Friars Should Take Run At Cuban FA OF Tomas
I think I speak for all Padres fans when I say I want the club to pursue an acquisition for a legitimate big bat this winter. Not an injury-prone, defensive liability entering the decline phase of what has been a decent, but hardly great, career (Carlos Quentin). Not a steady platoon bat that the Friars hope to unrealistically squeeze more production from by inserting into the lineup on a daily basis (Seth Smith). And I for one am tired of crossing my fingers in hopes that one of the team’s prospects exceeds his projections and develops into a real middle-of-the-order hitter. I want a guy that should be expected to, not hoped to, hit close to 30 HR on a regular basis in his prime.
Now don’t get me wrong; I’m not knocking Smith or the team’s prospects. Smith is a competent bat and has been the team’s best hitter this year. And Rymer Liriano and/or Hunter Renfroe could develop into star players in this league but it’s more likely they pan out as average regulars or as border-line ML players than superstars. It’s the sad reality of prospects; no matter how highly regarded they may be, more often than not they don’t reach their projected ceilings.
Aside from developing a hitter from within, the other ways the team could look to add that bat is via trade or signing one in free agency. With power hitters in high demand it’s unlikely a team will want to part with one in a trade unless extracting a huge price and I’m not sure the Friars will want to or be able to do that.
And we know how spend-thrift the team is in free agency, generally sifting through the scraps after the larger market clubs scarf up the premium talent. I can understand why the team prefers to skip the bidding on the top free agents but this year there is one player that could potentially step in right away and contribute potent offense at a relative bargain rate. This winter the Padres need to open up the check book and make a serious play for Cuban OF Yasmani Tomas.
A hypothetical signing of the free agent slugger would not only give the Friars the record for players named Yasmani but it would also give them a kid who on the 20 – 80 scouting scale grades a solid 70 according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. Renfroe leads all Padres prospects with a 60 on the same scale. No one currently on the roster likely rates better than a 50 so Tomas would provide a power boost to the organization.
At 24 and with five seasons of professional experience in Cuba, Tomas won’t count against the international bonus pool designed to curb spending on foreign-born players. Plus, unlike signing a free agent attached to draft choice compensation, the Padres also won’t lose a valuable first-round pick in next year’s draft should they sign Tomas.
Sure, recent Cuban players signed to major league contracts have commanded quite a bit of coin and without a proven track record of major league success there is risk committing big dollars to a guy like Tomas. Yet the Dodgers signing of Yasiel Puig has worked out pretty well for LA despite his sometimes immature behavior. The White Sox look brilliant for inking 1B Jose Abreu, who is hitting .304 with 35 HR and 104 RBI in his first big league campaign. Puig signed for $42MM over seven years while Abreu received $68MM for six. Even if Tomas breaks the AAV mark of Abreu, spending between $12MM and $13MM per for a 30-HR guy through his peak years seems like a wise investment. Especially considering it’s all but impossible to find an equal bat in his prime on the free agent market for less.
Even though $13MM isn’t really that much on today’s market for even an above-average player, would the Padres be willing to spend that much for a single guy? I’d have to say yes. Chase Headley was under contract for a shade more than $10.5MM and ownership suggested they were willing to offer a record-setting deal for the team’s former 3B. If I had to guess I’d say the team would have gone as high as $13MM to extend Headley.
A serious pursuit of Tomas, ranked by MLBTraderumors as the 6th best free agent available this winter, might demonstrate to the fans that this ownership group and management team are willing to do what it takes to build a winner. Too often we hear the team talk about spending the necessary money to field a competitive roster but have yet to see it actually happen. Is it a risk? Of course, but it’s one the Friars should take.