The Astros requested release waivers on Carlos Gomez earlier today, and in doing so cut loose a candidate who entered the season ranked second on the Spring Training edition of MLBTR’s Free Agent Power Rankings. The fall for Gomez has been astounding, to say the least. While a poor second half last year led to some concern, a solid season at the plate and in the field after an offseason of rest would’ve given Gomez five straight seasons of average or better offense — substantially better, in the case of 2013-14 — and an elite center field glove. Instead, he’s likely to become a free agent on Sunday once he clears release waivers and will sign for the pro-rated portion of the league minimum through season’s end — assuming he can get a MLB deal. Then, he’ll likely be left seeking a one-year deal in the offseason with the hope of re-establishing himself in 2017.
Gomez, though, can begin salvaging his stock with a strong performance over the season’s final six weeks, and his pursuit of that goal will likely begin on Sunday. He’s likely to sign with a contending club — non-contenders would rather evaluate younger options — and there are a number of potential fits. Let’s break them down…
Marlins: Miami is the one team that has been said to have interest in Gomez throughout his DFA process whose interest still looks legitimate. Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reported just yesterday that the Marlins were still in on Gomez, and now that he can be had at a more affordable rate, he makes even more sense. Miami lost Giancarlo Stanton for the season when he suffered a Grade 3 groin strain last week, and Gomez can help to round out their outfield alongside Christian Yelich, Marcell Ozuna and Ichiro Suzuki. Ichiro has been sensational this season, but he’s 42 and his production has waned since the All-Star break. Ozuna, too, has seen production diminish in recent weeks. Gomez, at the very least, could help keep the incumbent outfielders fresh, and he offers some pop and a great deal of speed off the bench even if he isn’t starting.
Giants: President of baseball operations Brian Sabean told Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News that the Giants are having internal discussions about Gomez earlier today, so there’s some degree of intrigue here. The Giants have an outfield alignment of Angel Pagan, Denard Span and Hunter Pence, with Gregor Blanco the primary reserve, but none of those starters are a shining beacon of health. Gomez could see time at any outfield spot and provide a nice bench piece down the stretch with some upside if he’s needed to step into a larger role.
Blue Jays: Toronto doesn’t stand out as an immediate fit for Gomez, but as MLBTR’s Jason Martinez noted when looking at the needs of American League playoff hopefuls earlier this morning, the outfield has become an issue for MLB’s lone Canadian club. Both Jose Bautista and Kevin Pillar are on the 15-day disabled list, and Michael Saunders has gone into the tank since the All-Star Break (.152/.275/.326 in 109 plate appearances). Toronto is currently starting Melvin Upton Jr. (who hasn’t hit whatsoever since being traded to the Jays) and journeyman Ezequiel Carrera in the outfield, making a Gomez gamble a potentially palatable course of action.
Tigers: Cameron Maybin is on the disabled list, leaving Tyler Collins and Alex Presley as Detroit’s primary options in center field. Detroit is scrambling a bit with Jose Iglesias and Nick Castellanos also on the DL — as evidenced by their acquisition of Erick Aybar — and bringing Gomez into the fold for scarcely more than $100K should have some appeal as they look to remain in the hunt for the AL Central or, at least, an American League Wild Card berth.
Rangers: Texas has lost Shin-Soo Choo for the season, and while they’re equipped to handle the loss, they could still look at Gomez and see a player with more upside than current bench options such as Drew Stubbs, Delino DeShields and Ryan Rua. Gomez hasn’t performed better than any of that trio this year, with the possible exception of DeShields, but his track record is considerably more impressive than any of the bunch.
Nationals: Washington will soon get Ryan Zimmerman back from the disabled list, which will likely push Daniel Murphy back to second base and Trea Turner to center field, thereby supplanting Ben Revere and his disappointing .211/.258/.297 batting line. As such, the need to roll the dice on a player like Gomez may not be as great as it would be with a longer-term injury to Zimmerman. However, Danny Espinosa’s bat has also completely cratered since July, and Turner could instead take regular at-bats at shortstop in his stead, or at least serve as part of a rotation between center field, second base and shortstop should the Nats decide to add Gomez.
Cardinals: ESPN’s Mark Saxon reported yesterday that there was “nothing doing” on the Gomez front, thanks in part to Randal Grichuk’s Herculean production in the week since he’s been recalled from Triple-A. The Cardinals, though, will still be without Matt Holliday for most of the remaining regular season, and Gomez would add a center-field capable player with plenty of upside that could deepen the roster both in September and in the postseason, even once Holliday returns.
Mets: Like the Cardinals, the Mets were initially linked to Gomez before later reports threw cold water on the concept. ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin said earlier this week that the Mets weren’t interested in trading for Gomez, but signing him as a free agent for the pro-rated league minimum could be another story. Yoenis Cespedes is on the disabled list, Juan Lagares is out for the year, and the Mets are struggling in virtually all facets of the game right now. It’s not uncommon to see fading teams shake things up with a personnel change late in the season, and Gomez at the very least would allow manager Terry Collins to stop crossing his fingers and penciling corner outfielders into the center field slot on his lineup card.