The pursuit of free agent outfielder Yasmany Tomas took a quick and stunning turn on Wednesday. Expected to become the richest Cuban defector to date, with a $100 million contract seemingly within reason, Tomas agreed on a six-year, $68 million contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks, according to a report from MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.
Though he'll earn a higher yearly average, Tomas' deal falls short of Rusney Castillo‘s seven-year, $72.5 million deal with the Boston Red Sox, which ultimately topped deals signed by Yasiel Puig, Yoenis Cespedes and Jose Abreu. Castillo's deal was viewed by many as a starting point for Tomas in terms of total money, but apparently the market didn't develop as envisioned.
In the other surprising twist, Arizona was only viewed as a periphery player at best in the Tomas sweepstakes as recently as Wednesday afternoon. New D-Backs general manager Dave Stewart discussed his interest with Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic earlier in the day, stating that no formal offer had been issued, though both sides understood what the other was looking for.
Stewart isn't sure how competitive the Dbacks are in this derby, though. Said he's unaware of what other offers are.
— Zach Buchanan (@azc_zachb) November 26, 2014
How quickly things change.
Though all 30 teams have expressed varying degrees of interest and were present at at least one of his workouts, the Philadelphia Phillies, San Diego Padres and San Francisco Giants were the teams most often linked to Tomas. With San Francisco losing Pablo Sandoval this week, they were expected to ramp up efforts to sign the 24-year-old third baseman and outfielder, but instead he ends up with their division rivals from Arizona.
While it hasn't been a great week at the office for Giants general manager Brian Sabean, the Tomas signing solidifies a nice start to the Dave Stewart and Tony La Russa regime in Arizona, which began with a trade to acquire right-hander Jeremy Hellickson from Tampa Bay. In Tomas, they get a young player with position flexibility and exciting raw power that should continue to develop and play very well at Chase Field. Tomas is a potential cornerstone whose prime seasons will be locked up at a surprisingly affordable price.
Tomas is a big-boned, heavy-framed player, but he moves around surprisingly well for his size, with slightly below-average speed. While he will have to keep his weight in check, Tomas should profile in either corner outfield spot, with a plus arm to play right field.
Since Tomas is 24 and played five seasons in Cuba for Industriales of Serie Nacional, he is exempt from the international bonus pools. He was a standout at the 2013 World Baseball Classic, and he excelled in Cuba that season by hitting .289/.364/.538 with 15 home runs, 34 walks and 52 strikeouts in 324 plate appearances. During the 2013-14 season (his last one in Cuba), Tomas had a down year, hitting .290/.346/.450 in 257 plate appearances with six home runs, 21 walks and 46 strikeouts in 257 trips to the plate.
For a team that wants to win right away, but still has some rebuilding that needs to be done, Tomas is essentially the perfect fit. He's young, he should be ready to make a quick impact, and he can be built around without his contract hampering the payroll too much. On day one, this looks like a winner for Stewart, but the next 2,190 days will tell us a lot more.
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