For this week’s Wroundtable discussion, I asked out staff of writers what they would do with Yan Gomes. It’s more than obvious that he is a better option than Lou Marson right now, but is he better than just a back up? SHould the Indians adjust their lineup in order to fully utilize Gomes’ potential? After hours of arguing with one another and close to 100 emails later, this is what each of us decided on. And for the record, I’m not lying. We spent 12 hours arguing about Yan Gomes. Baseball is weird sometimes.
Geordy Boveroux: The best way to handle Yan Gomes is to do what we have been doing with him. Having him start 1-2 times a week is fine. A hot streak and reputation for handling the pitching staff well does not automatically merit starting him over arguably the top young catcher in the game. Situations have been discussed along the lines of making Santana a full-time 1B/DH, moving Swisher to RF, or having Reynolds at 3B full-time. However, that would negate any defensive edge that is gained by having Gomes be an everyday player.
Reynolds only played 15 game at 3B in Baltimore last year. That’s with the Orioles desperate for third base help. They used the likes of Wilson Betemit and eventually had to rush top prospect Manny Machado probably long before they wished to. Machado’s success there is a moot point, but it shows how little faith they had in Reynolds’s glove. Swisher is adequate in RF, but forcing Stubbs to a fourth outfielder role takes away the Gold Glove caliber defense he brings, along with his 20/20 offensive potential.
Santana’s offensive potential makes him an average to above-average 1B/DH, but a top-5 catcher. We would lose that offensive advantage, for almost no defensive gain while giving a player who hit .204/.264/.367 last year an everyday gig because he had a two home run game.
It’s not broke. Stop trying to fix it.
Steve Kinsella: Slow and steady wins the race. Yan Gomes is performing well in a limited role and one where he isn’t rusting out as. There will be plenty of time through the natural flow of the remaining season for him to get more playing time. When the dog days of summer come upon the Indians and they still have a spring in their step we’ll all be smiling.
Merritt Rohlfing: Until further notice, Yan Gomes is a backup catcher. It’s totally great to have a guy behind the dish on days Santana needs to stand up who can actually hit the ball more than 120 feet, but his inability to take a walk is a bit off-putting. He’s not going to keep his slugging percentage up above .600, or .500 for that matter, because he’s just not a superstar. Maybe he could be and this is all found money, but he never hit more than 13 homers in a single season in the minors, though he did knock a chunk of doubles. Even there though, a lot was in Las Vegas, a high elevation homerfest, so I’m not impressed (though he had similar numbers in the Eastern League, famously a pitcher’s league). They should hold onto him, he’s a great backup guy, but let’s not go crazy here. I want him to prove me hideously wrong, but his being an everyday catcher just makes Santana’s value less as a first baseman, moves Swisher somewhere, and might end up with Reynolds as the third baseman. None of this is conducive to the Indians winning. So to sum up, Yan Gomes – backup catcher extraordinaire.
Kyle Downing: Since acquiring Yan Gomes this offseason, the Indians have been after the answer to one question: Does he have what it takes to be an everyday catcher in the major leagues? The hope was that we could save Santana’s knees and lengthen his career by moving him to first base or the designated hitter slot full-time. Due to Marson being injured, Gomes got the chance to prove himself sooner than expected. The sample size has been small, but not insignificant, and a .302/.309/.642 batting line and a caught stealing rate of over 50% is hard to ignore.
If the question has been answered early, it’s pointless to delay the process. Chisenhall’s failure to live up to expectations has caused a choice between Reynolds and Aviles playing full-time at third. Nick Swisher is proving to be an incredible defensive asset at first, so the case for moving Gomes to full-time catcher would call for Santana to take over DH duties full-time, occasionally moving behind the dish when Gomes needs to rest his knees. This means we get to keep all our best bats in the lineup, while upgrading our defense behind the plate (Gomes is clearly a defensive improvement over Santana) and living with Reynolds’ slightly below average defense at third base.
The other option is to keep Gomes as a backup catcher, leaving things as they are with Reynolds as the full-time DH and moving Aviles to third full-time. There are multiple problems with this. First off, based on a similar sample size from both, Gomes’ bat is clearly an improvement over that of Aviles, particularly his slugging numbers. Second, moving Aviles to full-time at third base means we deplete our infield depth by making one of our bench players a position player. Third, the defensive upgrade of Aviles over Reynolds is negated by the defensive downgrade of keeping Santana behind the plate instead of having Gomes there daily, firing bullets like he does.
Brian Heise: It’s clear simply from the eye test that Gomes is a better option right now than Lou Marson (Sorry, ladies). But, that doesn’t mean I’d be willing to completely alter my lineup so he’s playing every day. He might be the best option to be the full-time catcher at some point in the future, but that future isn’t right now. The sample size is way too small for me to just hand over the keys to the pitching staff and insert him in the lineup every day. Who is the odd man out in that scenario? Stubbs? His speed is too valuable and has made life difficult on opposing defenses, especially in late inning situations. And do we really want Mark Reynolds playing third base on a full-time basis? That’s probably not in our best interest. For now, the safe play is to use Gomes 2-3 times per week to provide rest for Santana or possibly other players.