Emotionally, trading Yan Gomes for a Double-A outfielder and a rookie reliever still doesn’t track. We’re talking about Gomer, member of the Goon Squad, All-Star catcher of the Cleveland Indians. His salary, guaranteed $7 million for 2019 and nothing else but a $1 million buyout, was too much?
Through watery-eyes, the answer is no.
Taking a Kleenex to those eyes, does this make more sense? Intellectually, was this the right deal for Gomes?
Let’s talk about Gomes. He’s 31 years old and will turn 32 during the next season. He’s not at the bottom, but he is on the wrong side of the aging curve. Though aging curves are averages, and outliers exist on either side of the line, few players stay well above the line after 30.
Because of his fluky, injury-riddled 2015 and 2016 seasons, Gomes’ wRC+ curve does not match the bell curve of average players. That said, those who truly beat the bell curve are Hall of Famers, and Yan Gomes has about 40 bWAR left to accumulate in his career (per JAWS) to reach that standard, and, uh, that ain’t happening. Gomes posted his best wRC+ numbers in his age-25 season, at 128, which matches the average player, whose numbers start to decline from there. By age 30, players lost about 20 points from their peak, which aligns with Gomes’ 101 wRC+ from last season.
You could extrapolate a 5-point decrease in wRC+ for each of the next few seasons, setting Gomes up for a 85 wRC+ in 2021, the last possible year of his deal. However, league-average wRC+ for catchers in 2018 was 84; thus, assuming health and steady catcher offense, Gomes could produce better-than-average offense throughout the life of his contract. Considering Gomes was also 12th in adjusted framing runs allowed (9.6), it seems likely he can hold on to some defensive value as well.
In fact, FanGraphs’ dollar values rated Gomes at $17.8 million last year, or $11.85 million in surplus value on his $5.95 million salary. Even with declines built in for age, it seems likely that Gomes will retain surplus value through the last two years of his contract.
So what about the return?
Craig Edwards of FanGraphs’ recently came up with a great new way to put values on prospects, which you should read. Daniel Johnson, who was rated fifth in the Nats’ system prior to the trade, was given a future value of 45 by FanGraphs; Jefry Rodriguez was last evaluated before the 2016 season and given a 40+ FV. Batters of Johnsons’ ilk were valued to be worth 0.7 fWAR or $6 million; pitchers like Rodriguez were valued at 0.1 fWAR or $1 million.
If the teams value prospects similar to the way FanGraphs does, the deal breaks down to the Nationals taking on a minimum of $8 million (Gomes’ contract guarantees $7 million in 2019 and has options of $9 million and $11 million for 2020 and 2021, with $1m buyouts either year, making the maximum the Nats would pay $27 million) in exchange for $7 million of prospect value. That’s pretty even, with the Indians assuming a decline in surplus value coming from Gomes over the last couple years of the deal and a surfeit of value from Johnson and Rodriguez over their cost-controlled (read: super duper cheap) seasons.
On that basis, intellectually this deal makes sense. Does that mean it’s a deal I would have made?
*Dabs eyes with Kleenex again*