Let’s set some realistic expectations for new Cubs catcher Yan Gomes

(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
(Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images) /

Set to turn 35 next summer, Yan Gomes was a peculiar candidate to get a two-year deal, especially at a $13 million price tag. But the Cubs were hellbent on solidifying the situation behind the dish which, at least right now, still carries a great degree of uncertainty given the questions surrounding Willson Contreras’ future with the team.

Regardless of what happens with Contreras, Chicago has Gomes in tow for at least the next two years (his deal contains a team option for 2024). So it seems worth our time to get to know Gomes a little better, see what stories the numbers tell us and set some realistic expectations (something Cubs fans are so good at) heading into 2022.

Gomes is a former tenth-round pick of the Blue Jays, with whom he made his big league debut back in 2012 as a 24-year-old. However, his tenure in Toronto was short-lived, as he was traded to Cleveland that fall. He spent the next six years there, including the 2016 season, when he got four at-bats in the Fall Classic against his new team, the Cubs.

Since then, he”s spent time with Washington and, following a mid-season trade last summer, the Athletics. A former Silver Slugger recipient and one-time All-Star, the best years of Gomes’ career are behind him. That doesn’t mean, however, that he still doesn’t have something to offer.

Behind the dish, Gomes ranks as a below-average pitch framer, according to Statcast. If there is a strong suit to his framing skills, it’s definitely getting that outside corner against right-handed hitters, something that could prove valuable for guys like Kyle Hendricks and Marcus Stroman, both of whom run balls back against righties pretty regularly.

His strong suit has always been his arm, though. Last season, he ranked third in the NL, nabbing 35.6 percent of would-be base stealers. In his career, he’s caught 33 percent of runners, well above the league average of 27 percent. Given the Cubs lack of true swing-and-miss guys, it’ll take a combination of improved infield defense and accountability behind the dish to keep runs off the board this season.

At the dish, you’re going to get a league average bat. He’s played jump rope with a 100 OPS+ throughout his career, one year coming in above that mark, only to fall back below the following. Last season with Washington and Oakland, he accumulated 2.5 bWAR, but his offensive output fell off hard following his trade to the A’s. Prior to the change of scenery, Gomes put up a .778 OPS across 235 plate appearances, but that dropped to a .631 mark down the stretch.

Chicago Cubs: Yan Gomes has a key role, with or without Willson Contreras

Assuming Contreras is with the team come Opening Day, Gomes will split time with him – allowing Contreras to stay fresh throughout the year while hopefully keeping his bat in the lineup via the DH, which is expected to come to the NL in the new CBA. If the Cubs move on from Contreras, they’ll look to Gomes to mentor a staff that’s young and looking to grow.

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Regardless, the move to bring him into the fold was a prudent one – and while it might go overlooked in some circles, this could wind up being one of the most important moves the Cubs make this winter.