More playing time, more production for Gomes

Our offseason player review series continues today with Yan Gomes, who quietly put together a strong offensive season.

PLAYER REVIEW: YAN GOMES

Age on opening day 2021: 33

How acquired: Traded from Indians for Jefry Rodríguez, Daniel Johnson and Andruw Monasterio, November 2018

MLB service time: 8 years, 83 days

2020 salary: $4 million (prorated $1,481,481)

Contract status: Signed for $6 million in 2021, free agent in 2022

2020 stats: 30 G, 119 PA, 109 AB, 14 R, 31 H, 6 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 13 RBI, 1 SB, 0 CS, 6 BB, 22 SO, .284 AVG, .319 OBP, .468 SLG, .787 OPS, 107 OPS+, -3 DRS, 0.2 fWAR, 0.6 bWAR

Quotable: “He just sees the game in a little different light. Sometimes that’s why it’s good to throw to him. It probably should’ve happened earlier in the season. Because he has a different view of what he wants to do and how to drive you through the game. The things we talk about before the game to what’s actually happening in the game are sometimes two different things, and we’re trying to get on the same page about that. But he did a great job for me tonight, really did great behind the plate. I was able to work well with him.” - Max Scherzer, Sept. 20, after pitching to Gomes for the first time this season

Thumbnail image for Gomes-in-Gear-Blue-Sidebar.jpg2020 analysis: Gomes entered his second season with the Nationals in a similar role as he did in his first. Though he was projected to share time behind the plate with Kurt Suzuki, his work assignments were likely going to resemble that of a No. 2 catcher, with Suzuki pairing up with ace Scherzer. Manager Davey Martinez, though, wanted to try Gomes out as Stephen Strasburg’s batterymate, and indeed they worked together for Strasburg’s two abbreviated starts before a wrist injury knocked him out for the rest of the season.

Over time, though, Gomes did reach a point where he was playing as much as (sometimes more than) Suzuki did. And in perhaps a telling sign down the stretch, Martinez had Gomes catch Scherzer’s last two starts. The duo worked well together, but overall Gomes did regress some defensively this season in the throwing department. His 18 percent caught-stealing rate was the lowest of his career and 6 percent worse than the league average.

At the plate, Gomes got off to a rough start, going hitless in his first 13 at-bats. Then he got hot and over his final 26 games batted .323 with four homers, 13 RBIs and an .877 OPS. He wound up with his best offensive numbers since he was first establishing himself in Cleveland in 2013-14.

2021 outlook: Signed for $6 million next season, Gomes is coming back. The question is whether the Nationals will view him as their No. 1 catcher, as a guy who will share the job with someone else (either Suzuki if he re-signs or another second-tier acquisition) or as the clear No. 2 behind a new top catcher.

Gomes does seem to hit better the more he plays, a trend that became noticeable late in 2019, when Suzuki was battling injuries, and continued into this season. But at this stage of his career, he’s probably never going to amount to a major threat at the plate. His value will come from having caught 721 big league games and from having worked with the Nationals staff for two full seasons.

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