Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas defects

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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.

Colin Poche, Rays go to arbitration just $125,000 apart

Colin Poche torn UCL
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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Reliever Colin Poche went to salary arbitration with the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday with the sides just $125,000 apart.

The gap between the $1.3 million the pitcher asked for and the $1,175,000 the team offered was the smallest among the 33 players who exchanged proposed arbitration figures last month. The case was heard by John Woods, Jeanne Vonhof and Walt De Treux, who will hold their decision until later this month.

A 29-year-old left-hander, Poche had Tommy John surgery on July 29, 2020, and returned to the major leagues last April 22 after six appearances at Triple-A Durham. Poche was 4-2 with a 3.99 ERA and seven saves in 65 relief appearances for the Rays. He struck out 64 and walked 22 in 58 2/3 innings.

Poche had a $707,800 salary last year.

Tampa Bay went to arbitration on Monday with reliever Ryan Thompson, whose decision also is being held until later this month. He asked for $1.2 million and the Rays argued for $1 million.

Rays right-hander Jason Adam and outfielder Harold Ramirez remain scheduled for hearings.

Players and teams have split four decisions thus far. All-Star pitcher Max Fried ($13.5 million) lost to Atlanta and reliever Diego Castillo ($2.95 million) was defeated by Seattle, while pitcher Jesus Luzardo ($2.45 million) and AL batting champion Luis Arraez ($6.1 million) both beat the Marlins.

A decision also is pending for Los Angeles Angels outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

Eighteen additional players are eligible for arbitration and hearings are scheduled through Feb. 17. Among the eligible players is Seattle utilityman Dylan Moore, who has a pending three-year contract worth $8,875,000.