To the extent you haven’t been following the tale of 23-year-old Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas, let me submit to you that you should. As a top performer – at such a young age – in Cuba’s highest level of baseball, Tomas is among that upper tier of recent Cuban defectors who is likely to make a whole lot of money when coming to the States.
We most recently saw it with outfielder Rusney Castillo, who got, effectively, a six-year, $72 million contract from the Red Sox last month, a record for Cuban defectors. Castillo, 27, impressed while showcasing for U.S. teams and saw his stock surge.
Tomas isn’t quite yet to that part of the process, but, given his age and ability, it’s conceivable that he’ll get even more money. And now he’s one step closer to free agency, according to Jesse Sanchez, who says Tomas has now been cleared by the US Government to sign with a team in the United States. That means all that’s left is MLB to declare Tomas a free agent, and he can start negotiating.
Last week, I wrote at length about the interplay between the Cubs’ needs and available resources, together with the weak free agent outfield crop, and how those things intersect at the arrival of Tomas to free agency. You could make that argument that, at least on the positional side, Tomas might be the most attractive target to the Cubs all offseason. Of course, he’s likely to draw serious interest from many, many teams, and the Cubs may ultimately prefer to reserve their resources elsewhere.
That said, there are only so many opportunities to sign 23-year-old players with huge upside for only money. Here’s a snippet on Tomas from when he defected:
Tomas put up huge numbers as a 21-year-old at Cuba’s highest level (.301/.340/.580) and again as a 22-year-old (.289/.364/.538) before stepping back a bit this year (.290/.346/.450), which may have been related to an arm injury (and/or changes in league rules, which seemed to have brought down offense overall).
What Tomas really brings is huge power – Badler calls him a 70 on the 20-80 scale, which is excellent – and the ability to play all over the outfield. He’s most likely to be a corner outfielder, but the ability to technically play center suggests a nice bit of athleticism (even if he winds up in a corner).
Because Tomas played five seasons at Cuba’s highest level, he is not subject to any signing restrictions, and the Cubs – plus other teams – could go as aggressively for him as they wanted.
Even if what Tomas could bring to the Cubs is viewed as a luxury, rather than a need*, this is where having large-market revenue is so important. Indeed, with increasing spending restrictions around baseball, this is among the very few paths where having large financial resources can be used to great effect. Will the Cubs be in a position to spend lavishly as soon as this offseason? There are reasons to think they can, though they probably aren’t yet in a position to go after every single conceivably impactful player, knowing they can paper over their mistakes with an endless supply of revenue.
*(An idea upon which I’d push back, given that the Cubs are still going to need an offensive upgrade or two in the coming years to pair with their young, offensive talent.)
So, in the end, we’ll see if Tomas becomes a target for the Cubs. There’s a lot to like.