Why Carlos Gomez? Some Conjecture

HOUSTON, TX - AUGUST 01:  Carlos Gomez #30 of the Houston Astros runs to second base in the eighth inning during their game against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Minute Maid Park on August 1, 2015 in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

My SDI colleague Matt Fisher recently wrote eloquently about the Rangers’ decision to sign Carlos Gomez to play left field for the rest of the season. And even though we’ve had about 72 hours for the dust to settle, there’s still a lot of healthy conversation about the move.

Some (like me) are in the “Whatever JD says is OK” camp while others (like Jeremy Stroop) are saying, “This makes no sense, he was terrible for Houston, what does he offer now that Ryan Rua doesn’t already provide?” I’ve given this a lot of thought and here’s my four-part theory:

Part 1:

Despite the on-field evidence we’ve seen over the past 13 months, the Rangers believe Gomez is still a highly talented ball player, much better than what he showed with the Astros. Rangers play-by-play man Dave Raymond talked to Gomez who told him that he was putting too much pressure on himself to be a leader in the young Astros clubhouse. Another theory that I have is that a big part of his struggles came from being crushed by the Astros culture.

Based only on what I’ve seen, I think the regime in Houston is very much like the highly-regimented “Cardinals Way” that Astros GM Jeff Luhnow spent nine years learning first-hand in St. Louis. Just watching his field manager, A.J. Hinch, talk to the media seems to me a dead giveaway to how controlled and outwardly emotionless he and others in the Houston organization are. That kind of old-school “respect-the-game” culture is anathema to a showboat bat-flipper like Carlos Gomez has always been. Being under the Luhnow-Hinch thumb may have left Gomez feeling tamped down like a pipeful of tobacco. I suspect he hated it there.

Part 2:

I’m 100% convinced that Team JD did Goldman-Sachs-level due diligence on the guy. I believe they checked not only with his former teammates in the Rangers’ clubhouse – Jonathan Lucroy and Prince Fielder (with the Brewers ), and Carlos Beltran (with the Mets) – but also with other contacts around the league. If they got any whiff of a truly cancerous potential, I don’t think they would do this deal.

Furthermore, I think they figure that the Rangers’ culture – fun and welcoming but thoroughly professional – can help him get right and thrive. If I’m right about this, it makes Gomez the perfect change-of-scenery candidate. Whereas if I (and the team) should be wrong, it only costs them ~$110 grand and they are no worse off than before. It’s a classic low-risk/high-reward scenario.

Part 3:

If Carlos Gomez – a two-time All-Star center fielder with Milwaukee – proves OK or better, he might be center-field insurance against Ian Desmond’s likely departure after this season. Desmond’s excellent play this year is probably going to earn him a huge contract this off-season, but I fear 2017 could be when his age-related decline begins. Don’t get me wrong, I have come to really respect Ian Desmond as a ballplayer and as a man. But if he does get a big contract next year there’s a very good chance he won’t be worth it. I mean haven’t we seen enough of that recently?.

Gomez, because of the dampening impact his disastrous time with the Astros could have on his market value, might be open to a 1-year pillow contract with Texas at the QO level for 2017. That will afford the Rangers more time to groom one of their young minor-league center fielders.

Part 4:

Why announce Carlos Gomez as the starter before he even went to Round Rock? I’m guessing they had to promise him the starting job. After all, he did have Miami (and who knows who else) sniffing around.

Of course, all of this remains to be seen. Quite frankly, I agree with my colleague Samuel Hale that I would much rather have Yasiel Puig. However, for the cost, I am fully OK with giving the Gomez deal a try. We know he has the talent, maybe his new teammates can help him unwrap it again.

Joe Stroop
I was a sports reporter in DFW throughout the 70s and 80s. I'm a former member of BBWAA and shared the Arlington Stadium press box with all the big boys. I'm here to remind you of the past. I own a Nokona.

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