According to Susan Slusser, the Red Sox' seemingly inevitable deal with Jonny Gomes will be for two years at $5 million per year. With just a physical left between this point and the deal going final, I think it's time to call this one: Jonny Gomes will play for the 2013 Red Sox.
It's a deal that's difficult to judge with the information we have now. It's not clear what role Gomes will play--starter, platoon bat, bench player, or sommelier. He's certainly not being paid like a bench player (or sommelier), but it's all kind of up in the air right now as the Sox try to piece together a roster from the scraps left over from last season and the massive piles of money available to them.
Further complicating the issue is Gomes himself. He's never been a terribly valuable player--Fangraphs says that he's never hit a three-win season in his career, and Baseball Reference is even less impressed--and hasn't even managed to be consistently decent, swinging wildly from below replacement level to plus one or two wins with regularity. Consider, for instance, his wOBA over recent years:
Before you get too excited, his last season comes with a .348 BABIP, though 2009, interestingly, involved just a .309 mark. What's clear about Gomes is that he's a bad defender, which will hopefully be masked some by Fenway's left field, is capable of killing lefties, and is close to a Wily Mo level strikeout threat.
For some reason this deal just feels bad, and I thnk the reason behind this is because it's acknowledging that the Sox will be going with something of a half-measure in one outfield position, trying to put two half-players together to make one good one. While it's not clear what the Sox will do with Gomes yet, any non-platoon usage of him would be pretty crazy. Unfortunately, though, platoons rarely seem to work out to be nearly so productive as they look on paper, and any arrangement like this is going to make it easy for opposing managers to work the Sox into bad situations late in games. This would be much more comfortable if the Sox just got one decent outfielder instead.
Still, the platoon is ready-made. For all that he was slowed by injuries late, Daniel Nava has earned a chance to keep playing, and happens to hit righties a good deal better than lefties.
If nothing else, Nava is the kind of guy it's easy to root for, and Gomes is supposed to be a great clubhouse guy. That will be cold comfort if they combine to hit .260/.330/.400 with bad defense in left field, but with Gomes comes a possibility of big things, at least at home. He hits to left field with ridiculous regularity, which is of course the perfect type of guy to play at Fenway park. For all that he's an up-and-down guy, Gomes has a career .789 OPS, which could suddenly jump noticeably higher in Fenway. Just imagine the sort of boost Cody Ross seemed to get when he came here and then bump it up a notch. Who knows?
It's a move that will gain clarity as the offseason continues, and one that could work out fabulously for the Red Sox. Somehow, though, it just doesn't feel great. And I think that's because it's a safe move for the 2013 payroll, and a risky move for the 2013 lineup. As much as we don't want the Sox to overcommit to long-term deals, it feels like they should be able to avoid this kind of thrifty shopping. Make no mistake: at a cheaper price (like the one the As got him on last year) Gomes would have been a very smart pick up for the 2012 Red Sox, much in the way that Cody Ross ended up being. But in this 2012-2013 offseason there's so much money available that it just seems crazy that the Sox can't get someone who seems more certain than Gomes.