Could the Indians Trade Away Half of Their Catching Duo?
Over the past two seasons, debate has raged among fans over whether or not the Indians should upgrade their catching position. This argument stems largely from the offensive production, or lack thereof, from their current two-headed monster of Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez. However, while the Indians attempted to improve the position in 2016 in a failed trade for Jonathan Lucroy, they continue to fall back on the duo’s defensive efforts as justification for standing pat.
Both players have shown an uncanny ability to throw out would be base stealers, helping control the running game and limiting what opposing teams are able to do on the base paths. Not only that, but the combination of Perez and Gomes have beautifully handled the starting rotation. The relationship between Gomes and Corey Kluber and Perez and Trevor Bauer is partly responsible for each pitcher’s success. The sense of familiarity that has come from working with the same battery mate cannot be overlooked, especially in this day and age of limited mound visits.
However, despite the duo’s best efforts defensively, it has been their combined offensive struggles that have caught the ire of the fan base.
Since his breakout campaign in 2014 when he slashed .278/.313/.472 with 21 homers, 74 RBI, and OPS+ of 117, Gomes has been a model for offensive ineptitude. From 2015 until the time of this writing, Gomes has slashed .218/.269/.385 with an OPS+ of 70 with an average of 11 homers and 38 RBI per season. Perez has been just as bad, slashing .207/.300/.345 with an OPS+ of 71 from 2014 through 2018. Again, one can argue, and I have repeatedly, that as catchers their primary value comes from their defense. Anything added with their bats is a bonus. But, how much longer can a World Series contender continue to operate under this premise?
Is the time finally right to trade Gomes or Perez?
Earlier today on ESPN 850, Jensen Lewis, Indians analyst for Sports Time Ohio, was asked about whether or not the Indians would consider trading top prospect Francisco Mejia in an effort to improve the team at the deadline. Lewis did not attempt to tip toe around the question stating that under no circumstance could he envision a scenario in which the Indians would trade away Mejia. He is too much a part of their future plans at this current juncture. Lewis stated, “it is much more likely at this point they would move either Gomes or Perez at the deadline.”
This is the first time anyone with ties or connections to the organization has suggested such a move. It makes sense, though.
Mejia’s progression is currently roadblocked by the Indians current catching duo. Without moving him to a different position, something the Indians have begun experimenting with, it is unlikely Mejia will be given a legitimate big league opportunity given the current situation. Barring injury, he is stuck in Triple-A Columbus. And, even as we saw this past week, injury is also no guarantee that Mejia will afforded an opportunity to show what he can and can’t do. Moving one of the two incumbents may be the only way to get Mejia to the bigs.
But, who would they move?
This is a much more difficult question to answer.
First, there is the aforementioned relationships with the starting rotation. Would the Indians really be so bold as to trade away Corey Kluber‘s preferred catcher? Would they be willing to part ways with Perez while Trevor Bauer is in te midst of a career year? The answer to both questions is yes, but for a clubhouse that has continually shown it values chemistry and loyalty it would not be surprising if they stayed with the status quo.
Certainly, some team would take one of them in the right deal, but more than likely any deal would include additional pieces. Yan Gomes is 30 years old and continues to show signes of decline at the plate. On top of that, he is owed $7-million in 2019, $9-million team option in 2020, and $11-million team option in 2021. Yes, the final two years of the deal each include a $1-million buyout, but the potential financial commitment for an aging catcher is not ideal.
The situation with Perez is similar, but less financially burdensome. One year younger, Perez is due $2.6-million in 2019, $3.6-million in 2020, a $5.5-million team option with $450k buyout in 2021 and $7-million team option with $450k buyout in 2022. However, unlike Gomes, Perez has failed to really deliver on his potential offensively. To make matters worse, Perez has fallen apart defensively this season, specifically when it comes to throwing runners out. For reasons that are currently unknown, he is unable to make a clean transfer or accurate throw to second.
All things considered, Perez is likely the odd man out.
While Gomes has a more proven track record, his financial commitment may not be something other teams would want to take on, especially in a rebuilding situation. Not only that, but the Indians may be hesitant to move on from their regular, every day catcher in favor of one who has shown small glimpses of being really good and another who is an unproven rookie. At the end of the day it just seems more likely that if one has to stay and one has to go in order to improve the team, Perez will be the one to go.
But again, whatever potential decision the Indians make will ultimately be predicated by what they are trying to accomplish with the trade and who the other team involved is. I know that seems like common sense, but fans often tend to think a team can just throw players A, B, and C into a trade and call it a day. It’s much more complicated than that.
All that said, do I believe the Indians are likely to move either Yan Gomes or Roberto Perez? No, I don’t. While Mejia has shown promise of being great in the minors, he is still too unproven for a team such as the Indians to make drastic move and commitment at such a critical position such as catcher. Expect them to fall back on the importance of chemistry and defense over offensive production. If that’s the case, it’ll be Gomes and Perez moving forward.