The Phillies invited Yasmany Tomas to their Dominican Republic complex in September for a private session one day after the Cuban slugger showcased his talent in front of nearly 200 scouts. The Phils were the first team to make such an overture. Their attraction to Tomas was a logical one, given the team's plans to rebuild.
Industry pundits labeled the Phillies as a favorite for the 24-year-old outfielder's services. But Tomas agreed last week to a deal with Arizona for $68.5 million without ever receiving an offer from the Phillies, his agent said.
Jay Alou said Monday the Phillies showed constant interest but never submitted a formal contract offer. Alou believed Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. had to "clear salary" before making a substantial commitment to Tomas.
"His hands were tied," Alou said.
Amaro declined to characterize his talks with Alou. He would not confirm nor deny the existence of an offer.
"The only comment I can make about that is we don't really discuss our negotiations," Amaro said. "But it was clear the Diamondbacks valued him higher than we did."
Tomas' raw power is highly regarded, but that does not make him a guaranteed success in the majors. The Diamondbacks signed him for six years, although Tomas can opt out of the contract after the fourth year with the prospect of more money through another round of free agency.
The guaranteed money for Tomas was lower than speculated amounts. Some scouts harbored concerns about Tomas' defense and conditioning. But for many of those scouts, it was easier to overlook because of Tomas' age and power potential. No one knows for certain.
"The player wanted to sign," Alou said. "I was willing to wait as long as I could. He wanted to sign with someone. It's a great opportunity for him in Arizona."
Tomas was the lone big-ticket free agent linked to the Phillies this offseason. Amaro has said he will seek players on shorter-term contracts to augment what he hopes will be a younger roster. Given that the Phillies do not plan to compete for the next few seasons, a Tomas contract that included an opt-out clause after four years was less sensible. But the Phillies apparently never offered another choice with, say, more years and a higher annual average salary.
The Phillies likely determined Tomas too great a risk for that sort of commitment, especially with considerable money dedicated to a roster that could yield fewer than 70 wins in 2015. The team's payroll is approximately $135 million, and that is before salaries for three arbitration-eligible players (Antonio Bastardo, Ben Revere, and Domonic Brown) and other pre-arbitration players. The team must sign at least one more starting pitcher.
The Phillies have told possible trade partners they are willing to assume money in exchange for better prospects. But in the end, there could be a limit on how much money ownership is willing to authorize for another grim team. The Phillies averaged 7,266 fewer fans per game in 2014 than the season before. The infusion of money from Comcast SportsNet's TV rights megadeal starts in 2016.
Amaro, one month into the offseason, has yet to make a significant move.
"We assess all aspects of the deals," Amaro said. "But we haven been given any impediments. There haven't been any impediments by our ownership group."