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Offseason round table: Yasmani Tomas edition

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It's the second Lookout Landing offseason round table! This time around, Logan, Colin, and Scott discuss Cuban free agent and oft-dreamt-of Mariners target Yasmani Tomas.

GUESS WHO'S ABOUT TO GET SUPER RIIIIIIIIIIIIIICH
GUESS WHO'S ABOUT TO GET SUPER RIIIIIIIIIIIIIICH
Chung Sung-Jun

LD: Here we go! Welcome back, Colin, welcome, Scott - let's get down to business in our second round table. This time up the subject is Yasmani Tomas, a young Cuban defector with big power and even bigger contract expectations. MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez pegs the Mariners as one of six or so teams with "strong interest" in Tomas, and not unreasonably so, as he's said to have a pretty impressive package of skills. What are your thoughts on Tomas? Do his impressive raw power and youth entice you, or are you concerned about his reportedly questionable speed and hit tools? Is this guy a fit for the Mariners?

CO: The idea of Yasmani Tomas is wildly appealing. He's Cuban, he's one of the most talented Cubans yet to sign a major league contract and he brings forth right-handed power. At the most shallow level, he fits the Mariners in every single way. By all accounts, the Mariners have money to spend and it makes all the sense in the world to go hard after young power-hitting corner outfielder for all of his prime years. The fit is clear.

Now, of course, that isn't all there is. Yasmani Tomas is not Yoenis Cespedes or Yasiel Puig or even Jorge Soler. He does not have that level of athleticism. There exists the possibility that Tomas has put in some work as he prepares for free agency, but all accounts have him as a bit of a huskier dude, and someone who projects to be average at best in a corner outfield position—probably left. Now, while he's not Puig or Cespedes, he also isn't Jose Abreu either.

The power is there (though not to Abreu's level) but there are some questions about the hit tool, per scouting reports. Last summer, he and the Cuban national team came stateside to face the the college Team USA and Tomas went 3-for-19 with 3 singles, 1 walk and 8 strikeouts over the five games against a team loaded with top-flight young power arms (five first-rounders). The sample is small, but it's all part of the Tomas package.

He's intriguing, for sure, but fans have to be wary of seeing "young power-hitting Cuban corner outfielder" and assuming he's the guy the Mariners have to go after.

SW: To me, we can do as much research as we want on Tomas, but it will still be some amalgamation of observations a collection of scouts made. It's always frustratingly difficult (and fun) to attempt projecting a player like Tomas, because you're simply trusting that the scouts are right. More so, they'll have to be really right, since the price tag of Cuban players is quickly going through the roof.

Even then, as Colin said, the fit is clearly right. We know how deeply the Mariners have coveted a right-handed power bat, especially one that can play in the outfield. We also know the Mariners current outfield situation is a mess, and all three spots represent key areas of upgrade. How badly do the M's want to roll the dice? Tomas doesn't have to be that good to represent an upgrade, but he does have to be, at the very least, good to be worth the kind of dollars that are floating around attached to him.

LD: Scott, you're absolutely right that we don't have a lot to go on here. None of us are scouts, and stats from Serie Nacional (the Cuban League in which Tomas has spent his formative years) are infamously difficult to translate to MLB production. Without numbers, evaluation of Tomas is a challenge that's well above my pay grade.

That said, a lot of other (more qualified) writers have posted their thoughts on Tomas. Kiley McDaniel wrote him up over at Fangraphs, while Ben Badler of Baseball America posted his own thoughts immediately after the defection. Their consensus is pretty clear: plus raw power to the pull field limited by a below average contact skill, with enough athleticism to play a competent corner outfield but not enough to be a plus defender. Amusingly, the scores McDaniel put on his tools are remarkably similar to the ones he put on Jorge Soler's. McDaniel is of the opinion that the two have equivalent raw power, with Soler's playing up a little more due to better contact ability.

Amusingly, for me, Tomas is sort of like reverse V-Mart. V-Mart's offensive profile is a thing of beauty. His contact skills, his plate discipline, his non-reliance on power - he's exactly the kind of right-handed hitter I'd expect to do well in Safeco. He sounds amazing, until you remember that he's a 36-year-old DH with an injury history. The context of the player drags the profile down. Tomas, on the other hand, has one of my least favorite offensive profiles. Raw right-handed power, but without Mike Zunino's pure strength or Bret Boone's opposite-field capacity, doesn't tend to do so well in the Safe - especially without contact skills to fall back on in hard times. It's less than inspiring, until you remember that he's a twenty-four-year old outfielder that the team can lock up for his entire prime. The context of the player drags the profile up.

The question is, how far? $60M far? $100M far? Tomas' price tag is one point on which the rumors don't agree. Early this winter we were hearing that he already had a $90M offer in hand and would probably be going for north of $100M, but recently Ben Badler tried to dampen those expectations, saying:

What are your expectations for Tomas' contract? Whatever he gets, do you think he'll be worth it?

SW: If the bubble didn't burst with Rusney Castillo, it certainly will now. The last chance to get a bargain was this past year, with Jose Abreu and Rusney Castillo. Tomas could be better than both, but the Mariners will have to pay a lot to find out. Because of the weak free agent landscape for hitters, power-hungry teams seem certain to line up to pay massive dollars for Tomas -- $100 seems absurd, but with his age paired with desperation, is it? Though he might be the only superstar impact bat available for something less than superstar dollars -- the gap is closing entirely fast -- he's too rich for my blood. It's not to say I believe Tomas will be a bust, it's just that it's a dice roll that could severely hamper the M's ability to add other pieces not only this year, but for many more in the future.

The Mariners claims about payroll indicate that they could afford to add somebody like him, but what else do they sacrifice in doing so? I'm not so sure he's the best allocation of funds. Then again, if you can convince a guy to actually come to Seattle, do you have to leap on it? There's no guarantee those earmarked funds will be accepted by other players otherwise. You kind of roll the dice on most free agent deals, but you're really rolling the dice with Tomas. And unlike Castillo, Cespedes, or Puig, if you hit, you might only earn your money back -- there's far less room for a steal here than there was over the past two years.

CO: It's going to be a lot. Given what Rusney Castillo received—effectively a six year, $72 million contract when you take out 2014—and the belief that Tomas is the superior player, he's going to get paid and paid handsomely. There's no reason not to believe Tomas has that $90 million offer in hand and that, as Scott alludes to, the price climbs up around $100 million. Maybe it doesn't, and maybe teams are wary of being the first to totally bust on one of these guys, but I see no reason why it wouldn't given what we've seen from players so far.

Now, there's that second part—is he worth it? There's no doubt he's going to be expensive, but a bubble only truly bursts when the money pouring into something stops being worth it (and usually does so to an extreme degree). What we have with Tomas feels comparable to what we saw with Masahiro Tanaka—there are some doubts, and you're not getting a bargain anymore, but international free agents remain only opportunity to sign young potentially-elite players as they're just entering their primes. So the potential does still exist that this an enormous risk and cost—and yet, a solid investment.

Let's say Tomas does have that $90 million offer in hand. Maybe you go to seven years, $95 million, or eight years and $105 million. Tomas would still have a shot at one more lucrative deal as he enters his age 31 or age 32 season and you're looking at an AAV just north of $13 million. With the market value of a win being $6-7 million, and the distinct possibility that Tomas continues to improve, these deals aren't that crazy if you're a member of the front office and you like what you see.

Yasmani Tomas is not Yasiel Puig, not in style at least, but it's important to note Puig was no guaranteed superstar when he left Cuba, as Baseball America called him "a player who scouts considered more of a solid than a spectacular prospect" in their piece on his deal with the Dodgers, one that had executives throughout baseball wondering what the hell they were doing.

There's risk—risk I'm more than wary of—and there's no doubt this is not going to be a bargain, but we have to remember it could still be very much worth it.

LD: I think Colin makes a good point. The chances of Tomas winding up a superstar on a role player's contract are virtually nil, but that doesn't mean he's not worth the cash values that are getting tossed around. $100M isn't what it used to be, especially not over six or seven years. Consider: if we assume that the cost of a win on the 2014 free agent  market was $6.5M, and that that cost increases at a rate of about 5% per year, a player who was paid $15M for the next seven years would be expected to produce a little over 13 WAR. That's not even a league average player. And when you factor in that the Mariners would be getting Tomas for all of his prime years...

Here, let's trot on over to Fangraphs. From 1973 (the beginning of the DH era) to last year, 174 outfielders have produced at least 13.3 fWAR between the ages of 24 and 30. In other words, about four twenty-four-year-old outfielders in every season's class of twenty-four-year-old outfielders would be worth a 7-year, $105M contract were they given it today. The list of guys who were worth it includes Pat Burrell and Chris Young the non-pitcher; it's not a particularly high bar to clear. If Badler is right, and the contract is more like 7/91 than 7/105, the bar is even lower. Tomas doesn't have to be great to be a worthy investment. An average outfielder, locked up from age 24 to age 30, is worth $100M these days.

I do have a few questions about how Tomas would fit into the roster. He more or less has to be an above average hitter if he's going to make sense in Seattle. The Mariners' outfield is already clogged with guys who are just "decent" hitters, and Tomas doesn't look to have the defensive skillset to displace any of them, so if he can't produce a 115 wRC+ or better he's not going to mesh well with the current 25-man. That said, if he can produce a 115 wRC+ or better, he's almost exactly what they need. Risks, rewards... that's Yasmani Tomas for you.

Time to wrap things up. Closing thoughts, guys?

CO: The Mariners need to be aggressive this off-season. They need to take a shot, possibly a big risk—and I'm open to it being either Tomas or Martinez. If they get either this winter I'll consider the off-season an enormous success. My thoughts on the contract for Tomas are almost identical to Logan's. If the scouts and the rest of the organization think he's worth it, I will defer to them—and be thrilled with whatever contract they hand out. Ultimately, I really don't see it happening as much as it intrigues me. Scott and I were on hand for the media availability last winter where Zduriencik said flat-out they were not anywhere near seriously pursuing Tanaka because of the dollar figures involved and the risk in committing that much to unknown. It's quite possible it's entirely different with a position player—a position player who fits the skill set they're looking for exactly—but it would surprise me. That said, as scary as that skill set might be, I hope it does lure the Mariners into a very serious pursuit of Tomas.

SW: As always, it depends on the cost. There's a risk/reward level for Tomas that makes sense for me, and it's probably around $70 million. The Mariners are in a position where taking a big risk isn't the worst thing in the world given their need to improve as the division around them does, and OF continues to be a point of critical weakness for them. But if the cost shoots above $100M, it would reek a little more of desperation for me than paying a player what he's worth. I'd be excited to add Tomas, but a ludicrously expensive deal would make me nervous, to say the least.

LD: I don't think it's going to be possible for me to be critical of a contract the Mariners give to Yasmani Tomas. I'm not qualified to make the call on him from a scouting perspective, and there's nothing to go on statistically speaking. If the Mariners give him $100M, it'll be because their scouts think he can be a well above average major league hitter in spite of Safeco Field. If they're right, he'll be worth the contract. If they're wrong, he won't. Either way, I think I'll defer to their judgment on this one.