On Tuesday Ross Atkins acknowledged that Carlos Gonzalez, free agent formerly of the Rockies, would “fit well” with the Jays — and that so would Jay Bruce.
Today Jon Heyman added another name to that mix: Carlos Gomez.
Jays are looking at Carlos Gomez as well as Carlos Gonzalez #cargos
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 13, 2017
Let’s take a look at all three as possibilities…
The 32-year-old CarGo had some very good years with the Rockies, but 2017 wasn’t one of them. He finished the year with just an 84 wRC+, and FanGraphs pegged him as just a shade below replcement level. Two years removed from hitting 40 home runs, he belted just 14. Add to that the fact that defence has never exactly been his calling card, and you maybe wonder what the appeal is.
That’s especially so when you start to look at some of his splits — for example, the fact that he slashed a pitiful .203/.274/.332 outside of Coors Field this season, while putting up impressive numbers in the thin Colorado air: .323/.403/.520. Because wRC+ is park-adjusted, those outstanding home numbers only translate to a 111 mark, but still, that’s a concern. His previous away wRC+ marks were 94 and 102, and you have to go back to 2013 to find the last season where he looked like more than a league average hitter outside of Coors.
So what’s the appeal here? Beyond the fact that he’s a lefty-hitting outfielder and it’s not terribly abnormal to have worse splits on the road, there’s another split that seems encouraging on Gonalzalez: yes, his overall season wRC+ was just 84, but in the first half of 2017 his mark was just 51, and in the second half it was 125.
So maybe he’s a nice bounce-back candidate who’ll come for cheap? Yeah, maybe. But it turns out there’s a pretty big concern with that 125 mark: in the second half at home Gonzalez put up a 174 wRC+, and on the road it was just 73. Even as he was going absolutely nuts at Coors Field (.417/.488/.689), he continued to struggle outside of the thin air (.212/.287/.375).
I don’t like ascribing too much of a player’s success to the Coors effect — Larry Walker should be in the Hall of Fame, damn it! — but looking at all this, I’m gonna take a hard pass on this one.
The 32-year-old Gomez had a very nice year in 2017, after spending a season in the weeds the year before. He played capable enough defence, mostly in centre, for Texas, putting up a 110 wRC+ and 2.3 WAR. Even the year before, when his WAR was just 0.9, he wasn’t completely awful: he was bad in 85 games with the Astros, but pretty great (.284/.362/.543, 139 wRC+) in 33 with the Rangers.
Gomez is an interesting case, really. He was a very light hitter early in his career, he had three very nice seasons in Milwaukee from 2013 to 2015 (103, 128, and 132 wRC+), and since then has rode some streakiness into basically being league average (98, 84, 110 wRC+). Despite a 97 wRC+ for his career, Steamer projects him to just 91 in 2018. That might be low, but maybe not! Plus he strikes out a whole lot, and is a right-handed hitter. So… y’know… probably not a great fit unless he’s real cheap.
Bruce we’ve known and talked about for a long time, dating back to when the Jays almost traded for him in the spring of 2016.
His 2017 season showcased him at his best, as the defensive metrics thought it was his best sdeason in years, his .324 OBP was his highest number since 2013, he hit 36 home runs, and was worth 2.7 WAR. He’s not a great player, but he certainly has value, and as a lefty hitter and capable right fielder, certainly would fit with these Jays.
The issue here, I think, is going to be the contract — even if it’s not going to be the five-years and $90 million (or whatever) that his agent was dreaming on earlier this offseason. Matthew Cerrone of SNY.com looks at some potential fits for the former Met, including a possible reunion with that club, who he tells us are interested, but only willing to give Bruce a three year deal. “There are enough teams interested in him (with a need for his services) that Bruce should be able to get a three-year deal worth $13-15 million per season,” he writes. “I understand that he probably wants five years and $75 million, but it’s hard to see how that happens given how teams just aren’t overpaying for power the way they did a few years ago.”
I dunno. If it’s really only going to cost $13 to $15 million, and only take three years, that’s maybe not so bad. He’ll probably maintain some trade value in case the Jays pivot (he’ll be 31 in 2018) and certainly does look a better fit than the other two. It’s unsexy as hell, and you’d like to see them do better than this, but getting almost three wins out of right field is a four or five win improvement on what they got out of it last year! Adding a lefty with some pop to this lineup would be nice, too. I could see it.
Y’know, unless the price goes up.