Two nights ago, the Cleveland Indians took the lead in the World Series behind a dominant performance from
Corey Kluber Roberto Perez. The catcher belted two homers, and worked his pitchers through a tough Cubs lineup en route to a 6-0 win. It was just one game, but it was on the biggest of baseball stages. Stars are born in the postseason and Roberto Perez’ future just became a whole lot brighter. Now, before you go rushing off and quoting his offensive numbers during the regular season, consider what Perez means to the Indians.
Scout about Roberto Perez's ability to frame pitches in ALCS: "He got every borderline pitch. Every single one."
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 26, 2016
Perez greets Kluber coming off the mound after Coghlan K to tap him on the chest, something he does after every inning with every pitcher.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) October 26, 2016
The current research in baseball analysis shows that pitch framing may be the most underappreciated baseball skill. While we have developed a few methodologies and statistics to quantify pitch framing, there remains a great deal of uncertainty with respect to just how valuable the skill is to the outcome of a game. Different organizations likely value the skill differently, but Perez certainly has the skill. In a world where Tyler Flowers has a good-not-great reputation for pitch framing, and worked a .665 career OPS into a 2 year guaranteed deal last offseason, what type of value does Perez represent?
Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, that Perez keeps up something of a hot streak during this World Series. Is it really so far fetched to think the Indians should hand over the starting catcher spot to this guy? He has not impressed in the majors at the plate, but his defense, including his handling of the pitching staff, make up for it. Plus, Perez had a .305/.405/.517 line in AAA in 2014. He has hit before, and he just hit two homers in the World Series.
There are more reasons to consider Perez the long-term starter in Cleveland. The other option, Yan Gomes, is a former all-star under contract for at least two more years. The problem with Gomes is that he is 29, two years older than Perez, and coming off of back to back years battling injuries. When he has played, he’s hit at a rate about as well as Bud Norris, the relief pitcher for the Dodgers. If the Indians brass decides that Gomes and Perez are roughly equally suited to be the full-time starter in 2017, the possible return for Gomes is enticing. There is at least some reason to consider moving Gomes while he still has value. What if he’s just bad after 2 years of injuries and 29 years of catching on his knees?
I realize I am already dismantling a team that is currently competing in the World Series, but the appropriate foresight could ensure that the Indians head to more than one World Series this decade. Plus, they may need to replace their 1B/DH combo of Mike Napoli and Carlos Santana.
Let’s consider where Yan Gomes might lace them up next year.
The Braves front office have placed a ridiculous burden on themselves by declaring they will compete in 2017 in their new ballpark. They have emphasized the need for a veteran catcher, as well as a veteran starting pitcher or three. Gomes would be that veteran catcher, and he’s just the type of high-upside player that a rebuilding team should consider. The Braves likely do not have the requisite talent that the Indians would be looking for, but they have one of the best farm systems in baseball so any trade would theoretically be possible.
The Rockies have way too many outfielders. They also need a catcher because Nick Hundley simply is not the answer to anyone’s problems. Given that the Indians outfield was held together by some sort of Terry Francona voodoo magic this season, they might be in search of additional help out there. Or they trust in Michael Brantley, which is probably the way to go.
Tampa Bay Rays
Yan Gomes feels like a Rays type player. He’s pretty good, very unknown, and looks good in blue. The Rays don’t really have a 1B/DH type in their organization either, so they wouldn’t be ideal trade partners with the Indians, but the Rays have a way of being creative.
I’m fairly disappointed that the best trade partner for Yan Gomes is in the Indians’ own division as that makes this deal more unlikely, but the Twins need help. It’s time to move on from the Kurt Suzuki era. The new Twins’ brain trust has a lot on their plate and may well end up deciding to stall another year while their young prospects figure out the majors. However, they may go all AJ Preller on us and decide that they can compete in 2017. Gomes would be a huge improvement and could help the Twins pitching staff. The Twins match up because they have a glut of corner infield type guys without a real position. It strikes me that the Indians may be interested in Kennys Vargas, Trevor Plouffe, or Joe Mauer. (Did I really just say Joe Mauer?)
The reality is that Yan Gomes is not going anywhere this offseason. He’s coming off of two bad years and has significantly lower trade value right now, than if he establishes himself in the first part of next year. Furthermore, Terry Francona would have to feel pretty good rolling into 2017 Spring Training with two solid catching options and (at least) coming off a World Series appearance.