Posted on December 1, 2018, by Bryan Zarpentine
For the second time this offseason, the Washington Nationals have added a catcher to their roster. One of their first moves this winter was signing veteran Kurt Suzuki to a two-year deal. On Friday, Washington acquired Yan Gomes from the Cleveland Indians. As part of the deal, the Indians will receive outfield prospect Daniel Johnson, right-handed reliever Jefry Rodriguez, and a player to be named later.
The 31-year old Gomes is viewed as one of the best two-way catchers in baseball. He’s solid behind the plate and had a resurgent year offensively in 2018. Injuries held him back in 2015 and 2016. But Gomes started to get his timing back at the plate in 2017, hitting 14 home runs and posting a .708 OPS. He did even better in 2018, hitting .266 with a .762 OPS, making him a wanted commodity on the trade market.
The Nationals wasted little time in going after him this offseason, even after locking down Suzuki. Including club options, Gomes is under team control through the 2021 season, so the Nationals likely view him as a long-term solution behind the plate. That will likely relegate Suzuki to backup duty as long as Gomes can stay healthy.
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After using Matt Wieters and youngsters like Pedro Severino behind the plate the last couple of years, the Nationals were eager to upgrade this winter. The duo of Gomes and Suzuki will surely do that, both offensively and defensively. For a long time, the Nats were linked in trade talks regarding J.T. Realmuto of the Marlins. But it’s safe to say Washington is set behind the plate for now.
As for the Indians, trading Gomes is the first concrete sign that they are looking to trim payroll this year. There have been rumors that Cleveland is open trading one or two of their top-flight pitchers. Most notably, Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Trevor Bauer have been mentioned in the rumor mill. Trading Gomes saves some money. But it could be the first of several cost-cutting moves the Tribe makes this offseason.
Meanwhile, the Indians are set to go with Roberto Perez and Eric Haase behind the plate in 2019. With Perez not providing much offense and Haase lacking experience, Cleveland could look for a cheap upgrade on the free agent market. Remember, the Indians traded away top catching prospect Francisco Mejia last summer, so they are a little thing back there.
On the bright side, the Indians got a couple of young players back in the deal. Johnson was Washington’s no. 7 prospect, according to MLB.com. He’s a good athlete with average or better tools across the board. However, he’s probably a year away from making an impact in the majors. Rodriguez, meanwhile, made eight starts and six relief appearances for Washington last year. He’s been a starter throughout his minor league career but could find a home in Cleveland’s bullpen in 2019.
All things considered, both teams should feel good about this trade. The Nationals didn’t give up a ton and should now feel comfortable with their catching situation. The Indians, meanwhile, will be a little worse without Gomes behind the plate. However, they cut some payroll and acquired a couple of young players who should contribute at the major league level at some point. Ultimately, both teams got what they wanted.