A couple months ago there was some concern among spome of the Phillies blogosphere and commentariat that the Phillies had failed to sign 24-year old Cuban slugger and free agent Yasmany Tomas. "This is a tragedy!" they proclaimed (Note: They did not actually proclaim this). "The Phillies are cheap and smell of elderberries!" fans hissed. (Ed: This quotation may only be half accurate) "Anyone who defends this non-signing is an Amaro apologist!" they screamed as spittle spewed from their e-lips. And so on and so forth.
For those harbor such feelings, I have some very good news. The Phillies are have the opportunity to sign a Yasmany Tomas look-a-like, a fellow right-handed Cuban slugger. He's a free agent who is only one year older than Tomas and would only cost the Phillies something like one percent of the approximately $70 million that Tomas signed for.
This player is 25 years old, as opposed to Tomas's 24 years, and comes with similar questions surrounding his contact ability and his fielding proficiency, though there is considerable power in his bat. Like Tomas, there are questions about this player's body, as he's been asked to lose weight in the past. Both players lack patience at the plate. And both players were subjects of intense scouting efforts after their defections.
The player I speak of, however, not only has the pedigree of a stud, having produced in Cuba at younger ages than Tomas, but has also shown he can play professional ball in the United States. Over parts of three plus seasons in mostly AAA he's put up a triple slash line of .283/.331/.450, good for a .781 OPS. Despite all these things, the Chicago White Sox yesterday placed him on unconditional release waivers.
I am, of course, talking about Cuban slugger and newly released White Sox OF, Dayan Viciedo.
If no team claims Viciedo he will be granted his unconditional release, after which he can be signed for the major league minimum. The major league minimum for a guy who has hit 60 home runs over the last three years. Among right-handed batters that ranks 30th in baseball, ahead of guys like Matt Kemp, Ryan Zimmerman, and Hanley Ramirez. Among RH outfielders it's 15th in baseball. You want right-handed power, from a young Cuban OF, Viciedo matches the bill.
There is one little caveat here that I haven't mentioned, which I'm sure will be brought up in the fan participation section below. Namely, that Viciedo, despite his power numbers, has been worth essentially zero WAR over the course of his 5 year career because he doesn't hit for average, doesn't run the bases proficiently, and doesn't play defense particularly well. True enough.
I'm not making the argument that Tomas is going to turn out to be Viciedo--it's entirely possible that Tomas far exceeds anything Dayan has ever done at the major league level. That said, it's also entirely possible that Tomas ends up as Viciedo redux. Nor is it out of the realm of possibilities that Viciedo turns his career around and becomes a productive player. Likely, no, but surely possible.
The point I'm getting at here is that there is always a ton of uncertainty surrounding these unknown players, and it's easy to get caught up in the shiny new thing while forgetting context. While you might see guys like Yasiel Puig and Jose Abreu having major league success, there are no guarantees here. Guys like Viciedo exist, and the economic landscape of Major League Baseball has evolved to the point where taking a shot on one of those guys is no longer always the smart move. Spending $70 million on the next Dayan Viciedo would be an incredible waste of funds, particularly if an organization fears he's likely to have the same shortcomings as the guy I just spent a handful of paragraphs describing.
Yasmany Tomas may end up better than Dayan Viciedo, but he might well end up being just like him. It would make a lot more sense for the Phils to sign the real thing for a tiny fraction of the cost if they thought there's a decent chance Tomas' career mirrors Viciedo's.