It has been less than a year since the news broke that the Diamondbacks had secured Yasmany Tomas’ services. I was having a beer by myself in a bar downtown when the text came in. I confirmed the news, swallowed my beer and jumped on the train – rushing home so that I could write it up for Beyond the Box Score while Ryan covered the news here. At the time, we were collectively thrilled. This was a very large, very public win for Arizona. They’d won the bidding for the kind of player they so often lost out on: the high-profile free agent. It had previously been James Shields who turned the D-backs down. I’m not sure who it was before that and I’m not sure who it was before that, but you get the idea. They were used to getting snubbed before Tomas chose to sign and we reveled in the possibilities.
Of course, one of the possibilities, the one we most-liked to ignore, was that Tomas simply wasn’t very good at baseball. That was a possibility. I also don’t think that’s the reality despite his struggles in the field and at the plate in his debut season. He did not light the world on fire last year and has significantly altered the perception around him. But how do you evaluate a guy with big time power who showed an approach that didn’t use it? How do you evaluate a player who took his Spring Training reps at a position that he was never meant to play, only to struggle at another position (one that he had limited experience with) for the remainder of the season? How do you evaluate a player who lost almost all of his playing time in the final two months of the season, but lost the bulk of it to a breakout-David Peralta? Trust me, I could go on.
I suppose I shouldn’t hide the reason we’re having this discussion in the first place. The D-backs need starting pitching and as much as we’d all like to just throw a couple of lesser prospects at that situation to fix it, that’s not going to be enough. Teams know what Arizona is after and they know that outfield depth is really the only surplus the team has at the major league level. That’s why the Braves asked for A.J. Pollock in return for Julio Teheran or Shelby Miller. The D-backs said “no” as they should have. They can’t subtract a major piece of the MLB puzzle fill another MLB need as even if the team were to acquire a starter like Teheran or Miller, they’d still be fringy to take a wild card spot.
Arizona will be good next year, but not so good that they can give away Pollock or Peralta to address the pitching situation unless they land a name that we haven’t mentioned before (like Chris Sale). Hell, I’m not even sure if they can afford to lose Ender Inciarte. Okay, maybe there’s a scenario in which they could lose any of these starters, but it has to be a pretty specific one. And the team would need a viable replacement for whomever they lost. That replacement would most likely be Tomas as Socrates Brito is still a little too raw at the moment (which could change as early as midseason).
But rather than pressing Tomas into action, the team could just trade him instead of one of the starters. The issue there is that we don’t really know what he’s worth thanks to the murkiness of his current value. So let’s put our thinking caps on here for a fun (okay, maybe not “fun” but definitely “tolerable”) thought exercise. Let’s build both cases for Yasmany Tomas’ trade value – one where his value is high and one where his value is very low.
Yasmany Tomas’ Trade Value Is High Because…
- He will be just 25 for all of next season
- He possesses plus-plus raw power from the right side
- He has a strong throwing arm that allows him to play either corner outfield spot
- He produced three solid months at the plate in his debut at 24
- He is under control for at least three more seasons, making just $20 million over those three years
Yasmany Tomas’ Trade Value is Very Low Because…
- He swings at everything, he doesn’t walk and strikes out plenty
- He doesn’t have a defensive home
- His frame is troublesome and his conditioning will always be a concern
- His production tapered off sharply in the second half
- He could chose to stick around for five more seasons, making $52.5 million over those five years
- He could be excellent, then choose to opt-out of his deal after only three years
There’s no clear position here, and choosing either side entirely is probably irresponsible. The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in the middle. Tomas’ age is an assets as is the amount of money he’s owed in the short-term. The power plays and he’s not a good outfielder, but he can probably improve a little and be a better one than we saw in 2016. His plate discipline was horrendous, he’s not a plus athlete by any means and he sure struggled in the final three months of the season. It’s a potentially tough deal in the sense that an acquiring GM will only be willing to trade for three years of value even if he ends up netting five, either because Tomas will opt out or not be worth the money he’s owed in years five and six of his deal.
So who’s a potential trade partner if the D-backs were willing to include Tomas as part of a larger deal to shore up their rotation deficiencies? It would have to be a team willing to bet on their ability to turn him around, improve his approach and refine his fielding ability. A strong track record of player development would be important. Because the final two years of Tomas’ deal are unlikely to provide any surplus value (give that he’d only exercise them if he weren’t in a position to pull in a larger deal after three years), the team might have to be willing to deal him if/as soon as he does turn that corner. Given his power and youth, this could be a buy-low opportunity for a forward-thinking GM. It could also be a $52.5 million quagmire. It is probably something in between.
The odds of finding a team who’s willing to part with a young, cost-controlled, impact starter for just prospects are slim. Prospects, no matter how close to the majors, are risky. Tomas might not be much less risky than, say, Brandon Drury or Braden Shipley, but there’s at least a clearer picture of who he has been and what adjustments need to be made moving forward. I don’t think this is insignificant – the knowledge that was gained even as Tomas struggled is helpful in potentially moving him forward. It’s highly likely that whomever Arizona ends up trading with, if they end up trading for a starter at all, will want something from the MLB side of things in return. Pollock can’t be that guy. Peralta and Inciarte probably shouldn’t be either. But Tomas offers an interesting opportunity for a visionary GM if he’s willing to bet on his organization to improve the young Cuban. It would take a lot of faith and some serious #rig, but I’m not counting Tomas out as a useful trade asset just yet. Diminished? Certainly. But it’s not over for him, either, and presuming so is selling him short.
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