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And The Trade Talk Begins: Should the Blue Jays Target Tomas?

Jul 20, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Yasmany Tomas against the Toronto Blue Jays at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 20, 2016; Phoenix, AZ, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder Yasmany Tomas against the Toronto Blue Jays at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /
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Arizona may be looking to dump salary, and they don’t have a position for Yasmany Tomas.  Could he be a trade target for the Blue Jays?

Yasmany Tomas was a standout outfielder in the Cuban National League.  He defected in 2014, and was signed by the Diamondbacks to a 6-year, $68.5 million contract that December.  His first year-and-a-half were disappointing, with a wRC+ of 88, but in the second half of 2016 he seemed to find his hitting stride, batting .294/.329/.584 with a wRC+ of 133 and 18 homers in 258 PAs.

Could he be a trade target for the Blue Jays?

Nowhere to play in Arizona

Tomas has struggled big-time in the outfield, to the tune of a painful -17.5 UZR/150 so far in his major league career.  He appears to be better suited to 1B (where he has shown well, albeit in a very small sample size) or at DH.  The problem Arizona faces is that they have a fellow named Paul Goldschmidt at first, who they are not likely to move any time soon.  And as an NL team, their DH at-bats are (ahem) “limited”.  So, as good as Tomas’ bat might be, Arizona has no place to play him and are speculated to be looking to trade him to an AL team.

Toronto has an opening at 1B and possibly DH (if they are unable to re-sign Edwin) so Tomas could be a good fit.

Arizona finances

Arizona’s $103m payroll in 2016 was the 5th lowest in baseball.  There’s just under $60MM on the D-Backs’ books for 2017, but that will balloon with arbitration raises for players like Miller, Castillo, Segura, Patrick Corbin, Rubby De La Rosa, and Chris Owings.

So it will be difficult for Arizona to carry Tomas as a bench bat, even at a relatively inexpensive $6m in 2017.  The D-Backs should therefore be receptive to a trade.

Unusual contract

Tomas has four years and $55.5 million remaining on his contract ($9.5m in 2017, $13.5m in 2018, $15.5m in 2019 and $17m in 2020).  But he has an opt-out clause after the 2018 season that dramatically decreases his value (if he plays well, you only get him for two years.  If not, you are stuck with four years).

This contract should limit Tomas’ value to the point where the Jays should not have to give up major prospect capital to get him.  It might even be possible to get Arizona to package a competitive balance pick with Tomas, if the Jays take on the full salary commitment.

This could be to the advantage of a team like Toronto, particularly if Rogers increases the payroll to the point where salary gambles are an acceptable risk.

Attitude problems (opportunities?)

Remember when the Jays were able to trade for Michael Saunders, in part because his manager thought he was not giving a full effort?  Or when Oakland agreed to trade Josh Donaldson shortly after JD’s “Billy Boy” comments?  Sometimes alleged attitude problems can create opportunities for other teams who are willing to gamble that the issues are less than they seem.

Tomas was benched in 2015 and again in 2016 for a lack of hustle.  In each case, his slow pace to first allowed the opposing team to recover from a missed ball and get him out, where a faster runner would have been safe.  Tomas claimed that he was giving a full effort, but management disagreed.

Regardless of who is right, these incidents may have soured Arizona management on Tomas to the point where they are more receptive (possibly even eager?) to moving him.

Next: On mega contracts, which hold great opportunity alongside risk

The bottom line

Trading for Tomas could be risky for the Jays.  He has only one half-season of good performance, he could well end up as a DH-only, and his contract has a 2019 opt-out that could dramatically reduce his long-term value.  But he has upside, and should not be too expensive in terms of prospect capital.  If the Jays’ budget permits, and at the right price, he might well be a gamble worth taking.

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