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.

Report: Yankees acquire James Paxton from the Mariners

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Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reports that the Yankees have acquired starter James Paxton from the Mariners. Corey Brock of The Athletic reports that the Mariners will be receiving three prospects from the Yankees: pitcher Justus Sheffield, outfielder Dom Thompson-Williams, and pitcher Erik Swanson.

Paxton, 30, has been among the game’s better starters over the past few years. In 2018, he went 11-6 with a 3.76 ERA and a 208/42 K/BB ratio in 160 1/3 innings. The lefty has two more years of arbitration eligibility remaining after earning $4.9 million this past season.

Sheffield, 22, is the headliner in the Mariners’ return. He made his major league debut in September for the Yankees, pitching 2 2/3 innings across three appearances. Two of those appearances were scoreless; in the third, he gave up a three-run home run to J.D. Martinez, certainly not an uncommon result among pitchers. MLB Pipeline rates Sheffield as the Yankees’ No. 1 prospect and No. 31 overall in baseball.

Thompson-Williams, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the fifth round of the 2016 draft. This past season, between Single-A Charleston and High-A Tampa, he hit .299/.363/.546 with 22 home runs, 74 RBI, 63 runs scored, and 20 stolen bases in 415 plate appearances. He was not among the Yankees’ top-30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline.

Swanson, 25, was selected by the Yankees in the eighth round of the 2014 draft. He spent most of his 2018 campaign between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Overall, he posted a 2.66 ERA with a 139/29 K/BB ratio in 121 2/3 innings. MLB Pipeline rated him No. 22 in the Yankees’ system.

This trade comes as no surprise as the Yankees clearly wanted to upgrade the starting rotation and the Mariners seemed motivated to trade Paxton this offseason. To the Mariners’ credit, they got a good return for Paxton, as Sheffield likely becomes the organization’s No. 1 prospect. The only worry about this trade for the Yankees is how Paxton will fare in the more hitter-friendly confines of Yankee Stadium compared to the spacious Safeco Field. The Yankees are likely not done adding, however. Expect even more new faces before the start of spring training.