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Injured catcher Yan Gomes will be activated from the disabled list and start just his sixth game of the season for the Indians on Sunday, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. A sprained medial collateral ligament in Gomes’ right knee caused him to miss roughly six weeks of action, and the loss of one of the game’s most valuable (and underrated) catchers has likely contributed to Cleveland’s slow start, to an extent. With Gomes nearing activation, Hoynes notes that one of Roberto Perez or Brett Hayes will have to go to make room. Neither has hit for much in terms of average, but Hayes has shown more power in a smaller sample, whereas Perez has shown more in terms of on-base skills, walking at a surprising 17.5 percent clip in 97 plate appearances. Manager Terry Francona feels the team has been fortunate to have Perez and Hayes fill in. “They haven’t hit for average, but each have hit three homers and done a pretty good job behind the plate,” said Francona. The 26-year-old Perez has options remaining, whereas Hayes does not and would have to clear waivers before he could be sent back to the minors.
A bit more from Cleveland…
- Within the linked piece above, Hoynes notes that T.J. House has been activated from the disabled list and optioned to Triple-A, leaving Shaun Marcum as the owner of the No. 5 spot in Cleveland’s rotation. House has struggled nearly all season, and he has an option remaining. Marcum does not. “The reality of it was who should we get rid of?” Francona asked rhetorically. “Would it have been fair to say to Shaun Marcum, “Hey, man, thanks for the seven dazzling innings.'” Marcum made his first Major League start since 2013 earlier this week and fired 6 2/3 innings with just two runs allowed on four hits and no walks with six strikeouts.
- In a separate article from earlier this week, Hoynes looks at how David Murphy has seemingly gone from expendable trade chip to indispensable asset. When the Indians acquired Brandon Moss this offseason, it created a logjam in the outfield with Moss, Murphy and Nick Swisher all appearing to cut into each others’ roles. However, Murphy has been one of the team’s most consistent bats against right-handed pitching this season after struggling in 2014, and he’s playing better defense this season as well.
An MRI today revealed a sprained MCL in the right knee of Indians catcher Yan Gomes, which will sideline the standout backstop for six to eight weeks, Cleveland has announced.
The injury to Gomes is a significant blow to the Indians, who are expected by many to contend for the AL Central title this season but will now be without one of their most valuable players for up to two months. In the interim, Roberto Perez figures to step into an everyday role behind the plate, and Carlos Santana can serve as a backup in the near-term. However, it wouldn’t be a shock to see Cleveland pursue upgrades from outside the organization.
Gomes, 27, has established himself as one of the game’s better catchers over the past season and a half, batting a combined .284/.325/.476 with 32 homers in 223 games from 2013-14. He’s also an excellent defender, grading very well in terms of both pitch-framing metrics and shutting down the running game. Gomes has caught 35 percent of opposing base stealers in his big league career, while the league-average rate in that time has been 27 percent. Both Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference pegged Gomes’ value at roughly 4.5 wins above replacement last year.
The Royals should employ “selective memory” regarding their successful 2014 playoff run, writes Sam Mellinger of the Kansas City Star. During the Wild Card game, the Royals were just a few outs from elimination against the Athletics. A series of improbable events led to a remarkable comeback victory. Without that first win, Ned Yost would be a punching bag in the media due to questionable decisions, Mike Moustakas would have entered the offseason with another disappointing season on his resume, and Lorenzo Cain would have failed to gain national acclaim. The postseason success also allowed the Royals to bolster their payroll, which should help in 2015.
- The Reds have two more arbitration players – Todd Frazier and Aroldis Chapman, writes Mark Sheldon of MLB.com. The club continues to talk to agents of both players in an effort to find a middle ground. Per GM Walt Jocketty, “we’re going to keep working on it this weekend and see if we can make some progress.” Both players have fairly substantial differences in their submitted figures. Frazier asked for $5.7MM compared to the club’s offer of $3.9MM in his first season of eligibility. Chapman’s camp submitted for $8.7MM while the Reds countered at $6.65MM. MLBTR’s Matt Swartz projected a $4.6MM payday for Frazier and $8.3MM for Chapman.
- The Reds are “pretty much done” with free agent signings, reports Sheldon. Cincinnati inked reliever Burke Badenhop earlier today and signed former closer Kevin Gregg to a minor league deal. Jocketty left the door open, saying he’ll see if “something pops up,” but it’s unlikely.
- Patience allowed the Indians to acquire and develop three of their semi-homegrown stars, writes the Plain Dealer’s Terry Pluto. Michael Brantley was a player to be named later in the 2008 CC Sabathia trade. It took him six seasons to breakout at the major league level. In 2010, Corey Kluber was acquired in a three team trade. As we know, he also took awhile to reach his ceiling. Catcher Yan Gomes is another important trade acquisition for the club. Cleveland sent pitcher Esmil Rogers to Toronto in exchange for Gomes and Mike Aviles. All three players never ranked among the top 100 prospects in the game, and they’re all under club control through at least 2017.
Over the past two seasons, Gomes, now 27, has established himself as Cleveland’s starting catcher and one of the better all-around catchers in the league. The Brazilian-born backstop has batted .284/.325/.476 in 223 games for the Indians since being acquired from Toronto. He played a career-high 135 games this past season and won his first Silver Slugger award, hitting .278/.313/.472 with 21 homers. He’s also regarded as a plus pitch-framer and has thrown out 35 percent of attempted base-stealers in his career. The Indians can currently control Gomes through his age-33 season, as he previously signed a six-year, $23MM contract that comes with a pair of club options valued at $9MM and $11MM.
As Tim points out, Gomes will be one of several notable catchers represented by Jet, whose agents also represent Brian McCann, Devin Mesoraco and Mike Zunino. Gomes joins an agency that represents 2014 AL Cy Young winner Corey Kluber and Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager, who inked a seven-year, $100MM extension earlier this winter.
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The Indians should be poised to contend for the AL Central title next year because the Tigers and Royals are going to take a hit in free agency, opines Paul Hoynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group in the latest edition of his “Hey, Hoynsie” column. Free agency won’t damage the White Sox, Hoynes adds, but they are in need of pitching to complement their power while the Twins are still putting together the pieces after four consecutive seasons of at least 92 losses.
Here’s more on the Indians from Hoynes:
- Manager Terry Francona had clauses inserted into his contract when he was hired by the Indians allowing him to leave if President Mark Shapiro or GM Chris Antonetti are fired. Would Francona ever follow Joe Maddon’s lead? Hoynes notes Andrew Friedman left the Rays voluntarily and isn’t sure whether such a departure by either Shapiro or Antonetti would trigger Francona’s opt-out.
- The Indians will not be bidding on the premier bats available in free agency (e.g. Pablo Sandoval (#5 on MLBTR’s 2014-2015 Top 50 Free Agents list), Victor Martinez (#6), Russell Martin (#8), and Nelson Cruz (#9), according to Hoynes, who sees the club setting their sights on the likes of Michael Morse (#28) and Ryan Ludwick (unranked) once other moves are made.
- Jose Ramirez will be the Indians’ 2015 Opening Day shortstop, Francisco Lindor is probably ticketed for Triple-A, and Zach Walters, acquired in the Asdrubal Cabrera trade, will have to make the team as a bench player.
- The Indians are not in the position of needing to trade their core players, so Hoynes would be surprised if Corey Kluber, Yan Gomes, or Michael Brantley are dealt this winter.
Baseball America has released its list of the top 100 amateur prospects for this year’s draft. Interestingly, both Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde are still listed in the top ten, despite the fact that the pair of collegiate righties will enter the draft fresh off of Tommy John surgery. Here are some notes from around the game:
- Free agent reliever Todd Coffey impressed in a workout today, throwing his fastball consistently in the low-90s, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (Twitter links). He could sign by the weekend, according to Passan. Twelve to fifteen clubs were represented at the showcase today, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish lists some of the clubs in attendance. From the American League, the Tigers, Mariners, Astros, Athletics, and Orioles sent scouts, while the Braves and Diamondbacks were among the NL clubs on hand.
- Reliever Rich Hill of the Red Sox has an opt-out date from his minor league deal tomorrow, tweets Cotillo. The nine-year MLB veteran has been strong at Triple-A, throwing to a 2.84 ERA through 19 innings pitched with 10.4 K/9 against 4.7 BB/9.
- Diamondbacks top prospect Archie Bradley is set to begin throwing and move towards a return to the rubber, reports Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona (via Twitter). GM Kevin Towers said that the club does not have any further medical tests planned at present for the young hurler. Given his current situation, it seems that the club will exercise plenty of caution in promoting the 21-year-old.
- With the Rockies off to a hot start, Mark Kiszla of the Denver Post opines that the club should act decisively to seize the momentum by exploring a trade for Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. While the price will surely be steep, Kiszla sas that the team should be willing to deal either of the team’s two prized young prospect arms — Jonathan Gray and Eddie Butler — to make a deal.
- The Blue Jays never saw in Yan Gomes the potential that has been unleashed since he was dealt to the Indians, writes Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. In some part, says Davidi, that could be due to the fact that Gomes was buried in the minor league depth charts, such that he never caught more than 58 games in a single season. “Ultimately you wonder if we didn’t have other prospects that were so talented, if Yan had played more, would the development path have changed, would we have had a better feel for him?” Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos said. “We were finding places for him to play, but he was never the everyday catcher because there was always someone else who was there.” Gomes, of course, has excelled (and been rewarded with an extension) in Cleveland after coming over with Mike Aviles in exchange for reliever Esmil Rogers. “We always liked Yan,” said Anthopoulos. “Clearly he’s become a better player sooner than we would have expected. That’s not a slight against him, that’s a full credit to him.”
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The Indians have officially agreed to a six-year, $23MM extension with catcher Yan Gomes that includes two option years, as first reported by FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal (Twitter link). The agreement will cover two pre-arbitration seasons, as well as three arbitration years and a year of free agency (with two more free agent seasons under team control through the options). Gomes is represented by Players Edge Sports Management.
The two club options are valued at $9MM (2020) and $11MM (2021), reports MLB.com's Jordan Bastian (via Twitter). Gomes will receive a $500K signing bonus, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter links), and will earn the following annual salaries: $550K (2014), $1MM (2015), $2.5MM (2016), $4.5MM (2017), $5.95MM (2018), and $7MM (2019). The options can each increase by $3MM apiece based on escalator provisions, and come with a $1MM buyout.
Gomes enjoyed a nice season in 2013, slashing .294/.345/.481 in part-time play. However, he'll serve as the club's primary catcher in 2014 now that Carlos Santana has been converted to a third baseman. The 26-year-old did significant damage against left-handed pitchers last season, punishing them to a .327/ .376/.558 line, but his .336 wOBA against righties suggests he's more than just a nice platoon backstop. Advanced defensive metrics have also liked his work behind the plate.
If Gomes can replicate his 2013 numbers as the club's No. 1 catcher in 2014, the deal has the potential to bring major surplus value to the Indians. In just 88 games in 2013, Gomes generated more than 4 wins above replacement, according to Baseball Reference. And while not as club-friendly as the five-year, $7MM deal with three club options that catcher Salvador Perez agreed to with the Royals in 2012, Gomes' average annual salary of $3.83MM means there's limited risk here for the Indians.
The Brazilian catcher joins an increasingly crowded list of players who have been extended this offseason with between one and two years of service time. However, that list contains an outfielder, three starting pitchers and a shortstop. Instead, the most comparable deal on the books for Gomes' extension is that of his teammate, Santana. The Indians' new third baseman inked a five-year, $21MM pact early in the 2012 season. While Santana has the edge in yearly salary, Gomes' extra guaranteed year makes his deal the largest ever given to a pre-arb catcher.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
MONDAY: In the "Around the Horn" section of his latest column, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes that despite Santana's comments, club officials will wait until Spring Training to make a definitive call on his position. The team still hasn't ruled out using Chisenhall at third base, according to Rosenthal.
FRIDAY: Carlos Santana has served as the club's primary backstop for the last three seasons, but says he is preparing to play at the hot corner in 2014, according to ESPNDeportes.com's Enrique Rojas (Spanish language link). Though Santana was known to be trying his hand at a return to third — where he spent some time early in his professional career — this report indicates a much more serious likelihood of a position shift.
As Santana explains (all translation errors mine), he is only preparing to play third at this point in time. "Those are the plans of the team at this moment," Santana said. Indicating that the club asked him to give third a try, Santana said he "took a month thinking about it before accepting."
Santana seemed destined to spend less time at the catcher position anyway next season, for several reasons. To begin with, the 27-year-old's bat is good enough to play anywhere on the diamond. Last year, he posted a .268/.377/.455 triple-slash, including twenty home runs, in 642 plate appearances. That was good for a 137 OPS+, a particularly impressive mark given that Santana labored behind the dish for 84 games.
And while any player can theoretically be more valuable while playing a defense-first position like catcher, Santana had increasingly struggled at the spot. Defensive Runs Saved panned Santana's work in 2013, and recent pitch framing metrics (e.g., here and here) have viewed him as a poor framer. There were good reasons for Cleveland to limit Santana's defensive impact, though of course third is hardly the easiest position. (And UZR has not looked kindly on Santana's 942 2/3 career innings at first, though he told Rojas that he never felt comfortable there.)
Most importantly, perhaps, is the emergence of Yan Gomes, who was picked up from the Blue Jays in a deal that has strongly favored the Indians to date. The 26-year-old's emergence last year played a big role in fueling the club's Wild Card run. He hit .294/.345/.481 in 322 plate appearances, splitting time at catcher with Santana. In just 88 games, Gomes was worth 3.7 fWAR and 4.0 rWAR, drawing positive reviews for his defensive work.
The news on Santana could have hot stove implications. For one, it may explain why the club has done little to push Lonnie Chisenhall outside of inking David Adams, who has just 152 big league plate appearances under his belt despite the fact that he will turn 27 in May. For what it is worth, Santana is a better hitter from the right side (.855 OPS vs. .794 OPS hitting lefty), though he'd surely find his bat at another position in the lineup if he were to platoon at third.
Of course, if Cleveland no longer plans to give Chisenhall regular at-bats, it raises the question why the team was so hesitant to part with him in a prospective Matt Garza trade deadline deal. And if Santana were to spend significant time at third, it could make the 25-year-old a candidate to be dealt. He was once a top-25 prospect, and his career .694 OPS has come in only 682 plate appearances over three MLB seasons.
If Santana is able to play a passable third, moreover, it could impact the fate of both he and Gomes. Spending less energy behind the dish, and more time in the lineup, could lead to bigger offensive numbers for Santana. He would make for quite an interesting multi-position player, given his outstanding bat, and would increase his stock as a trade piece or eventual free agent. (He is signed through 2016, plus the Indians hold an option for the following season.)
As for Gomes, the shifting of the club's prized young catcher off of the catching position would open up a world of opportunity. Gomes would presumably be looked upon as the catcher of the future in Cleveland. The Oliver and Steamer projection systems (via Fangraphs) both project him to keep hitting at better than league average, and view him as a three or four win player in a full-time role. Eligible for arbitration after the 2015 season, Gomes would have a chance to build real value through arbitration or as an extension candidate.
Steve Adams contributed to this post.
Miguel Cabrera might have been hitting home runs in Anaheim if the Angels had been able to swing a deal for him in 2007, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports. The Marlins had Cabrera on the trade market, and the Angels offered Howie Kendrick, Jeff Mathis and either Ervin Santana or Nick Adenhart. But the Marlins wanted both Santana and Adenhart, and the Angels changed their minds about dealing Kendrick, and the trade fell through. Had the deal worked out, Shaikin says, Cabrera could have joined with fellow 2012 MVP candidate Mike Trout in the Angels' lineup. (Of course, Trout was acquired with the No. 25 pick in the 2009 Draft, which was a compensation pick for losing Mark Teixeira. If the Angels had acquired Cabrera, they might not have acquired Teixeira, which means it's possible they wouldn't have drafted Trout. They also would have had to sign Cabrera to a long-term deal, the way the Tigers did. Reimagining history can be complicated.)
The Marlins' side of the deal would have worked out a bit better, too. We'll never know what might have been with Adenhart, who died in an accident in 2009, and Mathis hasn't hit well. But Kendrick turned out to be a better player than any the Marlins got when they sent Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis to the Tigers for a package centered around Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin.
Here are more notes from around MLB.
- After Jesus Montero's demotion, his role in the Mariners' future is unclear, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. Mike Zunino now appears to be the Mariners' future catcher, and Montero will work on playing first base at Triple-A Tacoma. If Montero will play predominantly first base and designated hitter going forward, that puts him in an awkward position, because one of the reasons he was sent down in the first place was that his hitting wasn't particularly good even for a catcher. Still, the door remains open to Montero, Morosi notes, since Mariners first baseman Justin Smoak has not hit well, and main DH Kendrys Morales will be a free agent at the end of the season.
- Yan Gomes' play so far is creating a "pleasant problem" for the Indians, Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon-Journal writes. Gomes, who arrived in Cleveland with Mike Aviles when the Indians sent Esmil Rogers to the Blue Jays last offseason, is hitting .311/.328/.672 with five home runs in 61 at bats so far. His performance suggests he might be able to one day become an everyday catcher, not just a utility player who catches occasionally, Ocker writes. Carlos Santana is, of course, the Indians' starting catcher, but if Gomes keeps hitting, the Indians will have to find a way to get him more playing time.
- The Dodgers were criticized for absorbing hundreds of millions of dollars in salary (and giving up five players, including prospects Allen Webster and Rubby De La Rosa) when they acquired Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford, Josh Beckett and Nick Punto from the Red Sox last August. But, MLB.com's Lyle Spencer tweets, Gonzalez, Crawford and Punto have been the Dodgers' three best position players this year. Of course, that says more about the Dodgers' offense than anything else — the Dodgers are scoring just 3.39 runs per game, second-to-last in the National League.
The Twins are piecing together a "promising future," and Miguel Sano, who is hitting .362/.457/.681 for Class A+ Fort Myers, is a key part of that, argues ESPN's Buster Olney writes (Insider-only). Byron Buxton, the No. 2 overall pick in last year's draft, has also played brilliantly in the minors, hitting .331/.436/.574 for Class A Cedar Rapids. Minor-league pitchers Kyle Gibson and D.J. Baxendale have performed well, too. Olney cites Peter Gammons' comparison of the Twins to the 2007-2008 Texas Rangers, who were about to emerge as an AL powerhouse. Here are more notes from the Central divisions.
- Mark Reynolds, who is batting .263/.353/.564 this season, could be hitting his way out of the Indians' price range for 2014, Sheldon Ocker of the Akron Beacon Journal writes. If Reynolds keeps hitting, the only way he'll still be in Cleveland in 2014 is if the Indians sign him to a contract extension before he hits free agency. Ocker also suggests that the Indians should sign Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis to multi-year deals.
- Yan Gomes' play makes the offseason trade that brought Gomes and Mike Aviles to the Indians for Esmil Rogers look like "a steal," MLB.com's Jordan Bastian writes (on Twitter). Gomes has hit .273/.283/.545 for the Indians this season, and Aviles has also been productive. Rogers' meanwhile, has struggled out of the Blue Jays' bullpen.
- The Reds would like to keep Shin-Soo Choo beyond this season, Ken Rosenthal says in a video at FOXSports.com. Choo has hit .314/.462/.569 this year, however, and Rosenthal notes that the thought of shopping a hot-hitting outfielder on the free agent market this winter must be tempting to Scott Boras, who represents Choo.