Nationals Acquire Jonny Gomes

The opening salvo of the last week of trading season has been fired… and by the Washington Nationals, who sit 15 games back of the Phillies for the NL East race and nine games back of the Braves for the NL Wild Card. The Nationals pulled the trigger on a deal with the Cincinnati Reds acquiring left fielder Jonny Gomes for minor league pitcher Chris Manno and outfielder Bill Rhinehart.

Wait, what?

The impetus of this deal for the Reds is simple. Chris Heisey has been an above average hitter and has earned time in the left field hole for Cincinnati. With Gomes’s usefulness limited to his performance against left-handed pitching, Heisey has made him redundant. The movement of Gomes makes room for Yonder Alonso to come up and add another left-handed bat to the outfield mix and to the bench.

The thought process for the Nationals, however, is not so clear. The reward for the Nationals appears to be a right-handed platoon partner for Laynce Nix. Gomes does crush left-handers to the tune of a .382 wOBA for his career and a whopping .426 wOBA so far this season. He’s effectively worthless against righties — a .319 wOBA career and .296 this year — and in the field, where he carries a -38 career UZR in about four seasons’ worth of plate appearances in the corner outfield positions.

The Nationals must be banking on Gomes’s projected Type B free agent status, as the 30-year-old will hit the free agent market at the conclusion of the season. With Gomes making $1.75M plus performance bonuses this season, the highest he’s ever made, one has to wonder if he would be willing to eschew the guarantees of arbitration and hit the open market instead. An arbitration award would likely pay around $2.5 million, and at this point in his career there’s no reason for Gomes to assume he can pick up a multi-year deal.

For the rights to a half-year rental platoon player who may or may not bring in a draft pick via the compensation system, the Nationals gave up two minor leaguers with potential. Rhinehart has a .280/.375/.579 line in Double-A this year, but at age 26 will need to prove it in Triple-A before he is taken seriously as a prospect. Manno has been fantastic in his first 61 professional innings, posting an FIP under 2.00 and striking out a whopping 91 batters, although like Rhinehart, at age 22 he’s been a bit old for rookie ball in 2010 and Single-A this season.

Still, it’s very difficult to truly justify this move for Washington. Is a chance at a pick in the 40-60 range, maybe lower, worth the rights to the promise, however slim it may be, of these two prospects? Apparently, Mike Rizzo and the Nationals think so, because what little production Gomes offers in the 2011 season hardly presents any value to the club. Regardless, it’s a curious deal at best for the Nationals, and the Reds unload a redundant piece, free up a roster spot, and pick up a couple of potential major leaguers in the process.

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28 Responses to “Nationals Acquire Jonny Gomes”

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  1. Nick says:

    Some speculation that the Nats might ship Jonny soon.

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  2. kick me in the GO NATS says:

    I am not happy with this trade. I hope he is shipped along as Nick says.

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  3. Cody Vaughn says:

    I saw the announcement of the trade and came to the same conclusion, only without the the numbers to back it up.

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  4. Sean says:

    The deal makes some sense to me, which may surprise some since I’m a big fan of Chris Manno. First of all, Nats fans should rejoice because this likely means the end of Matt Stairs’ time in DC. With all of the fringy LH hitting OF’s the Nats have (Nix/Bernadina/Ankiel), Gomes will start against lefties and get spot starts against righties. I think what the Nats are really banking on is that Gomes will start hitting with semi-regular playing time (only 7 starts and 31 PA in July) and they can flip him sometime in August if he does so. If not, it’s not like they gave up any blue chippers for him (apologies to Manno, but there is no guarantee his funky delivery will get AA guys out let alone ML ones down the road).

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  5. William says:

    maybe the nats will flip him to tb in a deal for upton

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  6. DWrek says:

    I dunno, just because youre not gonna win the division, doesnt mean you cant try to win a couple more games. Really doesnt seem like theyre giving up much.

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    • Danny says:

      What’s the point in just trying to “win a couple more games” when you have no chance at the playoffs if it means giving up someone who could help you for years down the road?

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      • kylegocougs says:

        the chances are that NO prospect will make the show. The chances that either of these guys can obtain whatever WAR Gomes is worth over the next 50+ games is slim.
        I’ll take my .4 war now please!
        Garbage prospects (and good ones) are being far to over valued in the league right now. Sure some will be studs but an infinite more will suck.

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      • LL says:

        What you’re missing is that the value of WAR added is relative to a team’s expected wins and standings. Certainly .4 WAR is useful. But if it only gets you to 79 wins, say, instead of 77, or 4th place instead of 5th in the division, it means nothing. So, yes, the WAR given up in the form of prospects is speculative, in that it may never come to pass. But the WAR gained is *guaranteed* to be worthless. Speculative WAR > No WAR.

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  7. Flharfh says:

    Baffling on the Nats part unless they flip him.

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  8. Whoa says:

    Rhinehart is 26 (!) and not in Triple A yet and is hitting well in his 3rd or 4th go at Double A? What kind of potential do you see with him, Jack Moore? Lazy analysis.

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  9. Pat says:

    If the Blue Jays made this move, the same people would probably say it’s smart. Sure if you ask the GM he will say he likes Gomes and wants him to stay around, but really he did it for the pick and there isn’t much risk since he’s inexpensive. He’s also fairly useful as a strict platoon player or pinch hitter, but very overmatched as an everyday starter.

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    • Phillie697 says:

      I think the author is pretty clear on that point too… Trade him for a possible pick which you’d have to offer arbitration to him to get, and it’s not a slam dunk that he wouldn’t accept arbitration (I’m betting that he does), then you’ll end up paying $2 million for an OF you don’t want who is taking up a roster spot, and no pick.

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      • Will says:

        Who knows what type of gentleman’s agreement that Rizzo and Gomes could have come to about declining arbitration. Or perhaps Rizzo has some inside information about how Jonny Gomes has an irrational hatred of living in DC, and would never willingly play for the Nationals.

        I just hope Rizzo did his research before pulling the trigger on this trade.

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  10. Felonius_Monk says:

    I presume the Reds were planning on DFAing Gomes (or passing through waivers, however it works) at some point (if they really wanted Alonso up and were happy with the OF mix otherwise), so he’d have ended up being traded for a C-prospect anyhow. Seems like a fair risk for a possible B-pick from the Nat’s point of view, and the Reds get at least something back for a guy they were probably prepared to move for nothing. It’s an unconventional move but looks like a reasonable one for both teams.

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    • DD says:

      The Nats likely aren’t getting a pick out of this deal. As Jack says, Gomes isn’t likely to get multiple years in FA, so he will accept arbitration. I think the most likely scenarios are they flip him in August, or they really hope to resign him (likely through arbitration) and use him as a platoon guy/pinch hitter next year.

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      • JCA says:

        My initial reaction was, “the odds of the Nats seeing a pick for Gomes is next to nil,” but an arbtration awarded contract is not guaranteed. Let’s use Jack hypothetical $2.5MM award. I believe only 1/5 or 1/6 is guaranteed. If you are Gomes, and the Nats give every indication that you aren’t in their next year plans, would you take $1.5MM guaranteed from another team or the $400K – $500K and the likelihood you are stuck with a minor league contract late in the spring?

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  11. Barkey Walker says:

    I’m really confused. This is a player with 1.2 WAR by the end of July who is paid $1.2 million and might (as you say) resign for $2.5 million for 2012. Aren’t the Nats making out like bandits?

    Also, why is a league average wOBA is worthless?

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    • juan pierre's mustache says:

      the nats did it, so its wrong

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      • Phillie697 says:

        Either way I don’t think it matters that much in the grand scheme of things. $2.5 million for a Nix/Gomes platoon isn’t exactly the worst thing in the world; certainly teams, Nats included, have spent more money on more foolish things.

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    • Colin says:

      It’s not a good deal because they are flushing money and prospects (though not a lot) for a guy who doesn’t really get them anywhere. When you are rebuilding, you don’t waste any assets on players who can’t help you win in the future, which Gomes in all likelihood will not. All of his WAR this year is tied up in a hot April, just like last year’s was from a hot May. The rest of both seasons he was useless.

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  12. Victor says:

    We gave up a couple decent prospects for a platoon bat who crushes left handed pitching at the MLB level. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with this trade and it is the whole irrational lovefest with prospects these days that colors people’s analysis. This doesn’t break the bank in the slightest either.

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  13. Aaron says:

    Wherein Mike Rizzo does his worst Alex Anthopoulos impression

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    • Shaun Catron says:

      AA gives Bautista 5yr $64mm extension
      Rizzo gives Jayson Werth 7yr $128mm contract

      Score one for AA!

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  14. Dane says:

    Even if Gomes accepts arbitration having a bench bat that only costs you 2.5 mill and can crush lefties will help out the Nats, The prospects they sent would have had less impact in their careers for the Nats then Gomes will have this season and potentially next season for them.

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  15. camisadelgolf says:

    Rhinehart is not nor will he ever be a big league player. Chris Manno is a long shot, but he has a chance of becoming a LOOGy someday. If Gomes winds up being a type B free agent and rejecting the arbitration offer, this is a great deal for both sides. Otherwise, I’m on board with everyone else: wtf were the Nats thinking?

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  16. Earnet says:

    Well we have had time to see the progress. Clealy a mistake. Manno at the half at AA has a 2.7 ERA with B/A against about 225-230 . He clearly has a chance to become a very effective LOOGY or middle guy in the future

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