The next Cuban superstar is on his way to Major League Baseball.
According to Baseball America's Ben Badler, Yasmani Tomas, a power-hitting outfielder who is held in high regard by baseball scouts and executives, has defected with the intentions of pursuing a contract with a major league team.
Let the bidding begin! Well, not quite yet. There's still a long road ahead for Tomas to end up in MLB, but the huge first step is complete. Here's more from Badler on that process that awaits.
Tomas will still have to obtain residency in another country, get an unblocking license from the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and be declared a free agent by Major League Baseball to be eligible to enter into an agreement with a club. The timetable for jumping through those hurdles varies, though it seems unlikely Tomas would sign before the end of the season and it might take him until 2015 to ultimately sign.
Tomas, 23, has proven to be a capable center fielder in Cuba, but it's Badler's belief that at 6-foot-1, 230-pounds, he'll be better suited for a corner outfield position in the majors. But that's really just a minor detail compared to what big league teams will really look for from the right-handed swinging slugger, and that's his power and production at the plate.
Tomas hit .275 for Industriales in Havana last season with 10 home runs and 59 RBIs in 90 regular season and seven playoff games. Not dominant numbers across the board, but his raw power is undeniable and what appeals most to scouts. According to Badler, Tomas' raw power rates at 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, and given his age there's obviously a lot of room for that to increase.
It's an investment several teams will be willing to make, and given the success of recent high-profile defectors like Yoenis Cespesdes, Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu, Tomas stands a good chance to land a hefty contract.
Abreu set the standard over the offseason when he signed a six-year, $68 million deal with the Chicago White Sox. Puig received $42 million over seven years from the Los Angeles Dodgers, while Cespedes signed for four years at $36 million with the Oakland A's. All look like relative bargains at this point, which could put Tomas in good negotiating position.
Also working in his favor, according to Badler:
Tomas has played five seasons in Serie Nacional, so he will be exempt from the international bonus pools, even when the new rules kick in on July 2 that require five seasons instead of three for pool exemption. Tomas was arguably one of the top 10 or so players left in Cuba in terms of major league potential, and one of the top half dozen players who meet MLB’s 23-and-5 rules, the sweet spot for a signing unencumbered by the pools.
It all adds up to potential big win financially for Tomas. It will be interesting to see which teams step forward and what he ultimately commands on the open market. But it will be more interesting to see if he can establish himself in that top tier. The physical tools are there, but will he handle the transition and adjustments as well as his counterparts, as well as the pressure to follow in their footsteps?
Time will tell, and that time looks like it will be 2015.
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