Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Exit Music (For A Player): Carlos Gomez

Hey, the wounds are still fresh, so it seems like a fine time to do some evaluating. This is the Exit Music (For A Player) series. Check out other Exit Music (For A Player) posts here

Acquired: Acquired via trade on July 30, 2015 with the Brewers. The Astros received Gomez and Mike F. Fiers for Domingo Santana, Brett Phillips, Josh Hader, and Adrian Houser.

Age: 29, though Gomez will be 30 in December.

Contract Status: $9m for 2016. Free agent after next season


Signed by the Mets as an amateur free agent in 2002, Gomez rose through the Mets organization with a combination of speed and defense. Gomez's 40-yard dash/sprint/whatever has been clocked at 4.29. He stole 64 bases in 88 attempts for Class-A Hagerstown at 19 with a .707 OPS in 2005. In 2006 at Double-A Binghamton he hit .281/.350/.423, with 20 HBPs to 27 walks - an impressive ratio - and 41 stolen bases in 50 attempts. This earned Gomez consecutive Sterling Awards, given to the Mets' best minor league player. In August 2006, the New York Post - which has traditionally been known as a bastion of level-headed journalism - compared Gomez to Willie Mays.

He played 36 games at Triple-A New Orleans, hitting .283/.363/.414 and earned a call-up to the Mets in May 2007 when the Mets optioned Mike Pelfrey to the minors. 21-year old Carlos Gomez joined an outfield of Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado - the first time in MLB history in which a starting lineup had three Carlii - and it made Gomez the NL's youngest player. But he only made 58 appearances over the rest of the 2007 season for the Mets, hitting .232/.288/.304.

The rest of the 2007 Mets, however, are best remembered for blowing a 7-game lead with 17 games remaining, going 5-12 while the Phillies went 13-4 and clinching a playoff spot. 41-year old Tom Glavine turned in the second-shortest outing in his 21-year career on the last day of the season to complete the blow-up, and the Mets needed to infuse their rotation with a front-end starter.

Enter Johan Santana. The Mets sent Gomez, Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra to Minnesota for Johan Santana, and Gomez immediately became the Twins' starting center fielder. He flashed the defense and the speed in his two seasons with the Twins, with 33 stolen bases in 2008, but the bat just wasn't there, posting a .645 OPS in almost 1,000 plate appearances for Minnesota, both seasons resulting in a combined -25.4 offensive rating from FanGraphs. Despite that, he posted a 3.7 combined fWAR for the Twins.

So the Twins traded Gomez after the 2009 season to the Brewers for one season of J.J. Hardy's league-average bat. A year later, the Twins would trade Hardy and Brendan Harris for Brett Jacobson and Jim Hoey. It was when Gomez joined the Brewers that his career started to come within the same time zone as Willie Mays, but it took a couple of injury-plagued seasons for that to even happen - he only played in 191 games with 576 plate appearances in 2010 and 2011 - hitting .238/.288/.377. This isn't good.

2012 is when it started to click. In 137 games, Gomez hit .260/.305/.463, launching a career-high 19 homers (he had 16 homers in his previous three seasons combined). He also stole 37 bases in 43 attempts for a 3.0 WAR season.

Prior to the 2013 season, Gomez signed a 3yr/$24m extension that would keep him under team control through 2016. Gomez rewarded the Brewers, hitting .284/.338/.506 with 24 home runs and stealing 40 bases. He also managed to get into a late-September altercation with Braves catcher/Baseball sheriff Brian McCann, jawing at Braves' pitcher Paul Maholm all the way around the bases after Maholm threw too close earlier in the season.

B-Ref's 8.5 bWAR was highest in the National League, while Gomez's 7.4 fWAR in 2013 was the 5th-highest in baseball, 2nd-highest in the National League. The only four players with a higher fWAR were in 2013 were Mike Trout, Andrew McCutchen, Josh Donaldson, and Miguel Cabrera. He somehow only finished 9th in NL MVP voting (the spat with McCann occurring in the last week of the season likely had something to do with his low vote total) and also got his first All-Star nod as well as winning a Gold Glove.

While Gomez wouldn't exactly recapture his 2013 season the following year, he still posted a 5.7 fWAR, hitting .284/.356/.477, cutting down on his strikeouts - some - and improving his walks - some. He stole 34 bases, and while his WAR wasn't as high as 2013, his wRC+ in 2014 (132) was better than it was in 2013 (128) as he enjoyed a second season with an OPS over .800.


So in 2015 the Brewers are/were facing a major rebuilding project. Gomez was hitting .262/.328/.423 when the Brewers allegedly had a deal in place to send Gomez to the Mets, who had the worst offense in the National League. Then insanity ensued because it seemed as though the Mets wanted the Brewers to pick up a decent amount of what was left on Gomez's contract, though they officially claimed to be concerned about Gomez's medicals. The Brewers refused, the deal was off, and Wilmer Flores cried. The next day, the Astros sent a package of four minor-leaguers, highlighted by future superstar center fielder Brett Phillips, Josh Hader, Domingo Santana, and Adrian Houser, to Milwaukee for Gomez and Fiers.

Gomez made his Astros debut on July 31, going 0x5 against the Diamondbacks. On August 1 he went 3x5 with a double and on August 3/4 at Arlington he went a combined 4x9 with a double and a homer. Then a bunch of nothing happened. For the next three and a half weeks Gomez couldn't get anything going. Gomez went 7x60 with 16 strikeouts, a .289 OPS on a .159 BABIP. It was bad.

Things started to turn around for Gomez in the 2nd game of the Yankees series. On August 24, the Astros lost 1-0 to open a three-game series at Yankee Stadium. The next night Gomez caused the benches to clear by allegedly yelling at the Yankees bench to "shut up" after the Yankees chirped at him for being mad at himself for missing a Chris Capuano pitch when the Astros were already up 9-0. He hit a 3-run homer later in the game.

Apparently that got Gomez' blood flowing. He was hitting .306/.362/.565 from that game until September 13, when Gomez left batting practice early after injuring his intercostal. The Astros said it wasn't a big deal, but "Astros" + "Intercostal" = "Missing Persons Report."

Gomez didn't return to the lineup until September 27, when he came in a pinch-runner and stole a base in a real life win against the Rangers. At Seattle the following night, Gomez hit a sac fly in his only plate appearance. On September 30, his last regular season appearance, Gomez played his first complete game in 18 days, going 2x4 with two stolen bases in a 7-6 win.

Gomez would miss the entire Diamondbacks series to close the regular season and wouldn't return to the lineup until the Wild Card Game against the Yankees, when he hit a solo homer to put the Astros up 2-0. Gomez would play in all five of the ALDS games against the Royals, going 3x12 with a homer in the horrible nightmare that came to be known as "G**e F**r."


One of the allures of Carlos Gomez was not just his track record in 2013 and 2014, but the fact that he was under contract at a fairly reasonable $9m for 2016, as well. Given that the Astros were also willing to include Brett Phillips - which was a blow to the farm system - shows that Gomez isn't really going to have any challengers to the center field spot in 2016. The Astros have more pressing outfield issues with the impending departure of Colby Rasmus.

Franchise Marks:

*2nd place - behind Dallas Keuchel - in pissing off the Yankees and their fans.


Gardenhire: Gomez "irritates people, sometimes me" (November 2009)
Minneapolis Star-Tribune: Gomez might finally be the All-Star outfielder the Twins envisioned (May 2013)
MLB: Gomez apologizes for scuffle, ejection (September 2013)
Astros County: Astros trade for Gomez and Fiers (July 2015)