The Arizona Diamondbacks are getting a little less buzz this offseason than they did a year ago. Spending big and falling on your face with do that to you. They’re not a sleeper like the Rockies may be, and they’re surely not front runners like Dodgers. The biggest move was trading away arguably their most productive player from last season’s roster. And signing Jeff Mathis. If that’s not context, I don’t know what is. One of the few things that has been bantered about, and highlighted recently by Buster Olney, is the notion that the Diamondbacks should consider trading Zack Greinke. That’s a tough pill to swallow, but makes more sense than your die-hard fan would like to admit. The only maneuver potentially more difficult is trading Yasmany Tomas.
If you think finding a team that would take on the remaining $172.5 million for an aging, though still talented, pitcher is easy, think again. As Olney suggests, the team might have to eat $50 million or more to move Greinke for a package of lottery tickets — we’re not even talking about necessarily good prospects here. But at least there’s a market for a player Zack Greinke. He can help a baseball team. He can help a rotation. And he might have a few more strong seasons in the tank.
The Tank, or El Tanque, is another story. Yasmany Tomas isn’t an asset defensively and everyone knows it. So it’s down to the bat right from the start. Can the bat pay dividends? He saw a massive power surge in 2016 that may or may not stick around. He pulled the ball more last year and cut down on grounders, two trends that play well for his profile. But figuring out how much he continues to improve at the plate is nothing short of a total mystery. Will he keep progressing or did we just see peak Tomas? He’s only 26, but he’s not exactly a great athlete. If age curves tell us anything, this is probably about it. Then again, he’s only played two seasons stateside. You get the idea: he’s a tough guy to forecast.
But there are projections for him anyways, just like everybody. Last week we took look at the projections for all D-backs position players. The outlook for Tomas was, well, way down from 2016. With only two seasons of data to work with, he’s not the easiest of players to project to begin with. Steamer likes him to put up a wRC+ of 95 in 2017. That’s 14% less offense than he produced last season. That’s also below league average and that’s not very good. He doesn’t walk much, strikes out at a good clip, and basically relies on his raw power to get the job done. It’s a risky profile with a limited track record.
And let’s not forget one very major detail: in all reality, Yasmany Tomas is owed $48.5 million over the next four years, good for an average annual value (AAV) of $12.125 million per year. For the Diamondbacks, that’s a substantial amount of money — only Greinke makes more. Tomas could opt out of the final two years of his deal, which will pay him $32.5 million, but unless he has some kind of breakout in the next two years, that appears highly unlikely. When it came time to write The Offseason Plan, there was no priority larger (excuse the pun) than moving Tomas. Mike Hazen probably doesn’t feel all that differently.
Making matters worse, there are plenty of other options for bat-first, defensively-challenged hitters who can put up something like average-ish offense. And, most come cheaper and/or with less risk. It’s a weird, crowded market filled with veteran types, and though Tomas is just 26, he has the attributes of an aging player already thanks to his inability to contribute in the field. When N.L. teams are looking to fill a void at first, or A.L. teams are filling a hole at D.H., there are plenty of alternatives, and they’re all in some way better than Yasmany Tomas.
Let’s look at this offseason as an illustration. Here are eight players that could maybe serve as “Yasmany Tomas alternatives” if Tomas were truly available for trade. All eight players were free agents, so they wouldn’t cost a team prospects of any sort, and none received a qualifying offer: Carlos Beltran, Matt Holliday, Matt Joyce, Kendrys Morales, Mitch Moreland, Brandon Moss, Mark Trumbo, and Luis Valbuena. Pretty exciting list, eh? Head down that list and you can find something wrong with all of these guys. For the vast majority, power remains the calling card. By no means is this scientific, but let’s just roll with. With Steamer’s projections in mind, let’s look at how 2017 looks for each player, compared to Tomas, and financial commitment these free agents required.
Carlos Beltran, Astros, 1-year, $16 million
Carlos Beltran is maybe a Hall of Famer, but in the twilight of his career, he’s no longer the slugger that pitchers fear. Although he’ll get $16 million this year, he can still be an above average hitter, most often as a DH. He’s not a good fielder anymore, but he’s a better one than Tomas, and on a one-year deal, he’s clearly more valuable.
Matt Holliday, Yankees, 1-year, $13 million
You can basically copy/past the same for Matt Holliday (aside from the HOF thing), who’ll earn slightly less than Beltran. His $13 million salary for one year is similar to Tomas’ $12.5 million AAV, though there’s very little risk here for the Yankees.
Mark Trumbo, Orioles, 3-years, $37 million ($12.5 AAV)
Old friend Mark Trumbo will make the same amount of money per season over the next three years that Tomas will make over the next four. Considering their similarities, this shouldn’t come as a shock. That said, Trumbo projects as a much better hitter moving forward, and even if you don’t think that’ll hold, the projected gap between him and Tomas is sizable. And, there’s one less year of commitment in play, helping the Orioles’ cause.
Kendrys Morales, Blue Jays, 3-years, $33 million ($11 AAV)
It’s not like Kendrys Morales is all that good, but he’s projected as a better hitter than Tomas and checks in cheaper and with less risk. He’s 33 and more decline is likely, but the fact that he’s only on the docket for three years (rather than four for Tomas) makes him presumably more palatable than El Tanque.
Luis Valbuena, Angels, 2-years, $15 million ($7.5 AAV)
There are some issues here that are worth recognizing. Luis Valbuena has a pretty major platoon split. He also is a reasonable defender at third and first. Those two things probably cancel each other out, or at least come close to doing so. As it stands, he’s a better hitter as far as Steamer can tell and he’s way, way cheaper.
Brandon Moss, Royals, 2-years, $12 million ($6 AAV)
Brandon Moss is the kind of unremarkable baseball player that sticks around longer than you ever anticipated. He has a better defensive profile than Tomas, though it’s still below average, and is projected to hit a little better, too. He’s getting $6 million per season for just two years, so there’s far less risk here than what the Diamondbacks have on their hands.
Matt Joyce, Athletics, 2-years, $11 million ($5.5 AAV)
While he’s not who he once was, Matt Joyce is still a reasonable outfielder who’ll get on base at an excellent clip. He’s your prototypical signing for the A’s as a buy-low guy who can still contribute at cheap rates. Those rates are also minuscule compared to what the D-backs will be paying Tomas over the next four years, despite the fact that Joyce profiles as a better hitter and can at least not be miserable in the field.
Mitch Moreland, Red Sox, 1-year, $5.5 million
We’ve clearly hit rock-bottom here. Mitch Moreland will get less than $6 million next season on a one-year deal. He’s a depth move for the Red Sox and projects as an eerily similar hitter to Tomas, with a few more walks and a little less pop. For a contender, he’s a contingency piece.
And that’s the kind of guy that Yasmany Tomas profiles as for most teams: a second of third-tier player as a first baseman or DH. Maybe you think the projections are wrong and that he’ll make another leap forward at the plate. I won’t fight you if that’s the track you’re on. It’s possible. But even if he’s the same or slightly better in 2017, there are plenty of alternatives on the free agent market that cost less and/or require a shorter commitment. Further complicating things, these guys just cost money — a team doesn’t have to surrender any prospects to obtain Mitch Moreland as they’d have to do to get Tomas. Even more sad, the D-backs don’t even have the prospects in their system to sell him Touki Toussaint-style. Life is depressing, I know.
This isn’t about to solve itself. You might be thinking that as Tomas plays, he’ll have fewer years left on his deal and maybe the team can finally move him after another year or two. But because of the back-loaded nature of his contract, he’ll only be getting more expensive (he earns $15 million in 2018 and $17.5 million in 2019). The D-backs would need to eat a significant portion of that contract to deal him, even if just for a bag of baseballs in exchange. There are simply so many alternatives year-in and year-out that Tomas just won’t look palatable. The best-case scenario is that he does, in fact, take that massive leap forward and boost his value so that he’s able to be unloaded and the Diamondbacks don’t have to eat so much cash. The projections don’t see that happening, however, and given our knowledge of his flaws, even the most optimistic of us have to consider this unlikely. Arizona is simply stuck with Yasmany Tomas.
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FanGraphs Stats Glossary
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Previously on The Pool Shot, the guys explained some of their favorite advanced stats. Hitting, including wRC+, HHAV and batted ball; pitching (38:00), including FIP, xFIP and SIERA; and baserunning and defense, including UBR, UZR and DRS (58:00).