. But this is still kind of a shift, I think, with a large number of teams acting as if they’re really the only kind of return they’re interested in. That’s their prerogative. But unlike in past seasons where there weren’t many teams in a “close but not quite there yet” position like the D-backs are right now, like where the Astros were in the spring — that’s the rule, not the exception. It’s probably cyclical, but it’s the situation at this trade deadline, and it might be nearly as much of a theme next year, too.

Maybe the canary in the coal mine here is Oakland. It’s not like every strategy they take works, but Billy Beane doesn’t swim against the current. The Athletics’ focus on low-minors prospects right now should maybe tell us something. Maybe they’re betting that they’ll have a bouquet of prospects as currency at a time when they will be in shorter supply; maybe it’s as simple as arbitrage, with Beane believing that the difference in value right now between low- and high-minors prospects is a good way to increase his organization’s value overall. It’s there, though. And you’re thinking of a D-backs example without me even referring to it.

Trade Tomas?

Thanks for sticking around! Combine all of these things together, and maybe we get a new picture of where the D-backs are right now. They don’t have too much in player currency that they can both afford to lose and that sets them apart as a seller or buyer; Jeff and I were brainstorming about possible Hamels deals that could make sense, and we had a really tough time. Maybe Touki Toussaint could have been an Alfaro-type anchor, but even in that alternate reality there may not be enough to close a deal without moving backwards (losing an advanced pitching prospect or a current MLB player).

But Tomas is a different kind of asset, for many of the reasons that made him attractive last fall. Now we can add that he could be more attractive than he was in the fall; he’s produced even if a lot of that production hangs on a BABIP that would be difficult to sustain, as Jeff explored yesterday. Maybe more importantly: the Tomas deal wasn’t just backloaded; it was also frontloaded, with a $14M signing bonus that has already been partly paid (and could continue to be paid by the D-backs, as the Dodgers will reportedly do with signing money owed to Olivera). That’s bringing in #1.

In the right conditions, Tomas could anchor a deal for a pitcher of real value. That’s not just a #3 kind of comment. It’s also a #4 thing. Tomas is a lot like a hitter equivalent of a Hamels right now, owed money, hard to replace, likely to hold his value for several years (Tomas may improve, but unlike with Hamels, his salaries do increase, maybe canceling out that difference). Tons of teams out there right now are making moves with an eye toward the next couple of seasons, not just this one. Tomas is that kind of guy, asset, and contract. This deadline, the D-backs have a few unattractive rentals to sell, an enticing reliever that they may actually need more than anyone else does in Brad Ziegler, and a boatload of inexpensive, long term assets. Compared to David Peralta and Ender Inciarte and Nick Ahmed (and probably even A.J. Pollock), Tomas suddenly looks more like a rental.

Throw in the fact that anyone the D-backs acquire that has already signed a free agent contract (or anyone they sign) can’t be very helpful to this particular club (which is kind of okay everywhere) unless he’s quite good — and quite expensive. Maybe you don’t want to couple that kind of contract with the commitment to Tomas anyway. Are you with me yet?

No? Well think of what trading Tomas would mean. Right now and potentially next season, that would mean Pollock, Peralta and Inciarte could play nearly every day. Not a bad thing. In the alternative, it would mean a spot for Peter O’Brien to play in the outfield — not a bad thing, since he appears to have value but can’t contribute to the cause without playing time (and he’s not going to anchor a trade for an ace). O’Brien should make you really stop and think about this, I think. Peralta has already made you do that.

Finally, we’re getting close to an indelible conclusion that Aaron Hill isn’t going to be traded. He’s useful, he’s owed money, and I just don’t know that releasing him makes sense. He can do things, but doing them part time just seems like it makes a ton of sense.

Why should that matter? #2, that’s why. There is no current D-backs candidate to be a “Zobrist type” more promising than Chris Owings, who can definitely play shortstop, and who can definitely play the hell out of second base. No, he probably doesn’t have Zobrist’s power, and no, putting Owings in an outfield corner may never seem like as attractive a Plan A as it may be with Zobrist. Fast forward to 2016. Things have gone well, the team is in contention, Brandon Drury is kicking some ass or looking like he could, Ahmed is the guy he is right now… maybe an injury means that this club needs Chris Owings. But maybe that doesn’t happen. Maybe Owings is a piece that could fetch the D-backs a Missing Piece come this time next year — if some playing time in the outfield opened up in Tomas’s absence, and that helped make Owings look more attractive.

Think about it. Sure, losing Tomas would be a loss — but that’s exactly the point. To get, you have to give, and the D-backs’ clip of specifically attractive low-minors prospects is out of bullets. In the right deal, this could make sense.

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11 Responses to In Light of Deadline Trades, Should D-backs Explore Trading Yasmany Tomas?

  1. Bradford says:

    Alright, so dealing Tomas as a centerpiece, who do you go get? Is he big enough to land someone like Chris Sale?

    • Ryan P. Morrison says:

      No, I don’t think so — and I don’t know they could get that done even by including a few other guys, like Shipley, Drury, Sherfy (Godley?). Plus, would we want them to? That’s a big bet for a guy who has thus far defied the injury gods.

      The original idea was Hamels, full disclosure. That might have come close. @the_real_gabby floated Tyson Ross, who’d be the right kind of pitcher/asset, although it might require a third team. Carlos Carrasco, maybe? Clay Buchholz?

      After that, the picking start to get slim. Nate Eovaldi, Danny Salazar. Nate Karns is available, but it hurts my brain to try to sort that one out, and I’m not sure he’s a good fit for the team.

  2. Bradford says:

    So essentially now that Hamels is off the board, Tomas and a few pieces of candy are worth a #2 starter, or a fringe #1.
    I like the idea of having more playing time for Peralta and Inciarte. However, I feel like a team with four productive outfielders is more valuable. Would you rather have Peralta starting in place of Tomas, or a Ross/Pacheco type? I realize the Diamondbacks need an anchor in the rotation. I think we’re better served going after Jordan Zimmerman in free agency, or an equivalent. I’d rather spend some of that money the FO has been so intent on saving up than sap from the 2016 offense for one.
    That also leaves us the rest of the season to finish out The Great Experiment. Let RDLR pitch a full season, get his ERA below 4. Continue to figure out what you have.

    • Ryan P. Morrison says:

      I like the idea of four productive outfielders, too — and I’m not so hot on the idea of signing a FA pitcher.

      Just to kick around the same topic — what about Peter O’Brien? At the beginning of the season, the team seemed to think it was Inciarte and Peralta that would get shorted on playing time. With respect to Peralta, that was my mind set, anyway. That’s changing, now.

      I’m not sure what O’Brien would turn out to be, but if it happened to be that Tomas was no longer on the squad, I feel pretty decent about O’Brien being entered into the mix as one of four outfielders. Maybe he’s the one that gets shorted playing time, at that point. At the least, he’d complete an OF mix that would still be two LHH and two RHH.

  3. Dave-Phoenix says:

    Tomas is still very unproven. I’m not sure what his perceived value is on the trade market, with only 1/2 year experience.

    The fact that “you” want to trade him gives us a pretty good idea of what “your” perceived value is to the D-Backs. Basically you are saying the D-Backs can live without him. How much value can he really be worth then? Basically the D-Backs would get back a player that “some other team” also can live without.

    • Ryan P. Morrison says:

      Well, hold on — I didn’t mean to say that I do want to trade Tomas. Now would not be a bad time, if you wanted to do it. These thoughts were precipitated by the news that the D-backs were kicking the tires on Hamels. Jeff and I talked a bit about what that deal might be — there’s no headliner prospect that could be dealt without running in place, maybe. I thought Tomas was an idea to add, and in thinking about it, other forces at work this July seemed to support that more than I thought they would.

      To respond directly to your point: teams aren’t a perfectly efficient market. Sometimes trades aren’t “challenge trades,” where they’re making different bets on the same player. Sometimes it’s just a matter of fit, right? And maybe a team with more money can afford to take on Tomas’s contract along with others… maybe we don’t want to see the D-backs with two big contracts like that, especially if one is as risky as Tomas’s, with the opt-out. Then there’s O’Brien, too. If you have five start-worthy outfielders, it’s not necessarily a reflection on the value of one of them if you look to move him.

      I think, I try to put on different hats sometimes because I like thinking out some of these puzzles. BUT:

      If I had my druthers, Tomas isn’t traded. It’s a risk, but it makes as much sense now as it did on day 1 and before day 1, which is to say: definitely some. I think he’s a decent fit for the park and the offense, too, and for the team’s alignment, if he’s playing outfield. And I don’t think I want to see the team trade for a starting pitcher right now, either, although as always that depends on the player and on the deal.

      I like where the team is at. I think Patrick Corbin is already showing us that he’s better than even his very good 2013 stat line: he’s pitching like the guy we had most of that season. He finished that year with 32 ER in his last 36 innings (!), and maybe was very tired, or even hurt. He’s back now, though.

      If there are only 15 or so aces in the game at any one time, Corbin is a pretty good #1 starter, right? Now, IF the team tries to get Robbie Ray to pick up/switch to a hard Warthen slider this offseason, and IF that works, I do think that’s a particularly good #2. That’s what it looks like right now. And I have some confidence they’ll try it, at least; no matter what, it’s not going to be worse than the hangerball he seems to feel obligated to keep trying right now.

      With RDLR an occasionally-dominant #3 and Corbin and Ray bringing up the average, this team is going to be more than all right. Anderson, Blair, Hellickson, Bradley, maybe even Godley… there will not be any trouble filling in the back end of the rotation. Couple that with one of the best sets of position players in the National League right now. What’s not to like? Stay the course. Tomas belongs as part of that, IMHO.

      I’d like to see the team explore moving Hellickson, even though I think the best possible return would be a low-minors, high-ceiling SP prospect, something we know they aren’t too concerned about picking up. I’d like to see them move Cliff Pennington, because it’s almost time to start to look at Brandon Drury, and because while Penny is worth every penny he’s being paid right now, a cost-conscious team doesn’t need to spend that million dollars. We’re not going to run out of options, and if we did… is that a big deal, for the season’s last two months?

      As for the pocket of money that the team apparently has, I would say, don’t buy a free agent. Your point about what can be gleaned from the “need” assigned by one team (or one writer) — that’s a real thing, but it’s a sibling of a much more extreme phenomenon in free agency. Winner’s curse, and all that. Sign a free agent, you’re saying you value him higher than EVERY other team. And usually you’re wrong.

      Year in and out, the free agent dollars that offer the highest return are the ones spent on up-the-middle players. The pitching will be fine; the front office’s strategy last winter of getting a bunch of lottery tickets has paid out, maybe a little bit better than we could have hoped. Since we can’t guarantee anything, let’s continue to bet on that. No free agent starting pitchers.

      Instead, spend that money on a Pollock extension. See if you can get sweetheart extension deals with Ahmed, Lamb, maybe one or more of the pitchers (doesn’t hurt to ask). Stay on the lookout for catching, from any source.

      …if I had my druthers. I don’t see changing my outlook on those things anytime soon. That won’t stop me, though, from fleshing out some thought exercises like the piece above. It’s fun!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Surprised nothings happened especially with Blair banda bradley…b prospects? Somebody stop me

  5. Anonymous says:

    And braden

  6. Lamar Jimmerson says:

    Zach Borenstein may also not be far off, although he bats left-handed. *Something* is going to have to give with the Dbacks’ crop of MLB and high-minors outfielders, though. And I think you are right that it is worth exploring making Tomas the centerpiece of a trade for a controllable near-TOR pitcher. The winter may be a better time for doing that, though, especially if Tomas can show some power between now and then. Right now, he has such a weird profile.

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