Red Sox Replace Carl Crawford with Polar Opposite

After years of having Manny Ramirez and then Jason Bay patrol left field in front of the Green Monster, the Red Sox made a dramatic change in course in 2011 by bringing in Carl Crawford. Instead of using the position to get another bat-first, hide-the-women-and-children defender into the line-up, the Sox opted for speed and defense instead. Crawford, of course, was a disaster, and the Red Sox took advantage of an opportunity to rid themselves of the remainder of his contract by shipping him to Los Angeles in August.

With their new found savings creating a hole in left field, the Red Sox have reportedly decided to go back to the old left field plan, and are nearing a two year contract with right handed slugger Jonny Gomes. Given that they already re-signed David Ortiz, DH is not open in Boston, so Gomes’ playing time is going to have to come in left field. And that makes this signing pretty interesting.

Because he spent 2009-2011 in the National League — 2 1/2 years with the Reds, half a season as a National — he’s played a decent amount of outfield during his career. However, he’s never been a regular OF in the American League, because AL teams have the ability to DH guys like Gomes, and both of his previous AL employers have taken advantage of that option.

With Tampa Bay from 2003-2008, he made 227 of his 354 starts — 64% — at DH. Last year with the A’s, he started 46 of 74 games — 62% — at DH. In five full seasons in the AL, Gomes has never started more than 50 games in the outfield in a single year. Even in the NL, when the DH wasn’t an option, Gomes only averaged 88 starts per year in the outfield. Put simply, no one has ever looked at Jonny Gomes as a regular option in the OF, because, frankly, he’s terrible out there.

In 3,500 career innings in the outfield, he’s posted a UZR of -37, which translates out to -13 runs per full season. DRS rates him even worse, coming in at -50, as does Sean Smith‘s Total Zone. Gomes is basically as bad as an outfielder can possibly be while still being considered a passable part-time player at the position.

Defensively, Gomes is basically Manny Ramirez. But, of course, the Red Sox have already seen Manny Ramirez play left field in Fenway Park, and while it was painful to watch, they also won a couple of World Series titles with him in left field. Bad outfield defense isn’t, in and of itself, a deal breaker, and there’s an argument to be made that sticking a horrendous defender in front of the Green Monster allows you to hide his deficiencies, since the proximity of the wall to the plate means that there’s just less ground to cover.

With a two year deal for Gomes, the Red Sox are set to test that theory once again. While he’s almost certainly not going to be an everyday player for Boston, he had enough leverage as a free agent to ensure that he’s going to be in the mix for fairly regular playing time, perhaps in some kind of 50/50 job share with Ryan Kalish if the Sox go on to acquire a full-time right fielder later in the off-season. Or, if not with Kalish, some other left-handed outfielder, because there’s no real way the Sox can view Gomes as a regular against right-handed pitching.

Here are Gomes’ career splits:

Vs PA BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+
LHP 1,100 0.284 0.382 0.512 0.385 140
RHP 1,962 0.222 0.307 0.424 0.318 93

If there’s such a thing as a lefty masher, it’s Jonny Gomes. The sample sizes with platoon splits aren’t large enough where you should just take the un-regressed numbers at face value, but even regressing them 50% back towards league average, you’re still left with something like a .360/.330 split. And, given how bad Gomes is defensively, a .330 wOBA against right-handers makes him essentially a replacement level outfielder against right-handers.

Gomes can thump lefties well enough to be valuable in the 150 to 200 plate appearances per year he can rack up against them, but against righties, there’s not much of a benefit to having him in the line-up. Realistically, he’s best served as a pinch-hitter coming off the bench for when the right-handed starter is replaced by a left-handed reliever, but it seems unlikely that Gomes secured a two year deal from Boston to be a bench player on days a right-hander takes the mound, which is about 75% of the time in Major League Baseball.

So, given the fact that Gomes signed with Boston and got a two year deal, I think we have to assume he’s going to get some starts against right-handers, and because of Ortiz’s presence, he’s going to get those starts in left field. And that brings us back to the question of whether the Green Monster can really hide the defensive deficiencies of a guy who can’t run. There is no question that it’s a smaller area in terms of square footage than most left fields, but there’s still an equal amount of lateral distance between the left fielder and center fielder in Boston as there is in any other stadium in America. The Monster might reduce the amount of times Gomes has to charge forward on a blooper since he doesn’t have to worry about as many balls being hit over his head, but he still has to run side to side to get balls down the line or in the gap. Less space doesn’t equal no space.

And, of course, the Red Sox play 81 games on the road. We can’t simply take a -15 defender, put him in Boston, and assume he’s suddenly going to be league average. It’s possible that he might be a bit less harmful in home games, but we’re probably talking about an adjustment from -15 to -10. And that’s assuming that Gomes hasn’t gotten worse with age.

Maybe when the terms of the deal come out, we’ll find out that Gomes only got a few million dollars and agreed to a job as a platoon player because he just really likes New England and wanted to be closer to the intellectuals at Harvard and MIT. It’s Jonny Gomes, though, so I’ll file that as unlikely. If the Red Sox signed him to be a fairly regular left fielder, my guess is this isn’t going to work out so great.

It’s one thing to live with lousy defense when you’re getting Manny Ramirez’s bat into the line-up. It’s another thing to make that trade-off to get Jonny Gomes’ bat in the line-up. Gomes is a nice role player and a useful part-time hitter against southpaws, but asking him to be more than that looks like an overextension of his skills. We’ll have to wait and see how he ends up fitting into the Red Sox final roster, but let’s just say that I’m not convinced that the Sox have really replaced Carl Crawford just yet.



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Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


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bradsbeard
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bradsbeard
3 years 7 months ago

Keep in mind that Ortiz is 37 and missed a significant chunk of the season with the achilles injury last year.

shthar
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shthar
3 years 7 months ago

Yeah, DH was open 72 times last season.

Steve
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Steve
3 years 7 months ago

They just signed up for 2 more years at $13M, if they don’t think he’s healthy, what are they doing?

bradsbeard
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bradsbeard
3 years 7 months ago

There were a number of reasons to re-sign Ortiz, but obviously he carries some risk being 37 year old (whether or not he’s currently health). It doesn’t hurt to have someone who can spell him on occasion and fill in if he gets injured. I think Boston will find ways to maximize Gomes’ offense while minimizing his defensive shortcomings.

Jonathan
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Jonathan
3 years 7 months ago

Hate hate hate hate haaaaaate Jonny Gomes. Ugh. Can’t even try to look at this from the logical angle, I just hate hate hate haaaaaate Gomes.

don
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don
3 years 7 months ago

I Hate Hate Hate gomes too!!!!!!!

charlie
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charlie
3 years 7 months ago

Why? He gets on base against lefties.

Soxfan-1966
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Soxfan-1966
3 years 7 months ago

I hate Ben Cherington for this signing …

KyleL
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KyleL
3 years 7 months ago

Gomes’ splits are better than Ross’ were, and they went with him as a full time player (and it worked out pretty well for the money).

charlie
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charlie
3 years 7 months ago

Who are you talking about? Gomes was heavily platooned.

Steve
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Steve
3 years 7 months ago

Except Ross can field his position.

brendan
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brendan
3 years 7 months ago

this, ross is good in a corner and can even fake CF for a few games.

AJ
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AJ
3 years 7 months ago

Gomes is a decent signing, and he does have okay splits. Not a great defender, but he will suffice.

AJ
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AJ
3 years 7 months ago

Should clarify. He has okay splits if you are going to platoon him. He’s great against LHP. RHP is where he starts having trouble.

nsacpi
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nsacpi
3 years 7 months ago

I believe geometry also suggests less lateral ground to cover if you can play left shallower in Fenway. No?

BronxBomber
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BronxBomber
3 years 7 months ago

Sure, if you take one of those boring old straight routes to the ball…

gnomez
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gnomez
3 years 7 months ago

Is that you, Raul Ibanez?

Michael Scarn
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Michael Scarn
3 years 7 months ago

Jon Heyman is saying that he was looking for $3-4 million annually. So if the Red Sox did indeed sign him for 2yr/6-8 mil, then I think this is a fine signing.

Baltar
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Baltar
3 years 7 months ago

It turned out to be $10M. Does this change your feelings?

KarmaPolice
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KarmaPolice
3 years 7 months ago

Leaves them at what, $90+m under the lux tax with no contracts lasting more than a few years? I think they’ll manage.

BX
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BX
3 years 7 months ago

Sox also have Ryan Sweeney, who can’t hit LHP to save his life.

Sweeney/Gomes platoon?

shthar
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shthar
3 years 7 months ago

Makes too much sense.

This is baseball.

Danmay
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Danmay
3 years 7 months ago

As an A’s fan this would make me really happy for a reason I can’t fully explain.

BX
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BX
3 years 7 months ago

As a fellow A’s fan, me too.

siggian
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siggian
3 years 7 months ago

One problem: Farrell, despite ample evidence that Lind cannot hit lefties, did not employ any platooning while with the Jays. If he didn’t platoon Lind, he might not platoon Gomes too.

Savin Hillbilly
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Savin Hillbilly
3 years 7 months ago

If Farrell won’t platoon Gomes, he should be fired. This signing makes sense only if Gomes is a platoon player, either with one of our in-house LHH corner OF’s (Sweeney, Nava, Kalish–yes I know Nava is a switch-hitter, but in name only), or with a trade acquisition (Garrett Jones?).

If Gomes is more than about a half-time player, this move will have failed. But the failure won’t be signing Gomes, it’ll be not providing an adequate platoon partner for him.

melochejohn
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melochejohn
3 years 7 months ago

Farrell really did no platoons in TO which was really annoying! Maybe it will be different in Boston but as a Jays fan I am happy to see Gibby back with us who loves platoons. Pitchers or players he seemed to ignore splits which often exploded in his face and yet it happened all the time…

Jim Lahey
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Jim Lahey
3 years 7 months ago

I guess it can’t hurt to have somebody with HR pop on the bench (assuming thats his role, not full timer) but 2 years seems kinda stupid. Hoping to see Gomes mash a couple balls onto the Pike.

Average_Casey
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Average_Casey
3 years 7 months ago

Maybe they should just play Ortiz in left field?

baycommuter
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baycommuter
3 years 7 months ago

Analysis missing something here. If you had asked during the season, “which team needs a high-character, winner-type guy the most” the answer would have been Boston. He turned around the A’s clubhouse and Oakland will miss him. Red Sox said as much to Susan Slusser (Twitter post).

?@susanslusser

Number of contenders had expressed interest in Gomes, but #RedSox exec told me recently that Gomes’ leadership ability a big plus for them.

chuckb
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chuckb
3 years 7 months ago

Someone’s missing something alright.

vivaelpujols
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vivaelpujols
3 years 7 months ago

I find the idea of Gomes as a chemistry signing hilarious

Kiss my Go Nats
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Kiss my Go Nats
3 years 7 months ago

The periodic Table lacks any Gomes. I just looked.

Kmav
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Kmav
3 years 7 months ago

He is made for the monster, both offensively aswell as defensively. Has .894 career OPS against lefties. Better career road OPS, having played most of his career in bad hitters parks. Hit chart looks tailor made for Fenway. Takes a pitch and has a good attitude. Both things that are desperately needed

He is a cheaper version of Cody Ross, who will accept his platoon role better. Start him against all lefties. Either in LF or DH[Papi will miss some games]. Then hit him occasionally at home against some righties. Under that scnerio, he plays less then 20 games on the road in LF, yet still gets maybe 60-70 starts. If its 2-8 total, its a great sign. I was preffering either Gomes or Hairston at half the price, instead of Ross. Looks like I might have gotten my wish.

Steve
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Steve
3 years 7 months ago

And what exactly is Boston saving that money for?

Savin Hillbilly
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Savin Hillbilly
3 years 7 months ago

We don’t know yet, do we? Did I fall asleep and miss three months, or is the offseason still very, very young?

B N
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B N
3 years 7 months ago

This season? Hopefully not much. I don’t see any big signings that will make the Red Sox strongly competitive this year without hindering them later (e.g Hamilton). I expect they’ll grab some pitching in the offseason and roll some of the spare money into signing people next season. Gomes is just a piece to keep them in the mix in 2013 without needing to call the whole farm up and cross their fingers.

Baltar
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Baltar
3 years 7 months ago

Except that Ross is a decent centerfielder and Gomes is a terrible left-fielder.

Darren
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Darren
3 years 7 months ago

Ross is no such thing. He’s really bad in the field.

Blockhead
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Blockhead
3 years 7 months ago

This is an awfully depressing read considering the Red Sox just signed a player who has had WARs of 1.5 and 2.1 at (supposdly) $3-4M AAV over two years.

I’d say its a pretty damn good deal.

Peter Brand
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Peter Brand
3 years 7 months ago

So depressing you didn’t actually read it…

Gomes is fine as a DH (vs LHP) but Sox already have a DH, which means Gomes will wear a glove. His bad defending will lower his WAR.

What’s a WAR of 1 worth?

Blockhead
Member
Blockhead
3 years 7 months ago

More than $3-4M.

You’re (rightfully) assuming his WAR will take a hit due to his fielding. However, there is no mention of how his WAR is gonna improve from hitting bombs over the Green Monster compared to playing in O.Co. IMO, they will negate themselves.

Man
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Man
3 years 7 months ago

to lay,

WAR is already park adjusted. Or do you think there is something in the park effects of one of those parks to require an additional manipulation of the numbers?

If not, either transfer the WAR numbers on a 1:1 basis, or disregard them entirely, but don’t use them and manipulate them at the same time without basis for doing so.

Steve
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Steve
3 years 7 months ago

It’s $10M/2

coby76
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coby76
3 years 7 months ago

“Realistically, he’s best served as a pinch-hitter coming off the bench for when the right-handed starter is replaced by a left-handed reliever, but it seems unlikely that Gomes secured a two year deal from Boston to be a bench player on days a right-hander takes the mound, which is about 75% of the time in Major League Baseball.”

You are wrong. He is a strictly platoon guy for Boston. Kalish or Nava will be his partner.

theeiffeltower
Member
theeiffeltower
3 years 7 months ago

As a dead-pull RHH (like Cody Ross) he’s likely to do very well in Fenway–the park will benefit him more than your average player–even against righties. If you’re playing him 5/8 of the time to good effect (100% of home games, 1/4 of road games), the signing makes more sense.

chuckb
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chuckb
3 years 7 months ago

Not if 75% of those PAs are coming against eighties and 100% of those home games involve him chasing balls around the outfield.

Hog
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Hog
3 years 7 months ago

Hog

Adrock
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Adrock
3 years 7 months ago

He will do well enough against lefties in the at bats he gets, but $10M for 2 years of Jonny pales in comparison to 2 years-$16M for a guy that can play every day, field well, and run.

If I were a Red Sox fan, I’d certainly be hoping Gonzalez et al were dumped for a lot more than this (to be fair, some pitching is almost certainly on the way).

Krog
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Krog
3 years 7 months ago

I’m glad Gomes got paid. He was a fun guy to watch in Oakland last year. I’m glad the A’s didn’t resign him for that price, though.

kevin
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kevin
3 years 7 months ago

@Adrock- If you ignore the fact that said 2 years-$16M guy actually doesn’t field all that well and was mediocre for most of his career before breaking out only to be caught using steroids, then your right. I know coverage of steroids usage by the mainstream sports media has been absurd at times, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t significant risk involved in signing these players if for nothing other than another positive test makes it $16M for 1.3 years. Not to mention after the chicken and beer incidents the red sox are trying to avoid “unlikeable” players, and the fact that said player tried to create a fake website to cover his butt means he is exactly that for a majority of the frustrated fan base.

Adrock
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Adrock
3 years 7 months ago

Those criticisms are fair enough, but David Ortiz seems to have managed to hit well enough after moving off of steroids. Melky isn’t on his level as a hitter, but I think it’s clear that steroid use doesn’t equate to baseball skill (i.e. plenty of terrible players are on ‘roids and it hasn’t ever brought them up to Melky’s level of the last 2 years).

There is risk to the Melkman, but for an AAV of $3M/year, I’ll take that risk for the upside of a better than league average player (who’s only 28) who can play every day and not be a disaster in the field.

Baltar
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Baltar
3 years 7 months ago

Agreed. Cabrera was a bargain for Jays; Gomes sort of meh for Red Sox.

Jack Burton
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Jack Burton
3 years 7 months ago

Gomes has virtually identical career platoon splits as Ross according to wRC+: Gomes vs LHP: 140, vs RHP: 93….. Ross vs LHP: 141, vs RHP: 92.

Gomes is obviously way worse defensively (and therefore clearly worse overall) but I think he may be an even better fit offensively for Fenway than Ross. Gomes is an extreme fly ball hitter (career GB%=30.1). Fenway rewards fly balls to left field, and that is exactly what Gomes does. I think that batted ball distribution should probably be talked about more when it comes to fits for ballparks, and this is a good case here of someone being a particularly good fit. Having said that, his defense and iffy stats against RHP make a 2 year $10M deal look steep.

Baltar
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Baltar
3 years 7 months ago

“Fenway rewards fly balls to left field…”
Only if they are very high flies.

Savin Hillbilly
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Savin Hillbilly
3 years 7 months ago

The Monster giveth and taketh away: it turns mortar shots from warning-track outs into HR or wall-scraping doubles, and fliners from warning-track outs into doubles or singles. But it also turns harder-hit fliners from HR into said doubles or singles. From what I’ve seen and heard of Gomes, Fenway will be neutral or even negative for his HR/FB, but good for his BABIP.

BX
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BX
3 years 7 months ago

A lot of formerly deep outs in the Coliseum will become not-outs with the Monster.

james wilson
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james wilson
3 years 7 months ago

Who were the Red Sox bidding against? Themselves again?

Phil
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Phil
3 years 7 months ago

Personally, I’d hoped the Blue Jays would be in for him. He would be the perfect platoon partner for Lind, who should never be allowed another appearance against a LHP in his life. Given they are already on the hook for Lind’s contract, this would have made sense to me

Baltar
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Baltar
3 years 7 months ago

Don’t know if the Rays were in on him, but he could have been useful for a team that has neither a DH nor a 1B and could use a platoon partner for Matt Joyce.

Hot Turd
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Hot Turd
3 years 7 months ago

Cherington knows how much Jeffrey Loria covets Gomes, and can use his low-risk contract as the cornerstone of an inevitable Giancarlo package…

Anonymous
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Anonymous
3 years 7 months ago

Crowdsourcing nails another one: 2 years, $10 million.

John Farrell
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John Farrell
3 years 7 months ago

I was excited when I got the call from Ben, that we were getting an outfielder. So I asked:

Hamilton? Nope
Swisher? Nope
Victorino? Nope
Bourn? Nope

Okay, I give up Ben? What is the fabulous outfielder you got for my dream job?

I nearly dropped the phone when the answer was Jonny Gomes.

KarmaPolice
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KarmaPolice
3 years 7 months ago

You get -75 points.

Ted Dibiase, Sr.
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Ted Dibiase, Sr.
3 years 7 months ago

suck it, Farrell

jim
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jim
3 years 7 months ago

this wasn’t as funny as you thought it was

pft
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pft
3 years 7 months ago

If Papi gets complacent with his 2 yr deal and starts showing age related decline and goes back to his 2009-2010 performance against LHP’ers then Gomes could platoon at DH. Watch your back Papi.

Tebucks
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Tebucks
3 years 7 months ago

I think the Sox’ gaping hole at 1B is worth noting here. aging poor defensive outfielders often make that move and I see him as a candidate. In that sense he adds significant value if he can do both on a matchup basis. Good signing.

chuckb
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chuckb
3 years 7 months ago

Like you, I wondered if the Sox might be planning to play Gomes some at 1B. I don’t think, however, that that necessarily means he “adds significant value”. It only means he’ll be less harmful at 1B than he would be patrolling the OF. He’s still a mediocre hitter against righties, especially for what teams have come to expect from a 1B.

But a Gomes/Loney or Gomes/Carlos Pena platoon is somewhat plausible, though not exactly a great situation by any means.

Ruki Motomiya
Member
Ruki Motomiya
3 years 6 months ago

What about platooning the DH with him and Ortiz? Ortiz struggles more career-wise against lefties, Gomes murders them. And you can play Gomes in the OF/1B to give people rest if you wanted too.

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