The St. Louis Cardinals have made it a priority this offseason to improve the defense. Free agent center fielder Carlos Gomez would accomplish that and be the perfect fit.
The St. Louis Cardinals and John Mozeliak want to add a hitter this winter and prefer that they come with an above-average glove. Mozeliak has stated that the target is a center fielder while former center fielder, Randal Grichuk, will be moved to left field.
There are three avenues through which the Cardinals can acquire this player: free agency, trade, or promotion. Promotion isn’t realistic for the Cards considering their best CF option, Harrison Bader, isn’t quite MLB ready. A trade is difficult to set up and would cost value in terms of dollars and players. Free agency is the simplest route but this year’s available players make up one of the weakest free agent markets in baseball history.
Dexter Fowler, Yoenis Cespedes, Ian Desmond, and Carlos Gomez headline the available outfield free agents. Fowler isn’t the right move for the Cardinals and would likely be a deal that Mozeliak ends up regretting down the road. Cespedes is an intriguing option but that would result in Grichuk to remain in CF which doesn’t seem to be Plan A. Ian Desmond has a great bat, but his CF defense is horrible and likely not what the St. Louis Cardinals are interested in. Gomez, however, seems to be a perfect fit.
Firstly, Carlos Gomez makes financial sense because he is not tied down by a qualifying offer. This means that if the Cardinals do sign him to a contract, they do not forfeit a draft pick to the Texas Rangers. Gomez was traded to the Rangers mid-season which disqualifies him from receiving the QO. Fowler, Cespedes, and Desmond all have a qualifying-offer attached to them.
Gomez is also seeking a multi-year contract which works in Mozeliak’s favor. The Cardinals currently are the 5th youngest team in baseball and have young talent that is near-ready in the minor leagues. Harrison Bader looks like Stephen Piscotty 2.0 but as a center fielder. With a multi-year contract to someone like Carlos Gomez, this provides the Cardinals and Bader with time to find out what the future outfield will be. And despite being in the league for 10-years so far, Gomez is only 30-years old.
The other benefit of pursuing Carlos Gomez is that he shouldn’t come at a high price. Gomez had an interesting 2016 season where he struggled mightily in Houston but joined the Rangers and did very well.
In 85 games with the Astros in 2016, Gomez batted .210/.272/.322 with nine home runs and 29 RBI. He was then dealt to the Texas Rangers where he seemed to be rejuvenated. Through 33 with the Rangers, Gomez slashed .284/.362/.543 with eight home runs and 24 RBI. Gomez’s agent, Scott Boras, credits his rebound to the Rangers helping Gomez improve his vision. If his eyes were the problem and are now fixed, Gomez could return to his All-Star caliber self.
Furthermore, Gomez has shown something else that the Cardinals have severely lacked in recent seasons: the ability to steal bases. Carlos Gomez has stolen more than 30 bases four times in his 10-year career and has never stolen less than twelve. The outfielder’s speed was utilized heavily while he played for the Milwaukee Brewers where he recorded three straight seasons of 34 stolen bases or more. However, since he leaving the Brewers mid-way through 2015, he has only recorded 21 stolen bases.
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Between Gomez’s speed and his bat, Matt Carpenter could be moved off of the lead-off spot and be in a position to increase production. The Cardinals have previously tried to move Carpenter to the No. 2 or No. 3 spot in the lineup but had no one to adequately fill the void he left at lead-off. If Gomez’s production for the Rangers is any sign of what’s to come, then his ability to get on base and steal would be a welcomed sight at the top of the order.
Finally, Carlos Gomez would be the perfect fit for the St. Louis Cardinals because of his defense. Similar to his bat, Gomez struggled defensively for the Astros in 2016. He had a minus-6 defensive runs saved while patrolling Tal’s Hill with a minus-0.5 Ultimate Zone Rating. However, after joining the Rangers he again showed signs of his former Gold-Glove self recording a 1.0 UZR along with two defensive runs saved.
It also should be noted that his 2016 defensive metrics were the worst of his career and his career UZR average is 14.0 while playing center field. Gomez’s great speed and arm make him a great candidate to fit into center field for the Redbirds and despite his sub-par 2016 season, he still would have made the Cardinals defense better.
The Cardinals want to improve their defense and deepen the batting order. The best way to do that via free agency, is to add Carlos Gomez. The guy can hit, field, and run at an All-Star caliber level. Also, he would come cheaper than a lot of the alternatives given his “down” season but the 10-year veteran still has a lot of life in him.
Giving Gomez a chance would pay off big time as John Mozeliak looks to make that next great acquisition this winter. Signing the 30-year old outfielder to a multi-year deal would stabilize the outfield defense as well as give the lineup another threat.