At this point, the stories about how far Yasmany Tomas hits a baseball circulate like tales told around a campfire. They might be real. They might be a seed of reality that germinated into a bloom of exaggeration. They might be straight-up lies, because in the market for Cuban baseball players, where teams rarely reveal their true intentions, anything to force a higher bid from a rival is considered keen strategy.
And seeing as nothing excites executives more today than a power hitter, they want to believe that Tomas hit a home run during a workout in the Dominican Republic that went so far over a fence it smashed into a ladder on which a fence-painting man stood. Just like they want to believe he really did hammer a home run into a faraway laundry facility at the Philadelphia Phillies’ complex. Or that he really did park a home run over the scoreboard at Estadio Quisqueya, also in the Dominican Republic, or hit another from one team’s facility into another team’s that sits catty-corner, or that he hit a ball 550 feet. That last one is probably not true. Probably.
They’re coming from all over to see Tomas, and the market is heating up to the point that friends close to the 24-year-old are urging him to be patient. He wants to sign today, sources told Yahoo Sports, to stop the dog-and-pony show that is individual workouts and align himself with a team. Just wait, he is told. Just wait and see what comes.
More teams, it turns out. Sources around baseball continue to peg the Philadelphia Phillies as a favorite, even as they downplay their interest. Rival executives believe the Phillies want to clear at least one of their high-priced stars before committing to Tomas, though the structure of his deal is, like the interest in him, full of potential permutations.
Some teams want to lock up Tomas to a six- or seven-year deal, like fellow Cuban defectors Jose Abreu or Rusney Castillo, and it almost certainly would exceed the respective $68 million and $72.5 million price tags his countrymen fetched. Others warmed to the idea of giving Tomas a shorter contract with a higher average annual value, like Yoenis Cespedes’ deal. He will be a free agent next year following his fourth season.
Like Cespedes, Tomas’ power is his calling card. At 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, his position remains a question. Perhaps he could play a passable third base, though the general sentiment sees him landing in a corner outfield spot.
That’s the preferable position for San Diego and Kansas City, the two teams that in addition to Philadelphia have shown the most interest, sources told Yahoo Sports. The San Francisco Giants have seen Tomas at least four times, and the Arizona Diamondbacks and Seattle Mariners continue to lurk as possibilities. Atlanta is in the mix. Officials from the Los Angeles Dodgers and St. Louis Cardinals have watched him work out, too.
Great incentive exists to spend big on Tomas. He is one of the last elite Cubans after the great defection wave that sent Abreu, Castillo, Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, Jorge Soler, Aroldis Chapman, Leonys Martin, Jose Iglesias and others to the major leagues. And between Tomas’ age and power, nobody like him on the free-agent market exists: a 24-year-old with incredible raw strength who will command a contract far lower than a veteran major leaguer with commensurate skill and talent.
There are no penalties for signing Tomas, as there will be for 19-year-old Yoan Moncada, who falls under different free-agent rules because of his age. Just risk, the sort of risk that exists for any player, though a risk mitigated in large part because of the great success of Abreu, Puig and others speaks to the quality of top Cuban players translating to the major leagues.
That intrigues the Padres, who, sources said, believe Tomas possesses the sort of power to hit it out of notorious Petco Park. It’s no surprise teams with tough home run parks – San Francisco, Seattle, Kansas City – are so interested.
Like everyone, they’ve heard about how Tomas’ handlers considered moving some of his workouts away from the Phillies’ complex because he broke too many windows with his moonshots. Maybe it’s true. Maybe it’s a marketing gimmick. It doesn’t really matter. Because the power is real, and it’s spectacular.
And whether Tomas gets his wish and signs soon or waits until the winter meetings and a true bidding war breaks out, he’s coming, ready to show the world the stories are anything but apocryphal.
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