Seattle Mariners Could Find Their First Baseman in Arizona
The Seattle Mariners and Arizona Diamondbacks hooked up on a major trade the day before Thanksgiving 2016. Could General Manager Jerry Dipoto go back to the well in 2017?
The Arizona Diamondbacks surprised many “experts” in 2017 by winning an impressive 93 games. Using a combination of young veterans and superstar talent, the Diamondbacks appear to be in their window right now. The problem could lie in their payroll restrictions.
Arizona has hovered around the $100 million mark for total payroll the last 4 seasons. However; with a projected payroll of $120 million, including a projected $52 million going to 14 arbitration eligible players, the Diamondbacks find themselves in a predicament. Either they need to substantially raise their payroll, or they need to shed some contracts to have flexibility to improve their roster.
Most notably, the Diamondbacks certainly would love to retain J.D. Martinez. But with the slugging outfielder hitting the market, Arizona cannot realistically compete with the deeper pockets of Boston or San Francisco.
Arizona will have some choices to make. Shelby Miller is scheduled to make $4.9 million, but may not be ready to pitch until June. Chris Owings had a breakout season of sorts, but is without a home and is scheduled to make $3.8 million. Both players should be of interest to the Seattle Mariners.
But the contract that Arizona would love to clear is that of Yasmany Tomas. Tomas signed a 6yr/$68 million contract as a Cuban born free agent in 2014. To say Tomas has been a disappointment would be an understatement.
In 3 seasons, Tomas has a career -2.2 career bWAR. He has been worse than replacement level. So why should the Mariners be interested in a bad player with a big contract?
Tomas Still Has Potential
Tomas may have been a disappointment in his first 3 years, but at 27 years old, there is still time for him to tap into his potential. In 2016, Tomas did show plus right-handed power. He hit 31 home runs and posted a .508 Slugging Percentage. Tomas also hit for a decent average (.272) and had a league average contact rate.
He does need to improve his BB%, as a 5.2% career rate is not acceptable for a bat first player. Tomas did show growth in limited plate appearances in 2017, his 7.2 BB% rate being a respectable number. In fact, Tomas BB% has improved in each of his 3 seasons.
He Cannot Play Defense
Why is this a positive for the Mariners? Yasmany Tomas has been tragically misused in Arizona. The Diamondbacks stuck Tomas at third base in his rookie year, where he posted an abysmal -33 UZR/150 in 200+ innings.
The D-Backs then moved him to Left Field, but Tomas did not fare any better. In 2017 the team shifted Tomas to RF, but he was once again a disaster. The simple truth is, Yasmany Tomas needs to be playing first base or possibly DH. Arizona does not play with a DH, and Tomas is blocked at first base by some guy named Paul GoldSchmidt (maybe you’ve heard of him).
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The Mariners have a need at first base, and may soon have a need at DH. He has only played 16 big league innings at first, but looks to be at least mediocre at the position, as opposed to an abomination in the outfield.
The Mike Leake Factor
Remember how the Mike Leake trade? How great was it when Seattle went to the clearance rack, found a quality item, paid 50% of the original price, and got store credit to buy players that could help them soon? This is basically what happened.
Seattle not only got Mike Leake for 50% of his contract, but also got $750,000 of international bonus money from the Cardinals. The cost to the Mariners? Raydar Ascanio, a 21-year-old in A ball with a Utility man ceiling.
The same principle could exist in a Yasmany Tomas deal. The Mariners simply do not have the prospects to go out and trade for impact players. What they do have, is payroll flexibility.
Show Me The Money
Tomas contract is an interesting one to be sure. He is slated to make $10 million in 2018, $15.5 mil in 2019, and $17 million in 2020. Tomas also has an opt out clause after the 2018 season. That brings us to a total of $42.5 million for 3 years. At this price, Tomas is a non-starter. But the Diamondbacks are desperate to shed payroll, and are apparently, “quite motivated” to move Tomas.
The current crop of free agent first baseman is a solid group. It appears that Seattle will have to pay at least $10 million a year for one Carlos Santana, Yonder Alonso, Logan Morrison, and so on. Yasmany Tomas must cost less than that. If the Diamondbacks agree to eat, half of the first year salary of Tomas, the Mariners could save $5 million.
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The simple fact is, the Diamondbacks will need to eat $12-$20 million to make it work, but the salary relief is valuable to Arizona. And do not worry about the option. If Tomas plays well enough to decline his option, it means he has had a good to great season.
Tomas is a risk, but a relatively low one. At his current contract, the Mariners can likely snag Tomas for a low-level, low ceiling prospect. And for a team with few prospects to give, buying junk bonds at an all-time low is a strategy to consider