The Yasmany Tomás saga has been a blight for Diamondbacks fans. His maladroit play in the field coupled with some pretty frustrating at-bats has only proven to make the bad feel worse. Such obvious displays of subpar play stick in the minds of fans. Understandably so.
Things didn’t always seem so hopeless around Yasmany Tomás. As Nick Piecoro reminds us in his excellent exposition into Tomás’s tenure with the team, the deal was considered as a “relative bargain” in some circles. Nick details the environment that fostered the signing, and at the time, the outcome that has turned into the present didn’t seem all too likely. But here we are and what once looked like a boon has materialized into a curse.
As Nick points out, Tomás’s onerous contract and occupation of a roster spot has likely influenced transactions ranging from the front office not re-signing J.D. Martinez to the infamous Shelby Miller trade. With over $45 million and three years left on his deal, he’ll likely be around in some capacity for the foreseeable future. While the contract may not be going anywhere, his playing time in the desert looks to be evaporating. Barring any injuries, it seems rather likely that Yasmany will be starting his season in the minors. The team is already carrying 12 position players, as Nick states, and assuming they continue to have a third catcher on the 25-man roster, that leaves no room for Tomás.
Yasmany Tomás is plainly a sunk cost at this point. There’s little chance in trading him, aside from a bad-contract swap, and his contract is guaranteed. As an NL player, he’s also a man without a position and the team is decidedly not going to repeat the debacle of 2016, in which he received over 1,000 innings in the field. The new front office correctly reading the writing on the wall and positioning themselves to do what’s best for winning baseball games is most welcomed. As is, there is no room for him on the major league roster and despite the money that would be burning, he shouldn’t be there.
It seems hard to believe he wouldn’t see any playing time in 2018, however. After all, injuries are still a thing, interleague play happens, matchups take place, and the unpredictable usually occurs. So, let’s see if we can’t find some way that he winds up in the majors again.
I’m sure many fans would be content to have him out of sight, out of mind indefinitely. It’s worth considering, though, that he still has some amount of skill to offer. ZiPS projects that he is good for a wRC+ of 104 and a slash of .275/.317/.500. Maybe that seems a bit overstated when the humidor takes effect this season. Nevertheless, as far as right-handed power goes, there’s one hitter on the Diamondbacks roster projected to have a higher ISO – Paul Goldschmidt. The point remains, however, that he is still one of the better bats on the team. Even with the addition of Steve Souza Jr., Tomás is still projected as the sixth best hitter on the team, according to ZiPS. What’s more, over his career, Tomás has a wRC+ of 132 against lefties.
Finding Tomás playing time isn’t necessarily the difficult part. With 10 road games against AL teams, there’s probably about 45 plate appearance opportunities right there. And maybe there are a few left field starts against a lefty or pinch-hit appearances available for him. The harder part is finding scenarios where he is on the major league roster, and thus eligible to receive any of these hypothetical opportunities.
Imagining David Peralta or A.J. Pollock suffering an injury and missing playing time isn’t particularly inconceivable. There are almost assuredly going to be times where one of the four outfielders on the 25-man roster takes a DL stint. The question then becomes, who gets called up? Maybe the team calls up Socrates Brito or Jeremy Hazelbaker. Both can handle the field well enough, though they don’t bring much of anything by way of offense. Depending on how long they need a replacement, it’s reasonable to guess that they might just use one of them as a stop-gap, or perhaps they make another trade for a Michael Bourn-like player if the need is desperate enough.
Then there is calling up Tomás. With Chris Owings reportedly being expected to be playing some right and left field already, perhaps he and Descalso fill in as a proverbial fourth outfielder with Tomás seeing some plate appearances as a DH or a pinch-hitter.
If the team wanted to get creative, he could even start a game in a lefty matchup in left field. He could take his two plate appearances and then be replaced defensively. While the team might need to be a bit more imaginative to find Tomás playing time should he be called up, there are certainly a few ways to get him some at-bats.
Despite some of the painful-to-watch at-bats we’ve seen from Yasmany Tomás, the point remains that there are situations where he is a valuable bat for the team – especially given the team’s lack of right-handed power. How much the team believes that remains to be seen, but maybe there is some salvageable value left. It might not be much, but it might be more than they’ve gotten so far.
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