Pending a successful physical, examination, the addition of Yasmany Tomas to the Diamondbacks can make manager Chip Hale look instantly successful.
True, Tomas has yet to enter the United States with his baseball glove and bat but his reputation clearly proceeds this potential lethal weapon.
With interest permeating from all 30 major league teams, it’s unclear why Tomas decided to go with the Diamondbacks. In a reported 6-year deal worth an estimated $68.5 million, the contract has an opt-clause for Tomas after four years. Depending on his productivity in the desert, Tomas could stand to receive a substantial pay-check before his 30th birthday.
Reportedly, he turned 24 on November 14 but then again, that by Cuban years. In some cases, the age is not always accurate but Tomas is regarded young enough to have a productive, major league career ahead of him.
Tomas left his native Cuba earlier this year and settled in the Dominion Republic. At the time of the general managers’ meetings in Phoenix just over two weeks ago, Diamondbacks’ general manager Dave Stewart told reporters he was headed to the Dominion Republic but did not disclose the nature of the trip
In the end, Stewart was there to work out Tomas and, like the other 29 GMs, fell for Tomas’ raw power. At 6-1, 230 pounds, Tomas graded out to 70 on a Baseball America scale which measured between 20 and 80.
In five years playing for Havana Industriales in the Serie Nacional, Tomas banged out 30 home runs, drove in 104 runs in 205 regular season games. His career in Cuba began with the 2008 season.
While some feel Tomas would start the season at Triple-A Reno, there is no question that he will quickly settle in as an everyday player in Chase Field.
At the start of his Diamondbacks’ career, Hale on the field and Stewart and Tony La Russa, the Diamondbacks’ Chief Baseball Officer watching from the press level, Tomas’ presence alters the Arizona outfield.
At the GM meetings, La Russa felt both David Peralta and Ender Inciarte were, in his words, “big league players,” and that left-fielder Mark Trumbo would move to right for the 2015 season. Also in the mix, the Diamondbacks need to find playing time for Cody Ross, who enters the third year of an original $26 million deal.
If the Diamondbacks are willing to shell out over $68 million for Tomas, they would likely eat the remaining year of Ross’ contract and send the 34-year-old native of Portales, N. M. packing.
The addition of Tomas also raises questions on how Hale wants to play baseball.
By keeping Inciarte as the left fielder and placing him in the lead-of spot, that could open the Diamondbacks to put immediate pressure in the defense. With Inciarte’s speed and a complementary bat and speed from center fielder A. J. Pollock hitting second, this opens the middle of the line-up for damage by Paul Goldschmidt, Miguel Montero and Tomas.
For this to happen, Hale would need to make a commitment to the speed-and-running game and proceed without Trumbo, who could be dealt in the in-coming off-season. That would put an everyday outfield of Inciarte in left, Pollock in center and Tomas in right on the field.
With a supporting cast of Jake Lamb at third and Didi Gregorius at short, the Diamondbacks, at least on paper, could present one of the strongest offenses in the National League.
With the offense generating runs, the burden now is on Stewart and La Russa to improve a pitching which is in need of dire improvement. Last season, the club finished with the worst record in major league baseball and the pitching staff ended with an ERA of 4.26.
While La Russa told reporters at the GMs meeting he likes the composition of the bullpen, the starting rotation would then hold the key to the season.
So far in this off-season, Stewart acquired right-handed Jeremy Hellickson from the Rays but Hellickson’s recent health issues could make this a marginal transaction.
Before last season, Hellickson underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair loose chips and bodies in his pitching elbow. Subsequently, Hellickson appeared in only 13 games for the Rays and complied a 1-5 mark with a 4.52 ER.
With the baseball Winter Meetings looming in two weeks in San Diego, Stewart could show up in his best Monty Hall impersonation, work the room, and ask any general manager within hearing range, “let’s make a deal. I need a starting pitcher or two.”