From Super Star to Waiver Wire. The Carlos Gomez experiment for the Houston Astros fizzled out within a year.
Carlos Gomez came to Houston on July 30th, 2015 as the centerpiece of six player trade that sent the Astros’ former Minor League Player of the Year Brett Phillips to Milwaukee along with outfielder Domingo Santana and pitchers Adrian Houser and Josh Hader. Houston also received starting pitcher Mike Fiers in the deal. The “Carlos Gomez” deal, as it was often referred as around the Astros fan base, didn’t come to fruition in quite the way the team had hoped. Fiers threw a no-hitter and Gomez finished the seasons with Houston’s rivals in Arlington.
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A Lackluster Start
When the Astros acquired Gomez from the Brewers he was a .262 hitter with a .751 OPS in 74 games coming off of back to back All-Star seasons in which he received a gold glove and MVP consideration. In two partial seasons in Houston Gomez hit just .221 with a .619 OPS. Looking specifically at 2016, Gomez posted a .210/.272/.322 slash line with a .594 OPS.
It just didn’t make sense. In his All Star seasons Gomez struck out 146 and 141 times (.97 strikeouts per game). While in Houston that number crept marginally upward (131 strikeouts in 126 games, a rate of 1.03 strikeouts per game). What was most noticeable was his sudden drop in contact percentage. In five full seasons with the Brewers, Gomez averaged 75.18% contact percentage. After he joined the Astros midway through the 2015 season, his contact percentage spiked to 80.9%. This season that contact percentage plummeted to 66.9%. With the Rangers it returned to 76.6%, right on his career average.
Time to Cut Ties
In 2016 Gomez hit five home runs with the Astros and collected 16 doubles in 85 games while striking out 100 times. All told, his 64 OPS+ (a measure of a players’ OPS in comparison to the rest of the league with 100 being league average) was 15th on the team behind all position players who appeared in at least 40 games except A.J. Reed and Preston Tucker.
It still doesn’t make sense why Gomez wasn’t able to be successful in Houston. It was however abundantly clear that, regardless the reason, it wasn’t going to work out with the Astros. On August 18th the Astros announced Gomez’ official release from the team. Two days later he was signed as a free agent by the Texas Rangers and then this happened:
That’s right. On his first at bat in Arlington, Gomez blasted one over the fence. That would be his first of eight home runs hit for the Rangers in just 33 games, a pace of one long ball every 14.5 at bats compared to one every 49.3 at bats with Houston.
Looking to the Future
With Gomez gone and Colby Rasmus a free agent there will be plenty of buzz around the Astros starting outfielders in the off season. George Springer didn’t miss a game in 2016 and doesn’t become a free agent until 2021, so his spot is all but set in stone at this point. That leaves Jake Marisnick and a handful of unproven young players to compete for the final two spots. Tony Kemp, Teoscar Hernandez, Preston Tucker, and Alex Bregman all saw playing time this year, but it seems like a stretch to start two prospects in the outfield and consider yourself a legitimate post season candidate. Look for a new face patrolling the Houston outfield in 2017, perhaps Yoenis Cespedes?
***Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference and Fangraphs ***