Early Friday, news broke that Cuban slugger Yasmani Tomas defected and will soon be free to sign with any Major League club.
Given the White Sox's current influx of Cuban nationals on their current roster (five), as well as the success of their most recent import, Jose Abreu, one has to wonder if they'll be among the bidders for Tomas' service.
As you know, the White Sox shelled out $68 million to gain Abreu's service over the next six years. Keith Law expects Tomas to command big money, and given what was given to Abreu, Yasiel Puig (7 years, $42 million) and Yoenis Cespedes (4 years, $36 million), one could reasonably expect his contract to be within that range.
But is Tomas worth that? And more importantly, would he fit into the White Sox's rebuilding plans?
Baseball America's Ben Badler rated Tomas' power as a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale, but both he and Law saw reasons for concern regarding his potential.
Tomas did show some swing-and-miss tendencies at the WBC with an uppercut stroke and trouble handling good breaking pitches. Three months after the WBC, when Cuba took a team to the U.S. last summer to face the college national team, the U.S. power arms were able to exploit some of those holes by beating him with good velocity up and in and getting him to swing through soft stuff in and out of the zone.
This past season in Cuba, which ended with Industriales losing in the semifinals in April, Tomas seemed to regress, even losing playing time in the second half, which one source said was the result of an arm injury he sustained crashing into an outfield wall in February. He finished the season at .290/.346/.450 with six home runs, 21 walks and 46 strikeouts in 257 plate appearances.
Tomas is a stout center fielder who'll have to move to a corner outfield spot, as he's a below-average runner with a stiff body who could probably stand to shed some weight before he signs. (Baseball-Reference lists him at 6 feet 1 and 229 pounds, but he looked much heavier than that last summer.)
...he has below-average bat speed, unlike Abreu (whose is average or better) or Puig (whose is just ridiculous), and I've had multiple scouts tell me they question Tomas' ability to hit for average against major-league pitching.
There's certainly reason for concern. After all, for all the talk of Abreu, Puig and Cespedes, those scouting reports could bring about visions of Dayan Viciedo.
Still, Tomas is just 23 years old, and that power certainly seems legit. As of right now there are no teams being projected as in on the Tomas bidding, and Badler points out that it's likely he won't sign until after this season or even early 2015. But given the Sox's extensive history with Cuban nationals, it wouldn't be outside the realm of possibilities that they'll be involved if their scouting staff deems him worthy of the money he'll likely command.