Outfielder Jonny Gomes says he intends to make a comeback, ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick reports on Twitter. The lefty masher, who is now 36, last played in the majors in 2015 and appeared briefly in 2016 in Japan.
Gomes was a productive part-timer as recently as 2013, when he played a big role for the Red Sox in a World Series-winning season. He took 366 plate appearances on the year, swatting 13 home runs and posting a .247/.344/.426 batting line — right at his career average (.242/.333/.436).
But Gomes struggled over the ensuing two seasons. He bounced from the Sox to the A’s in 2014, then joined the Braves as a free agent before being shipped to the eventual-champion Royals for a dozen-game stint. (Though he did not appear in the postseason for Kansas City, Gomes did play a notable role in the excellent victory parade.) He needed 583 trips to the plate to match that 13-homer output, slashing just .225/.321/.337 over that two-year span.
Despite the difficulties, Gomes was still useful when facing lefties in his most recent pair of MLB seasons. Indeed, his chief appeal lies in his work against opposing southpaws — who he has tuned up historically (.855 career OPS) — along with his hard-nosed style of play and noted clubhouse presence.
While he had hoped to return to the big leagues after wrapping up his disappointing stint with the NPB’s Rakuten Golden Eagles, Gomes wasn’t able to secure an opportunity. While he surely could have landed a minor-league deal, and acknowledged that would likely have been necessary, he suggested that he was interested only in signing directly onto a MLB roster at the time.
It’s all the more clear now that Gomes will need to earn his way back to the majors in spring camp — or, perhaps, through a stint in the minors to open the 2017 season — as his age, layoff, and recent track record make a guaranteed deal seem implausible. Given the respect he commands around the game, though, Gomes figures to find a chance with an organization.