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The Pittsburgh Pirates have some house keeping to take care of before the offseason gets underway. However, the market is already beginning to take shape.
One of the biggest needs, if not the biggest need, for the Pittsburgh Pirates this offseason is to find a productive catcher. The team went from having one of the best catching situations in baseball back in 2018 to see the position completely regress this past year.
The team saw Francisco Cervelli suffer another injury plagued season which led him to be cut by the team. Then catcher Elias Diaz, who somewhat broke out in 2018, took a complete step backwards. He saw his power drop off completely and looked very bad behind the plate. Jacob Stallings did turn some heads during the second half of the season, and should be viewed as the only secure catcher on the roster for next season. Nothing against Stallings, but he was out on waivers last season. This is very telling of how much went wrong with the team’s catcher’s in 2019.
Last month we did an article breaking down some of the catchers that would be on the free agent market. After this weekends option deadline, a new and very intriguing name became available. The Washington Nationals declined their $9 million option on veteran catcher Yan Gomes.
Gomes is a veteran catcher who has established himself as a good all around catcher in his career. Many likely remember him when he was with the Cleveland Indians, where he spent six seasons. He actually started in the Toronto Blue Jays organization and debuted for them back in 2012. The Jays traded the Brazilian native, along with Mikes Aviles, to the Cleveland Indians for pitcher Esmil Rogers.
Gomes put together a solid career with the Indians, showing a decent offensive skill set along with a strong defensive profile. Gomes is a career .245 hitter with an average of 14 home runs hit over his last five seasons. This is not a great offensive profile, but it is definitely more productive than what Elias Diaz provided last year. Furthermore, Gomes owns a career .175 ISO, showing that when he does hit, he hits for some power.
Where Gomes’ real value lies is his work behind the plate. In his career Gomes has averaged out to be a plus pitch framer, although saw himself around league average last year at -0.3 framing runs. With that being said, Elias Diaz rated as one of the worst pitch framers in baseball at -13.1 runs. Gomes also rated very well in terms of defensive runs saved, putting up five for the season. Once again, Diaz posted -23, one of the worst in baseball.
Jacob Stallings meanwhile posted strong numbers behind the dish, with six framing runs and 13 defensive runs saved. The question about Stallings has always been if he could be an everyday player.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates are able to bring Yan Gomes in and pair him with Stallings, the Bucs could get back to having a strong tandem behind the plate. Furthermore, Gomes’ veteran experience could help mold Jacob Stallings into an even better catcher, but also help develop some of the young arms in the system.
Gomes is coming off a down year and while he did hit 12 home runs, he posted one of the worst batting averages of his career. Still, he is a big defensive upgrade over Elias Diaz, who looked lost behind the plate at times this season. Gomes should fit into the Bucs financial range on a short-term bounce back contract. Gomes is just one season removed from an all-star game and a WAR over 2.0, so he definitely would be a worthy gamble.