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Carlos Gomez: The High-Upside Signing the Oakland A’s Need

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MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at Texas Rangers
Carlos Gomez’s time with Rangers in 2016 was great. Is he for real?
Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Today the Oakland A’s fulfilled the Matt Joyce prophecy handed down by BWH, Duncan Morrow, and Dayn Perry.

There are opinions aplenty regarding the newest Athletics designated hitter (presumably) but I believe the numbers speak for themselves: Joyce owns a career wRC+ of 114, including a 123 wRC+ against right-handed pitchers. His defense leaves something to be desired, so hopefully he won’t roam the outfield often.

Also on the agenda for the team is finding a new centerfielder. Hopefully they’ll bring in someone who not only plays good defense, but can hit, and potentially leadoff.

My eyes have set themselves upon free agent Carlos Gomez. Gomez has a couple of characteristics many A’s signings have had in common and meets the team’s needs. He’s a former highly-regarded prospect who enjoyed post-hype success (See: Brandon Moss and Josh Donaldson). He also struggled to the point of being almost unwanted before notching together a string of games that once again showcased his elite talents (See: Rich Hill, Matt Joyce).

Pros

Gomez has always been regarded as a fine defender in centerfield. Both UZR and DRS give him very good overall ratings thanks, in part, to his elite speed. His arm isn’t spectacular but as long as he can continue to chase down most fly balls he would be a welcomed improvement over what the A’s have had the past two seasons.

Offensively the story gets a little complicated. From July, 2011 through October, 2014 Gomez enjoyed a .277/.335/.487 line, good for a 124 wRC+. In 2015 something changed: he was traded to Houston. He began the year with Milwaukee and posted a 104 wRC+ but after he was traded he stopped hitting the ball hard and he pop-up nearly twice as often. In 2016 the Astros decided they had enough of Gomez, and after failed attempts to trade him, they eventually cut him from the team. Gomez changed again, this time for the better, after the Texas Rangers picked him up. Perhaps all he needed was a new environment or maybe being on a first-place team energized him. Whatever it was it was impressive.

Gomez torched opponents through the final month of the season as he batted .319/.404/.582 with a 11.5% walk-rate and 23.1% K-rate. He hit more fly balls, less ground balls and pop-ups, and he hit the ball harder than he did in his time with Houston. In fact, his hard-hit rate was one of the highest of his career. His contact-rate jumped back to career norms, especially contact outside of the zone, which jumped from 49.4% with Houston to 64.8% with Texas.

Jeff Sullivan, who wrote the glowing assessment of Matt Joyce for Fangraphs, came to this conclusion:

“Twenty-five games. Gomez has played with the Rangers for 25 games, and from an analytical perspective, sometimes 25 games might as well be zero games. But those rolling averages reveal progress, in particular in the launch-angle department. The batted-ball speed really has improved, though. It’s a simple story: Gomez is hitting the ball hard more often, and he’s hitting the ball in the air more often. That’s Gomez getting back to his roots, and that’s why he’s doing such a good job of helping the Rangers today.”

Cons

Gomez is on the verge of his age-31 season. His career-low is almost as recent as his career-high so there is no guarantee he even has anything left to offer.

Beyond that I don’t believe there are many reasons not to take this chance. Many in the Athletics nation community viewed Eric Thames as the high-reward type of signing the A’s should have made but I beleive Gomez actually is that player.

Conclusion

The A’s took a chance on a one-month sample from Rich Hill in 2015 and it paid off. Today they took a chance on a couple hundred PAs from Matt Joyce in 2016. I believe their next move should be take the chance on Gomez’s final month of the 2016 season.

MLB Trade Rumors expects a 3-year contract in the range of $36mm. Would that be too rich for Oakland’s blood? Possibly, not too mention the A’s recent failings with 3-year contracts. Plus with the CBA still in flux it is unknown whether the A’s with move forward still receiving revenue sharing funds, and that seemingly has an impact on the team’s ability to spend. In the event that Gomez’s market isn’t what he hopes could the A’s outbid opponents for a single-season pillow contract? Absolutely.

Ideally the A’s could land Gomez one a one-year deal worth between $10-$12mm plus some sort of option. I would be happy with something with more commitment, however.