Ben Badler of Baseball America reports that the next big-time Cuban free agent will be coming to Major League Baseball soon:
Yasmani Tomas, one of the top young power hitters in Cuba and a member of the national team, has left the island to pursue a contract with a major league team, Baseball America has learned. The Cuban newspaper Granma also confirmed that Tomas had left the country.
First he has to establish residency in another country — if he comes to the U.S. he’s subject to the draft — and jump through all of the diplomatic paperwork. The example of past Cuban defectors suggests that the process will last long enough to where Tomas is unlikely to sign until late this year or early next year.
As for the baseball: Tomas is only 23-years-old, yet has starred for the Cuban national team already and debuted in Cuba’s top league when he was only 17. He established himself as a regular in 2011, when he as 21. He hit .301/.333/.580 with 16 homers in 69 games that season and went on to play in the World Baseball Classic last year. He was 6-for-16 with two home runs, one double, one walk and four strikeouts in the WBC.
In regular season play he has been up and down of late due to some injuries, but he’s got extraordinary power. He’s primarily a corner outfielder.
On Sunday, we heard from former Ray and current Giants third baseman Evan Longoria. The Rays recently traded pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Twins for a prospect and designated All-Star outfielder Corey Dickerson for assignment, which didn’t make a whole lot of sense outside of a cost-cutting perspective. Longoria said, “I just kind of feel sorry for the Rays fan base.”
Today, we’re hearing from a current Ray: center fielder Kevin Kiermaier, who is set to enter his fifth full season with the club. Via Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times, Kiermaier said, “I am 100 percent frustrated and very upset with the moves. No beating around the bush. It’s one of those things that makes you scratch your head, you don’t know the reasoning why. And then you see the team’s explanation and still it’s just like, okay, well, so be it.”
Longoria — formerly the face of the franchise — was traded to the Giants in December and the Rays continued to subtract with their recent moves involving Odorizzi and Dickerson. Odorizzi has a career 3.83 ERA in what has been a solid, if unspectacular, career. Dickerson put up an All-Star season, posting an .815 OPS with 27 home runs in 150 games. Moving either player was not done to fix a positional log jam. In fact, with Odorizzi out of the picture, the Rays are planning to use a four-man starting rotation for the first six-plus weeks of the season, Topkin reported on Sunday. Dickerson’s ouster simply opens the door for Mallex Smith, who posted a .684 OPS last year, to start every day in the outfield.
The Rays got markedly worse after going 80-82 last season. They saved a few million bucks jettisoning Odorizzi and Dickerson. And Rays ownership still wants the public to foot most of the bill for their new stadium.
When it was just one small market team pinching pennies, it was fine. But now that more than half of the league has adopted penny-pinching principles popularized by Moneyball and Sabermetrics (with the Rays among the chief offenders), the game of baseball has become markedly less fan- and player-friendly. This offseason has been less about players signing contracts and changing teams in trades — which helps build excitement and intrigue for the coming year — and more about front offices doing math problems concerning the $197 million competitive balance tax threshold and other self-imposed monetary restraints. Fun. Kiermaier is right to be upset and he’s very likely not alone in feeling that way.