3:06pm: The Indians announced that Gomes has been placed on the disabled list with a separated A/C joint and will miss the next four to eight weeks due to the injury. Perez has been activated in his place.
7:58am: Indians catcher Yan Gomes suffered a separated right shoulder in yesterday afternoon’s game against the Twins when he tumbled following a close play at first base and will be placed on the disabled list, writes Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. The injury could bring Gomes’ 2016 season to an end, he adds. Fellow backstop Roberto Perez is set to be reinstated from his own stint on the disabled list in Gomes’ place. Perez has been out since the first week of May after undergoing surgery to repair a fractured thumb.
According to Hoynes, the immediate response from the club was that even with the loss of its starting catcher for what could be the rest of the year, Cleveland doesn’t plan to pursue a more established catcher like Jonathan Lucroy via the trade market. The team’s belief is that Perez can hold down the fort as the primary catcher for the remainder of the season, with Chris Gimenez continuing to serve as the top backup option.
Of course, it’d be a surprise to see Cleveland brass plainly state that the plan was to pursue an upgrade on the trade market, and despite whatever the team wishes to publicly state, catcher is and has been an unequivocal weakness for the team all season long. Hoynes reported on Saturday that Cleveland valued Gomes’ defensive contributions to the point where it wouldn’t look for an upgrade in spite of his offensive woes, but the 28-year-old (29 tomorrow) has batted a woeful .165/.198/.313 at the plate this season. Gimenez’s .188/.231/.271 line isn’t any better, and Perez was hitless through 15 plate appearances prior to his injury (though he did have six walks).
All told, Cleveland catchers have been far and away the least productive collection of backstops in all of Major League Baseball this season, hitting a combined .169/.216/.299. That production more closely resembles the league-average pitcher (.134/.163/.171) than it does the league-average catcher (.240/.308/.384). The 27-year-old Perez offers some hope, to be sure, having posted very solid OBP and slugging marks in spite of a low average in 2015 when he batted .228/.348/.402 in 226 plate appearances. He hit well in 24 plate appearances on his rehab assignment as well, though the bulk of that work came at Rookie ball, and a sample of 24 PAs is hardly indicative of things to come anyhow. Moreover, Perez is returning from a thumb operation, and it’s not uncommon for players to struggle at the plate in the early stages of their returns from thumb, hand or wrist surgery.
The Indians may indeed wish to see how Perez handles his first few games back from the disabled list before pursuing any outside help, but it’s hard to imagine that the front office won’t be at least gauging the price on potentially available backstops. Even in the event that they don’t wish to pay a prohibitive price for a top-tier option such as Lucroy, the market features a number of rentals that are currently performing well (e.g. Nick Hundley, Kurt Suzuki) and several other options that won’t come at such a premium cost, as I wrote last week when examining the 2016 trade market for catchers.