Former team: Oakland Athletics
Contract: 2-year, $10 million
Projected role: Starting left fielder
In 2011, the Boston Red Sox were accused of focusing on beer, chicken and video games instead of securing a 10-game AL East lead late in the season. In 2012, manager Bobby Valentine did everything in his power to alienate himself in Boston, which caused even more turmoil in the locker room.
This season, Red Sox management understandably decided to make an attempt to ensure that nothing akin to another Valentine or chicken and beer fiasco occurred. The hiring of a familiar face at manager, in former pitching coach John Farrell, and the signing of respected “clubhouse guy” Jonny Gomes, was the first step in this direction.
Gomes spent last season helping the Oakland Athletics claim an improbable AL West title. He’s a glue guy, a player who commentators rave about for “loosening up the clubhouse.” Gomes didn’t just lead from the locker room, as he excelled from the plate when given the opportunity to play.
Overall, Gomes showed power (18 home runs in just 333 plate appearances), a propensity to get on base (.377 OBP) and even hit for a decent average (.262). He ranked 17th in the league in home runs per at bat, according to ESPN. Most of his damage came against left-handed pitching — he smacked 11 home runs, in just under 200 plate appearances and posted a .974 OPS. Gomes also did the majority of his work away from the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, a good sign for Boston.
Expecting Gomes to match his 2012 power production could be reasonable — he’s hit 18-plus home runs in five seasons, and batted .262 or better in three of the past four years.
Recently, Gomes made it clear that he wanted to be an everyday player. The way Boston’s outfield looks on paper, it’s a real possibility he’ll get a shot. According to mlbdepthcharts.com, the Red Sox currently list just four major league outfielders. Jacoby Ellsbury and the recently signed Shane Victorino are shoe-ins to start in center and right, respectively.
That essentially leaves Gomes and Daniel Nava fighting for the job in left field, after news that Ryan Kalish required possibly season-ending surgery. Nava is a 30-year-old lifetime minor leaguer, who has showed some worth in his 505 major league plate appearances, but best case scenario for him is a platoon job with Gomes.
However, if Gomes gets the 600 plate appearances he desires, do not expect the success he experienced last year to translate. Handing a starting job over to Gomes would mean batting him versus right-handed pitching, which, other than fielding, is arguably his biggest weakness.
In his career, Gomes has posted an ugly .223/.307/.425 line against right-handed pitching and an impressive .284/.382/.512 line versus left-handed pitching.
Here are Gomes’ lefty-right splits for the last three years with plate appearances in parentheses:
RH (137)- .209/.324/.391
LH (196)- .299/.413/.561
RH (264)- .167/.292/.362
LH (108)- .311/.407/.456
RH (375)- .257/.301/.408
LH (196)- .285/.378/.479
As recent stats show, Jonny Gomes crushes left-handed pitching, but we can not laud his exploits against left-handed pitching without mentioning his struggles against right-handed pitching.
There’s no question Gomes should be the starter, but he does not warrant Ellsbury or Pedroia at-bats. I would start him against every lefty, and split the starts versus right-handed pitching between him and Nava. That gives Gomes the playing time he desires, and ensures the best interests of the team.
If used properly, Gomes could prove a great signing for Boston. All indications point to an improved clubhouse atmosphere with his addition, and it would be an added bonus if Gomes could replicate his 2012 offensive season in a platoon role.
Jackson Alexander can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @MDC_Alexander.