Blue Jays and the Carlos Gomez Fit

MINNEAPOLIS, MN - AUGUST 06: Carlos Gomez /

The Jays are said to have interest in Carlos Gomez.  Would he be a good fit?

As they currently stand, the Jays are projected to be an 83 win team in 2018 by Depth Charts and ZiPS.   In many ways, this is an unfortunate place to be for 2017-18 personnel decisions.  If the Jays were expected to be far out of contention, it might make sense to give young players like Teoscar Hernandez, Anthony Alford and Joe Biagini playing time, on the theory that it is better that they make their mistakes (as all young players will) when it does not matter.  Conversely, if the Jays were a playoff favourite, it would be easier to justify bringing in veterans.

So any potential free agent signing (or MVP trade!) needs to be discussed in the context of expectations for 2018 and beyond.  My own view is there are a range of possible outcomes, and 83 wins is reasonably close to the average, but that the existing team has upside to perform beyond that.  So signing a player to a relatively short-term contract who will bring value in 2018 and 2019, but likely not longer, could have considerable merit.

Toronto Blue Jays
Toronto Blue Jays /

Toronto Blue Jays

Which brings me to Carlos Gomez.

Carlos was a beast for Milwaukee in 2013-14, averaging over 6 WAR and a 130 wRC+.  Things went downhill when he was traded to the Astros in mid-2015, largely due to injuries, to the point where he was released by Houston in August 2016.  He was picked up by the Rangers and put up a more-than-respectable 3.5 WAR and 116 wRC+ over his 556 PAs with Texas.

There is a lot to like about Gomez.  He is projected by MLBTR to only sign a two-year contract (for $22m total), which fits both the Jays development timetable (with players like Alford, Dwight Smith Jr., Dalton Pompey and Edward Olivares in the pipeline) and an appropriate age/risk profile (Gomez will play 2018 at 33 years old).  He was a plus CF when younger, but has declined in recent years.  But a move to a corner OF position could both enhance his defense, and reduce the wear and tear (and therefore the injuries) he has recently experienced.  Carlos’ speed is no longer elite (as it was earlier in his career) but he is still rated as well above average (high 60s), with above-average base running skills, and he has recent experience batting leadoff.

So why is CarGo even available – or not demanding JD Martinez money?

First, because like Scrooge, Carlos is not the man he was.  It is highly unlikely (though not impossible) that he will ever see the 89 speed and 132 wRC+ that he did with the Brewers again.  The injuries are also a factor – Gomez has averaged only 113 games played over the last three years.  And his 2016 and 2017 splits showed an uncharacteristic weakness against left-handed pitching (he averaged a Goins-like 69 wRC+).

But in adversity there can be opportunity.

In some ways, Carlos reminds me of Jay Bruce.  Once very good player, his career was derailed by injuries and it appeared that he might never be a meaningful asset again.  But Bruce showed flashes in 2015 and 2016, and in 2017 (finally completely recovered) he put up a solid 2.7 WAR and a 118 wRC+.  If, like Bruce, Gomez has re-found his groove, a 3 WAR season should not be out of the question.

So let me paint you a scenario.  The Jays trade Kendrys Morales, leaving Steve Pearce as their primary DH.  They sign CarGo for 2/$22m + options to play LF against RHP.  When a lefty is on the mound (roughly 50 games), they rest Carlos, move Pearce to LF and use DH to rest Josh Donaldson or Devon Travis.  When Gomez is on the bench, he becomes a late-innings defensive replacement, pinch-hitter against righties and pinch-runner.  Carlos also becomes the preferred option to man CF when Kevin Pillar needs a rest.  Fewer games, mostly at a less demanding position, keeps Gomez healthy – and hitting in right-handed-hitter favourable parks like Toronto, Baltimore, New York and Boston helps him regain some of his lost power.  Teo Hernandez gets the primary reps in RF, Alford starts the year in AAA and Ezequiel Carrera is the bench OF.  Worst case scenario, if the Jays are tanking at the trade deadline but CarGo is playing well, he becomes a trade chip.

Next: Blue Jays' GM address the Donaldson trade rumours

The bottom line

In order for a team to contend, they need to make intelligent gambles.  Extending Smoak in 2016, trading for Teo and Diaz, picking up Biagini – all came with risk.  A CarGo signing at reasonable terms would also come with risk, but it could well be a risk worth taking.