Winter Meetings news conference: D-backs sign Yasmany Tomas

THE MODERATOR: Thank you all very much for being here today, and welcome to all of our viewers on MLB Network across the country and of course all around the world. Diamondbacks today are very pleased to announce the signing of outfielder third baseman, Yasmany Tomas. Tomas signed a six‑year deal today with the Arizona Diamondbacks.

            We'll go ahead and have several members of the Diamondbacks front office speak about it. To my right, we have our manager, Chip Hale; next to him our chief baseball officer, Tony La Russa; and directly to my left, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Dave Stewart; and Senior Vice President of Baseball Operations, De Jon Watson. Each of them will give a quick statement. We'll start with Tony, then their thoughts on the additions of Yasmany Tomas.

            TONY LA RUSSA: The game starts with talent, and this young man has a very special talent. There was a lot of competition for him. We're really thankful that our ownership stepped up, because this was ‑‑ early on in the process, we were not sure we could be a factor, and they said go for it. So we had a double play there. The owners said go, and we were able to get them on the dotted line, so we're really excited.

            DAVID STEWART: I mean, we're absolutely ecstatic about having this young man as part of our organization. Through this process, as you the media know, there has been a lot of organizations that were seeking to have this young man play for them.

            As Tony stated, our ownership gave us the backing and support to go out and make this signing. He's going to be impacting in our lineup, and our community and for our team. We're expecting big things from him. There is a long history of Cuban players that have come here to the United States and have had immediate impact on the ballclubs that they've been a part of.

            So this is a signing that we are really, really happy about here at the Diamondbacks organization.

            DE JON WATSON: Yes, we are really excited to have Yasmany as part of the Diamondbacks organization. I think the skills that you'll see him possess is a true raw power. He's athletic enough to play third base, as well as the outfield.

            I think people will be surprised at his overall skill set once he steps foot on U.S. soil and we get a chance to assess and evaluate the player. We're excited to have him in the organization. He's going to be a player that can possibly hit in the middle third of our order at some point. But it's going to be fun to watch this young man grow and play at the Major League level.

            CHIP HALE: No, Tony said it best. Talent wins, he's another guy to put in there with Goldie and Trumbo, and pitchers are going to fear that lineup. So I'm excited to have him.

            I saw the immediate impact that Yoenis Cespedes had for us in Oakland when I was there, and I would expect the same out of Mr. Tomas.

 

            Q. Dave, with Cuban players, a lot of research is done. What did you like about his make‑up? Because obviously coming over here, it will be a culture change and things like that we've seen other players do well with and struggle with. What did you like about his character?

            DAVID STEWART: Well, initially, and this is the first time getting out to watch him play. I watched how he interacted with some of the other players on the team, and then in particular our interaction was really, really good. Great interaction the first time, the second time.

            And then a week ago I went to see him through his physical. I mean it was as though he had known me for years. Great hug, big embrace. Then De Jon, who I'll let you tell you even more, who was in Mexico and had an opportunity to talk with the people who had coached him. So actually, I will just let De Jon speak for that.

            DE JON WATSON: Yeah, really fortunate to get a chance to speak with some of the coaches of Team Cuba to give me a little more insight about the character and the player. The biggest thing for me was understanding what time of teammate with the Cuban team and his teammates, and he seemed to be an outstanding teammate and really pulled hard for his guys and he went out and competed on a daily basis.

            One of the questions I asked obviously was about the athleticism and ability to play in different areas on the field. The guy that I talked to was really adamant about the fact that this young man would be willing to do whatever we asked him to do. His goal was to play in the Big Leagues and compete against the best players in the world. So I'm excited about who he is as a man.

            The first time I met him was down in the Dominican. Our conversation was solid. I talked about players that I had in my past with the Dodgers. So we had good conversation and good dialogue. He told me different stories about those players and kind of opened up about himself to me to see who he was as a player.

            DAVID STEWART: So needless to say when we were putting together our baseball team and putting together our club with the guys that we have in our clubhouse, we have to be sure that the chemistry mixes and matches well with those guys. And he's a perfect fit.

 

            Q. Was there an issue or two that explained the hold up in the last few days to finalizing this contract?

            DAVID STEWART: I've been on the agent side of it, as you guys know. Anytime you get into negotiation, there is always going to be contract language. There is always going to be issues. I've never entered into a negotiation and it go smoothly.

            Matt Kemp signing with the Dodgers, that deal was announced probably three weeks before we got the actual language and his real signature on the contract. So no negotiation goes smoothly.

            This is an international signing. We've got a guy that's coming from Cuba. We've got all kinds of things that take place that are even outside of the normal procedures that we have with the contracts here.

 

            Q. Was the idea of the opt out always a part of the negotiation?

            DAVID STEWART: Right from the beginning. There was never an issue with the opt.

 

            Q. Why were you comfortable getting him?

            DAVID STEWART: That's actually a good question. My thought is ‑‑ we get the first four years with him, and if he plays well, we're not afraid as an organization, we've made a big step in bringing him here at this moment and at this time. If he plays well, my guess would be that ownership would want to extend his contract before his opt comes. So we don't have any fear at this moment that we'll be able to negotiate something with more length if he plays well.

 

            Q. This is obviously your first big signing as GM, and it's also the biggest contract in franchise history. Is there any point before you pulled the trigger that you took a step back, took a deep breath just because it's such a big deal?

            DAVID STEWART: You know, I spoke with our team. Our team is here. Tony, myself, De Jon, Chip, and then our scouting, we've got great scouting people out there. Once you do your research and then you get into your network and you talk to the people that have seen the guy play and have watched him interact and watched him perform, believe me, it became a little bit easier as time passed to make it happen.

            But initially, you've got to believe that that's a lot of money to be passing out on any player. And in this day and time when a player has not played here, he's not proven yet here, that makes it even a little bit uncomfortably. But once you get the right information and you've checked the right sources, it makes it a lot easier to make the move.

 

            Q. You guys have signed Yasmany Tomas from Cuba, and you'll have the most money to spend in the international signing period coming up next year. Can you speak to the direction you guys are taking as an organization on the international front?

            DE JON WATSON: I think our direction is really to find impactful players to come into our organization, whether that be another young Cuban player coming from the Dominican or becoming a free agent or a top player from Venezuela, Dominican, our goal is to find the most impactful players to bring into this organization. The primary focus is to try to impact our organization internally and grow our own players. If we're able to do that, I think it's going to impact our big league club in the future. But right now our focus is to find the best talent that is walking on the planet.

 

            Q. Congratulations on the signing. What type of support system do you think you're going to put in place for his transition?

            DAVID STEWART: We've talked about it. We have some very, very good idea of what we'd like to do. I guess the mold has already been made. So what we're going to do, as other organizations have done, we're going to have someone that will be with him to help him get acclimated to what we're doing here as an organization, to get him acclimated to what we're doing here in the States. And that's really the best that we can do for him just to make sure that he's got comfort, that he's got somebody that can be confident, that's going to lead him down the right path and be a part of his foundation and part of this team.

 

            Q. We just spoke with Chip, who indicated with a player like Cespedes, and Cuban players who love the limelight and big stage and big show, did you sense that from Tomas that he'd be energized by this kind of validation and this level of play?

            DE JON WATSON: I think he's going to be really excited to play at the Major League level. If you watch these kids when they're playing in the WBC, they seem to turn up their game. Their focus is a little bit more detailed. Really with the execution of game. So I'm excited to see him compete against some of the best players in the game. I do foresee him turning his game up a little bit.

 

            Q. You mentioned that you were thankful for the ownership for allowing it to happen. Are you extending beyond where you were comfortable? What was it about ownership's commitment that was above and beyond?

            DAVID STEWART: I think we looked at all of the possibilities of this sign. One, we get an impactful player in our lineup. Number two, the trend of where baseball is going, I mean, this is not our first Cuban player, but this is our first Cuban player of this magnitude. So when you look at it, this is good for the organization. We also think that it's going to be good for the community. But it's also been good for baseball.

            So when things make sense ‑‑ and that's where we're fortunate here. When things make sense, our ownership is 100% behind us.

 

            Q. How much did the success of Cespedes, Puig and Abreu play into this signing?

            DAVID STEWART: Well, it had a positive effect. This search for talent goes on for 100 years and it was kind of limited. Now it's expanded to Latin America, now it goes to the Pacific Rim.

            Recently Cuban players are reemerging. You go to the old days with Oliva, (indiscernible), and Campaneris, so you know they're playing quality baseball down there. But when you make an acquisition, some of the first clubs that did it, and they had success, we all paid attention. So I think it's fair to say that Cuba will now be viewed as Mexico, Puerto Rico, Dominican, and Latin America, Venezuela as a source of potential Major League stars.

 

            Q. De Jon, I was wondering, how much about this process in terms of scouting players, signing them, transitioning them to the U.S. did you learn from your experience with Puig?

            DE JON WATSON: With Puig, and (indiscernible), as well as Guerrero, there are a lot of things that we can take from that from my standpoint, from the development standpoint.

            On the Minor League side, what we'll do if he happens to play in the Minor Leagues. We also have things that we utilize from other ballclubs, just the Major Leagues, to make sure the player did transition and understand the cultural differences and the importance of following team rules and policies. I think we have good things in place that will definitely apply to the situation as well.