The Philadelphia Phillies’ Very Rational Interest in Yasmani Tomas

Ruben Amaro

, likely describing how excited he is to throw money around this Winter. Mandatory Credit: Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Its incredibly possible that, in the 2015 off-season, the most-expensive free agent position player has yet to play professional baseball in America. 23-year old Cuban outfielder Yasmani Tomas, having recently been declared a free agent by MLB, expects to command a final contract somewhere north of $100 million.

In an off-season largely devoid of free agent position players (save for a very interesting class of third basemen), someone of Tomas’ youth and scouting profile will have a wide and competitive market.

Particularly attractive to teams is that, as a 23-year old with at least five years of professional experience in Cuba, he is exempt from both international bonus pools and the qualifying offer system affecting American free agents.

At 6’1″, 230 pounds, Tomas is armed with reported plus-plus power and the arm for right field. He’s more athletic than he appears, and won’t be a burden in the field or on the basepaths. He was rated as one of the top players remaining in Cuba after the departures of Rusney Castillo and Jose Abreu.

Due to his age, signing him is tantamount to buying a top 25 prospect. While this is a factor which makes him particularly attractive to the Philadelphia Phillies, its the same thing that makes him attractive to every team in baseball.

Additionally, some people dismiss the Phillies as a match for Yasmani Tomas, purely based on the same tired line of reasoning that “disaqualifies” the team from any major move: “The Phillies are too old, have too much money already on the books, and have no chance of winning anytime soon.”

While I would agree that the Phillies will not be competitive for at least another season (and likely longer), signing a major free agent isn’t necessarily a win-now move. That fundamental bias comes from assuming that any free agent is an aging player, with a limited window of productivity (as all Major League free agents are).

Yasmani Tomas would instantaneously be the top prospect in the Phillies’ farm system.

Tomas, at 23, would have been drafted out of college two seasons ago. He’s still of prospect age, and he’d instantaneously be the top prospect in the Phillies’ farm system (with a small allowance for shortstop J.P. Crawford to possibly hold his current top spot).

Because of the large commitment in years required, signing Tomas would be as much a move for the future as it is an immediate boost to the roster.

As a team desperate to inject youth to their lineup, no Major League-ready outfield prospects, and a need for a middle-of-the-order power bat, this is one time where the Phillies’ willingness to shell out large contracts could really come in handy.

The team does already have sizable salary commitments in 2015, totaling over $120 million (plus or minus A.J. Burnett‘s player option, depending on his potential retirement). However, it’s very likely the team attempts to move Marlon Byrd, Jonathan Papelbon, and Ryan Howard (ok, dumping his contract), which will lighten the payroll load.

Regardless of off-loading salary, most project Tomas to call for an average annual value (AAV) of about $15 million a season, with the question mark being the number of years. Compensating for both arbitration-eligible players and a potential return of Burnett, the team will likely still have around $35-$40 million to work with before rubbing up against their past limits.

When a front office has as much money available to them as the Phillies enjoy, and with the largest knock against them being their lack of young players, a potential impact prospect becoming available with no spending restrictions is an obvious match.

This is all great, except for the long line of teams with the exact same worries, and similar ability to spend. However, a lot of the typical big spenders might not be in the best positions to make a move for the young outfielder.

The Dodgers and Red Sox certainly aren’t in the market for a big money corner outfielder – each has six quality starting OFs on the active roster to juggle as-is. Unless one or both make multiple significant trades, they likely will avoid Tomas, and neither has scheduled a private workout with him.

The Yankees could potentially use an outfielder, and do have some interest in Tomas. However, early reports are that the front office will avoid another massive spending spree (remember, Alex Rodriguez‘s salary returns to the payroll) and they have a more dire need for starting pitching.

On the other end of the spectrum, the Padres and Mets each need ANY kind of offense they can find, and have reported interest in the slugger. The Mets are not likely to offer $100 million to him despite being a strong match, and expect something similar with San Diego.

The Tigers, Rangers, and Giants are the Phillies’ steepest competition for his services. All have flexible payrolls, a need for one outfield help, and reported interest in Tomas.

The Tigers do need a bullpen overhaul, and the Rangers could use starting pitching, but any of these teams could still steal Tomas – the Phillies have limited advantage over these teams.

So, there’s a wide market for Yasmani Tomas. The Phillies are the biggest-spending team to be seriously in the hunt, there’s a great need within the organization, and the team is the reported front runner early in the process.

Despite all this, its not smart to say that the Phillies should be involved in signing a player purely because he’s going to be expensive, or because other teams think he’s good – particularly a player with a very limited scouting history, and experience only against inconsistent competition in Cuba.

The team has to have scouts they rely on, trust on their valuations, and only extend themselves as far as that valuation allows; if the team doesn’t end up signing the Tomas for this reason, then its actually the smart move.

If the team’s scouts evaluate Tomas as only a $70 million player, and bidding goes north of $100 million, the team should step aside.

However, the Phillies have been one of the most prominent teams on Tomas’ tail for a long time, and his looming free agency was the reason they didn’t empty their wallets on Rusney Castillo – so they’ve already bet on him in that regard. Todd Zolecki also reported that the front office came away impressed with the outfielder after his private workout with the team.

It’s hard to imagine the Phillies not signing Tomas purely because of concerns about his abilities. Given his youth and lack of a sacrificed draft pick, he’s also the best way to spend whatever money is in the budget this Winter.

There will be stiff competition, but given their recent TV deal and the current roster construction, the Phillies may be in the best position to make a big move on Yasmani Tomas this off-season.

Phillies fans should hope they do it, too. It would be nice to have someone doing illegal things to baseballs again: