Yesterday, Indians catcher Yan Gomes tripped awkwardly (is there a way to trip gracefully?) over first base and landed on his shoulder, suffering a severe separation. The news is exceptionally bad, as Gomes seems likely to miss the rest of 2016 with the injury, and Roberto Perez has been recalled from his rehab assignment to take over starting duties.
Gomes has had a rough couple years since signing a five-year, $22 million contract after the 2014 season. In the fifth game of 2015, he sprained his MCL. He rushed back, and was awful for the rest of the way, taking major hits to his walk rate and striking out more often than ever before. His OPS+, which was 74 thanks to a .231/.267/.391 batting line, ranked 23 out of 28 catchers who batted at least 300 times.
Somehow, he’s been even worse in 2016, hitting a paltry .165/.198/.313 and ranking dead last in OPS+ among catchers with more than 200 plate appearances. No amount of excellent defense can make up for that lack of production.
For now, the Indians have to hope that they’ll be in better hands with Perez, who hit .228/.348/.402 last year as Gomes’s backup and replacement. Perez broke his thumb before he had even had a chance to record a hit in 2016, and has a deeply weird .000/.400/.000 line in 15 plate appearances, thanks to his excellent eye. He was originally expected to be back in August, but the Indians have accelerated his timetable after he excelled in a nine-game tune-up.
The good news is that, with a six and a half game lead in the AL Central, the Indians might not have to make a move to reach the postseason. Their pitching remains incredibly dominant, Michael Brantley is currently out on a rehab assignment and could return soon, they can upgrade elsewhere, such as third base, and it won’t take much for Perez to outperform Gomes.
Still, given Perez’s limited track record, the Indians would probably be wise to explore the trade market with less than two weeks to go before the deadline. As we discussed last week, there are several perfectly decent catchers available at the deadline. Given Gomes’s contract, they probably would not want more than a rental, putting them out of the running for catchers like Jonathan Lucroy and Stephen Vogt. Kurt Suzuki, who has hit .284/.324/.431 this year and (unless his option vests) is only under contract for the rest of 2016, would be one good fit.
The Indians value catcher defense, however, than Suzuki doesn’t have that. Nick Hundley is better at framing and controlling the running game than Suzuki, and has hit .252/.350/.439 for Colorado in limited action this year and could hold down the role for the rest of the year if given the opportunity.