The Dodgers starting catcher vacancy is official and needs to be closed. The issue, however, goes far beyond the surface level predicament of the Dodgers needing to replace Yasmani Grandal’s top-tier offense. The Dodgers have two young catchers nearing the major leagues in Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz so jumping on someone like JT Realmuto may be the wrong move. A player like Yan Gomes, on the other hand, makes a lot of sense for the Dodgers.
The Dodgers potential desire to grab a catcher like JT Realmuto is understandable. The 27-year old catcher has delivered time and time again to prove that he is one of if not the best offensive catchers in all of baseball. But Realmuto’s dominance at the plate doesn’t tell the story of how good he is behind it.
Realmuto’s defense behind the dish is less than desirable. He had just one less passed ball than Yasmani Grandal in 2018 and a DRS of -7. So, if the defense is the concern just bringing Grandal himself back to Los Angeles could end up being the right move. Realmuto will cost prospects but, again, that is not the concern.
The worry for the Dodgers right now is clearing a path to the Major Leagues for not one, but two catching prospects. Will Smith, a 23-year old former first-round draft pick, is the closest to the majors and close behind him is Keibert Ruiz. Ruiz is just 20-years old and has garnered national attention with his quick development at such a young age. With the two of them in Triple-A and Double-A respectively, bringing on someone like Realmuto clogs the hole for them to develop into starting roles. Insert Yan Gomes.
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Gomes is not the prize fans would hope for. He is 31-years old, has not hit more than 20 home runs since 2014 and plays defense at a slightly better clip than both Realmuto and Grandal. In other words, Gomes is nothing special.
Last season, Gomes hit .266 with 16 home runs and a 103 OPS+ (fourth best in the majors). Defensively, Gomes had a 4 DRS and let six pitches get passed him. He also caught 29% of would-be base-stealers, just 1 percent higher than the league average.
But, the lack of flashy stats, the cheap contract and the lack of length on that deal could be exactly what the Dodgers are looking for. Gomes is not a special enough player to keep him in the starting role, Realmuto is. Gomes can easily be transitioned to a part-time position, split some time at first base and give way to the younger future of the Dodgers.
For the Dodgers, this is a move that would work financially as well as in the prospect return. Gomes is owed just $7 million for next season with club options for 2020 and 2021 worth $9 million and $11 million each. The Dodgers would have his veteran presence at a discount for 2019 and could choose to bring him back should the want to.
In terms of prospects, the Dodgers would more than likely get away with a fairly minuscule return. The Indians have talked about a rebuild and if they do choose to do that, Gomes will not be the main attraction on that roster. At 31-years old with middle of the road stats, the Dodgers will almost definitely get away with trading a few mid-level minor leaguers in a potential deal.
For the price tag both in prospects and cash as well as the brevity of his contract, the Dodgers could get the best of both worlds in a trade for Yan Gomes. The team would get a solid catcher for a season, pave a path for the prospects and avoid trading away those young guys for someone like JT Realmuto. Would Gomes be the end-all cure-all for this team? No. But, Yan Gomes could bring a veteran presence to the clubhouse and get the job done. A job the Dodgers need to fill.