The Houston Astros can’t afford to wait out Carlos Gomez.
Carlos Gomez is not helping the Houston Astros. Acquired via trade in July 2015, he has so far not lived up to expectations. Houston has so many options for filling the lineup with productive players that it makes no sense to continue to go with someone who is not contributing.
Since Gomez’ arrival in Houston, his offense has been anemic. In 53 games over two seasons, his numbers are: .230/.271/.356, with four home runs, 13 RBI, nine walks, and 42 strikeouts. For the first 12 games of 2016, Gomez is hitting only .190/.209/.262, with zero home runs and zero RBI. Among regulars, only Luis Valbuena (.189), and Jason Castro (.167) have lower batting averages. Gomez has the lowest On Base Percentage (.209) of every Astros hitter who has played in more than nine games.
Preston Tucker has been more valuable than Gomez so far in 2016. He has played only against right-handed pitchers. However, his .269/.321/.615, with two home runs and three RBI suggests he should play more. Colby Rasmus can easily be moved to center field, with Tucker in left without hurting the defense. While Tucker is nowhere near the fielder that Gomez is, his bat will more than makeup for any fielding deficiencies.
If not Tucker, then recalling Matt Duffy is a viable option. Since his demotion to Triple-A, Duffy has played four games in left field in anticipation of possibly playing there if/when he returns to the Astros. Fresno also has hot hitting outfielders Tony Kemp (.389) and Eury Perez (.350). Either or both of these players could soon get a Major League chance, and if either can hit, will surely bump Gomez and his cold bat to the bench or beyond.
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The problem with Gomez though is that hitting .190 reduces his trade value to near zero. His low offensive numbers and his $8 million salary will be difficult to peddle somewhere else unless GM Jeff Luhnow can convince a rival GM that Gomez will warm up at the plate. An outright release is not an option, as Houston is not going to eat the $8 million. If Kemp, Perez, or Duffy are added, unless Gomez is traded, he will end up on the bench, available as a late inning defensive replacement, making Jake Marisnick superfluous. The Astros have no need for two light hitting defensive outfielders, so someone has to go.
Moving Gomez will test the deal-making ability of Luhnow, since the outfielder is not an attractive option right now, especially with another contender. No team wants a non-productive man in their lineup, especially one that will be a free agent after the season. Unfortunately, Luhnow will almost certainly have to put together a package including some prospects to convince another GM to take Gomez. Let’s see if Luhnow can come up with something that doesn’t cost too many prospects, unlike what happened in the Gomez or Kazmir trades. In the Gomez deal, the Astros gave up Brett Phillips, Josh Hader, Adrian Houser, and Domingo Santana in exchange for Gomez and Mike Fiers; and the Scott Kazmir trade where catcher Jacob Nottingham and pitcher Daniel Mengden went to the A’s.
The Astros are no longer in rebuilding mode; this team is a legitimate contender to make another playoff run. For that reason, a player that does not produce has no place on the roster. The Astros cannot afford to wait Gomez out.
**Statistics provided by Baseball-Reference and MLB.com**