With the Braves’ acquisitions of both Nick Swisher and Michael Bourn, the Braves now have a full outfield. Nick Swisher is expected to return from the DL, and that gives us an outfield of Swisher, Bourn, Jonny Gomes, Nick Markakis, Eury Perez and Cameron Maybin, assuming Todd Cunningham is sent back to AAA. Nevertheless, that’s a full outfield. Freddie Freeman is expected to be out for quite a while and Swisher has played a good bit of first base for the Indians in recent years, but I expect to see him in the outfield as well. Either Bourn or Maybin will shift to left field and Markakis will remain in right. However, Eury Perez has really impressed since joining the Braves, and is clearly a big upgrade over Jonny Gomes right now. He is hitting the ball better and is capable of playing all three defensive positions. Could this be it for Jonny?
Yes, I realize the importance of leadership and a veteran presence with a young ball club, but at the end of the day Gomes isn’t swinging the bat, and it’s not like he’s exactly a gold glove fielder out in left either. I think Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher also bring more of a veteran presence to this team. These are two guys who have been consummate professionals throughout their career, and I think that Michael Bourn will especially be a great mentor to prospect Mallex Smith, who has a cloned skill set of Bourn. John Hart already indicated they will have lockers next to each other next Spring.
What’s really helping Gomes hold onto his job is the fact that Swisher will be playing a ton of first base with the injury to Freddie Freeman, who has no current timetable for his return. However, we know that Freddie doesn’t typically take days off when healthy, so Swisher will have to see most of his playing time in the outfield pending the star first baseman’s return.
We won’t have room for Jonny Gomes.
It’s truly a shame because this is a guy who I’ve watched for years and always wanted in our clubhouse, but you can’t get too sentimental in baseball. The fact remains that he’s hitting just .206 this season. Gomes was brought in primarily to serve as our guy against lefties in a platoon in left field, but he’s struggled in that category as well. He’s hitting just .232 against lefties this season, compared to his career average of .275. His WAR for 2015 is -0.7.
I don’t think any teams are willing to take Gomes off our hands at this point given his level of play. He was signed to a 1 year, $4 million deal, but he has a vesting option for 2016 once he hits 325 plate appearances (he can earn more if he reaches 425 or 500, but this is extremely unlikely). This turns into a club option if it fails to vest. The Braves would be foolish to let him exceed this amount of at bats given his level of play. They need to be allocating finances elsewhere this coming offseason. As it stands now, Gomes has accumulated 199 plate appearances. It’s unlikely that he sees 325 given the amount of talent we now have in the outfield, but it’s a situation worth monitoring as the season winds down. And it could be the front office’s biggest incentive to release him in the coming weeks.