In his short time with the Boston Red Sox, Jonny Gomes has endeared himself to Red Sox Nation quicker than any other player in recent memory. It’s difficult not to take notice of Gomes and his quasi folk hero personality. Between the punting of the beer cans after winning the ALDS, having his beard tugged nearly clean off his face by Mike Napoli, and his decision to wear a suit emblazoned with the American flag to a meeting with the President at the White House, Jonny Gomes has made more of a mark in Red Sox lore in his 18 months with the team than JD Drew did in his five years with the team (allow me to take this opportunity to remind everyone that JD Drew played very well for the Red Sox and was instrumental in the 2007 World Series campaign). Gomes has given Red Sox Nation a decade’s worth of memories and a World Series championship in under two years, and for that, we should all be eternally grateful to him. However, now is the time to dispense of his “intangibles” and lefty-mashing ways because the Red Sox 2014 season is dead.
Unfortunately, not many teams still in contention need Jonny Gomes, or a player like him. The Nationals’, Dodgers’, Pirates’, and Cardinals’ outfields are overflowing, and while he might theoretically be a nice piece for the Orioles or Giants, they’d both be wise to address other areas first. Before looking at the teams where he might be a good fit, let’s take a brief look at what Jonny Gomes has to offer. Jonny Gomes’ career OPS is .782 and his career wRC+ is 109. Both of those figures aren’t great for a guy who can’t do much in the field. While he’s not a complete disaster in the field, he is a bit of a liability. He has an average arm, but pretty horrible range. Taken as a whole, he doesn’t look like a particularly enticing piece of trade bait, but when one breaks down his game into separate facets, his appeal becomes apparent. For his career against lefties, Gomes has triple-slashed .280/.380/.498, with an ISO of .218 and a wRC+ of 137. Those are very good, almost elite, numbers. He walks a little more against lefties than righties, and nearly 15% of the balls he puts into the air against lefties go for home runs. He pretty much owns southpaws.
There are only a couple teams that could really use Gomes: the Yankees and the Mariners. For a time, it seemed like the Athletics could use Gomes, but with Cespedes entrenched in left field and the emergence of Brandon Moss in right field, the Athletics’ corner spots are pretty set. The Yankees and Mariners, however, could really use Gomes.
Of the Yankees’ six outfielders, only two of them have recorded more than .1 fWAR (Jacoby Ellsbury: 2.5 fWAR; Brett Gardner: 3.1 fWAR). Ellsbury and Gardner have center field and left field locked down, but right field has been a revolving door of Ichiro Suzuki, Zoilo Almonte, Carlos Beltran, and Alfonso Soriano. Together, they’ve been worth -2.0 fWAR. Now, Gomes has played three times as many games in left field than right field, but he has recorded over 1000 major league innings in right field. He has a decent enough arm to succeed in right, and Yankee Stadium’s right field isn’t nearly as difficult as right field at Fenway Park. Gomes could also slot in at DH. By wRC+, the Yankees have had the second worst DH in the American League. Obviously, just slotting Gomes in there wouldn’t solve all of their problems, but it’d alleviate some of the damage that’s been done by the consistently offensively anemic Yankees designated hitters.
Realistically, this deal probably wouldn’t get done because the Yankees have more pressing concerns, like starting pitching, than a fourth outfielder, plus, trades within a division are relatively rare, especially midseason. I can’t really see this happening, but Gomes would be a nice piece for the Yankees.
Where I could really see Gomes have an impact is in Seattle. They just traded for Kendrys Morales, so I imagine it’s very unlikely that they trade for Gomes (different positions, I know, but both are defensively inept power hitters) Seattle’s outfield is atrocious. Their outfield is 25th in the league in fWAR and 29th in the league in wRC+. They are 29th in ISO and 29th in on-base percentage. Their outfield is just a mess. If the Mariners want to have any hope of staying alive in the incredibly competitive AL Wild Card race, they need to stop running Abraham Almonte and James Jones out to centerfield. The Mariners could move Dustin Ackley or Michael Saunders to center field and put Gomes in either left or right field. Although Gomes has his issues, he’d be a major upgrade over Almonte and Jones.
Who could the Red Sox reasonably expect to get back in a trade with the Mariners for Jonny Gomes? Probably not much. Then again, they are in the midst of a playoff race, and they need offense badly, as evidenced by their trade for Kendrys Morales. Kendrys Morales is having an awful year, but he’s actually not far behind Gomes in career fWAR (5.8 to 6.2). Recency bias may shine a brighter light on Gomes than Morales, and thusly, he may be able to command a bit more of a higher prospect price tag. If the Mariners were desperate enough, which I believe they are, I don’t think it’d be unreasonable for them to trade Carson Smith and Xavier Avery for Jonny Gomes (okay, maybe asking for Avery would be pushing it). Smith and Avery are the 11th and 19th best prospects in the Mariners system, according to MLB.com. And according to MLB.com Smith profiles as a “seventh inning guy or set-up guy, while Avery profiles as a “fourth outfielder.” An unproven reliever and an unproven bench bat seem like a small price to pay for the enhanced offense Gomes would provide for the Mariners. It’d be a nice deal for the Red Sox, too, because Gomes really doesn’t have a space on the club after this year, and adding a couple young prospect-types to the system would add some nice organizational depth.
There are a couple other teams that could maybe use Gomes, like the Brewers or Reds, but Gomes isn’t enough of an upgrade over Khris Davis or Ryan Ludwick to warrant sacrificing any type of prospect.
Gomes, as much as we love him, is a very one-dimensional player, and he offers little value to the remaining contending teams. With the season pretty much dead and buried, it’s comforting to think of the potential returns on the trading of veterans, but in the case of Jonny Gomes, there isn’t much to hang our collective hat on. The guy has done a lot for us, and I suppose I should just appreciate his clutch-itude and forget about wanting to wring out every ounce of limited value from him. All that being said…it would be really nice to have another prospect or two…