At some point, some team is going to spend way too much on a Cuban free agent and said free agent will bust. It's possible Yasmany Tomas will be that bust. The Arizona Diamondbacks invested $68.5 million to sign the 24-year-old, hoping he'd be able to play third base and provide another big, right-handed power bat behind Paul Goldschmidt and Mark Trumbo.
Most of the reports on Tomas suggested he couldn't play third base and by all accounts he looked awful there in spring training. While nobody doubted the raw power, his hit tool and plate discipline were also questioned. In his last year in the Cuban league in 2013, he hit .290 with 46 strikeouts and 21 walks. Granted, he was only 22, but compare that to Jose Abreu's line in 2012: .345 with 54 walks and 39 strikeouts.
Tomas didn't impress at the plate in spring training, hitting .257 with two home runs in 70 at-bats, striking out 16 times and drawing three walks. To be fair, you can possibly chalk some of that up to rust after not playing competitively in a year. Still, without a position to play, the D-backs sent him down to Triple-A.
Via Hardball Talk and Steve Gilbert of MLB.com, the Diamondbacks intend to play Tomas at third base, outfield and first base in the minors. "What we're trying to do is figure out a way to create at-bats for him, which is primarily the reason he didn't stay," general manager Dave Stewart told Gilbert. "If we had more at-bats and could get him more playing time, he'd be here."
But this gets back to the potential mistake in signing Tomas in the first place. The D-backs already have a player just like him in Trumbo, a defensively challenged, low-OBP slugger. Actually, Trumbo is a good first baseman, forced to the outfield because the team has the best first baseman in the National League in Goldschmidt. Now, Stewart didn't trade for Trumbo; he was a remnant of the previous regime. Here's Trumbo "playing" right field on Opening Day. Yeah, that's pretty brutal. Again, however: He's a first baseman, not a right fielder. Good organizations find ways for players to succeed and playing Trumbo in right field on a regular basis is obviously a bad idea.
The big picture here is that since Tomas can't play third he has to play a corner outfield spot. But an outfield with both Tomas and Trumbo would likely be a disaster defensively. That leaves Stewart with one option: He'll have to trade Trumbo, probably to an American League team that needs a first baseman/DH. Thing is, there isn't a big demand for a first baseman/DH with a .298 career OBP, even if he has 30-homer pop.
I hope Tomas adapts and starts hitting. The Diamondbacks should be applauded for having the lowest Fan Cost Index for the ninth year in a row, as calculated by Team Marketing Report. That also means their revenue stream isn't as high as those of other teams. They can't wipe away a $68.5 million bust as easily as some other clubs can.
For more on the Diamondbacks, check out the Inside the 'Zona blog.