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The Indians could have signed Yasmany Tomas, but it's fine that they didn't

The Cuban slugger signed for less than expected. Should the Indians have made a (stronger?) push to land him?

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Earlier this week the Diamondbacks signed Cuban star Yasmany Tomas to a six-year deal worth $68.5 million. Tomas was expected to sign for upwards of $80 million, and so the contract he agreed to feels like something of a bargain. Tomas is an outfielder with an above average arm and big time power, making him seem well-suited to right field, which happens to be a position at which the Indians could use an upgrade. Should the front office have topped Arizona's offer and brought Tomas to Cleveland?

We don't yet know the year-to-year salaries included in Tomas' deal, but most likely it starts out with a couple seasons far below the average annual value of the deal (~$11.4M) before rising to something close to the AAV for a couple years and then exceeding it in the final couple. That means it's a deal the Indians could probably afford, because the higher cost seasons will come after Swisher and Bourn's contracts are off the books. (Tomas' contract reportedly includes an opt-out clause after the fourth year, which means if he's really good, this is more like a 4-year, ~$40 million deal for the Diamondbacks.)

Given how well Yoenis Cespedes, Yasiel Puig, and Jose Abreu have done after arriving from Cuba in recent years, with little to no time in the minors, Tomas; contract does seem like quite the bargain, especially because Tomas is only 24 years old, meaning this contract covers what should be his prime years.

Tomas does not seem like nearly as good a player as those guys though. Here are each player's stats for the season before they arrived in MLB:

  • Jose Abreu: .382/.535/.735, 37 BB, 21 SO
  • Yoenis Cespedes: .333/.424/.667, 49 BB, 40 SO
  • Yasiel Puig: .330/.430/.581, 49 BB, 39 SO
  • Yasmany Tomas: .290/.346/.450, 34 BB, 52 SO

True, Abreu and Cespedes were both a bit older than Tomas in those seasons (while Puig was a bit younger), but his numbers are far worse than any of the other three. His walk and strikeout rates are easily the worst, and while power is his biggest plus, he wasn't showing as much power as any of the others. His offensive numbers look like a lot more like those posted by Dayan Viciedo in Cuba, and Viciedo has been a below-average hitter in ~1,800 MLB plate appearances.

Tomas' defense is rated as somewhat below average, mostly due to him being a big guy and not having a ton of range. Point being, he's not likely to make up any value with his defense.

Tomas seems to project to being a little better than average, but not by much, a 2-3 WAR player. Generally speaking, the open market cost is said to be something like $6 million per WAR, which means Tomas might have been expected to cost something like $15M a year. Six years is a long commitment though, and if the Indians are gambling with $68.5 million, I think I'd want a player whose upside seems greater.

It's true that Puig and Abreu have both reached something close to the ceiling of their perceived abilities, and their contracts look tremendous for their teams. Tomas doesn't seem like that kind of talent though, and while I don't blame the Diamondbacks for rolling the dice on him, I'm not going to lose any sleep over the Indians passing on him.