The Rays will sign outfielder Carlos Gomez to a one-year contract worth about $4 million, according to various reports. Gomez had a bit of a bounce-back season in Texas last season after a dismal season and a half in Houston. Given the Rays’ well-publicized sell-off over the past week (Steven Souza was traded to Arizona, and Corey Dickerson was designated for assignment), Gomez should be able to find regular playing time in the corner outfield. That said, he is not a particularly exciting fantasy option at this stage of his career.
In his prime with the 2012-2014 Brewers, Gomez hit .277/.336/.483, averaging 22 home runs and 37 stolen bases per season. In the three years since, Gomez has hit .247/.317/.417, averaging only 452 plate appearances per year. Most responsible for this drop-off in production was a spike in Gomez’s strikeout rate, and, despite his improved results in 2017, his strikeout troubles remained. After running a contact rate in the mid-70s for much of his career, Gomez has seen that fall into the low-70s over the past two seasons. And he is coming off a year in which he chased pitches out of the strike zone more than ever, so owners should not be particularly optimistic about his batting average in 2018.
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Gomez offers moderate power and speed upside, having tallied double-digit stolen bases every year of his career and having hit double-digits in home runs in each of the past six years. After an alarming drop-off in his batted ball authority from 2015-2016, Gomez recouped some of his old power last year, boosting his hard contact rate to a career-high 39% and posting his highest average exit velocity in the three years for which we have Statcast data. Gomez also boosted his fly-ball rate slightly last season, resulting in 17 home runs, his most since he left Milwaukee.
Signing with the Rays is likely to be a significant drawback, though. Tropicana Field is a difficult park for right-handed power (in contrast to the much more hitter-friendly park in Arlington in which he played last season), and Tampa Bay scored over 100 fewer runs than Texas did in 2017, so Gomez may not get too many RBI or run-scoring opportunities. While Gomez remains a threat for stolen bases, he is no longer in his heyday there, either. His 13 stolen bases last season was his lowest in over a decade, and his sprint speed was down in 2017, perhaps related to a nagging hamstring problem.
Even if Gomez manages to put his injuries behind him, expecting him to reverse a long downward trend at age-32 seems optimistic. At this point in his career, Gomez offers production that is probably not commensurate with his name value, and he is certainly no longer the superstar that he once was. While he is a good bet to be worth the modest figure that the Rays are investing in him, he is an unexciting depth option for fantasy purposes at this stage of his career.
2017 Stats: 426 PA, .255/.340/.462, 17 HR, 13 SB
2018 Steamer Projection: 305 PA, .244/.313/.417, 10 HR, 8 SB
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