What is Jonny Gomes Worth?

I saw a post on mlbtraderumors.com today stating essentially that now that the A’s have been eliminated from the post-season, they are already working to resign Jonny Gomes for 2012.  Makes sense — Gomes’ incredible platoon performance with Seth Smith was a big part of the reason the A’s surprised everyone and made the post-season.

What is Gomes worth?  The A’s paid him only $1 million in 2012, which is why he was such a tremendous bargain.

The A’s would obviously like to sign Gomes to another one-year deal because he will be 32 in 2013, an age at which players of his caliber generally drop off considerably, and he has been a fairly inconsistent player in his career, although that really has more to do with the fact that teams have mistakenly tried to use him as an everyday player in the past.

Gomes is a classic platoon player.  A right-handed hitter, he now has a career OPS against lefties of .894, compared to only .732 against righties.  In other words, he’s an offensive super-stud with the platoon advantage, but a bench player at best against the platoon.  In 2012, Gomes’ splits were even more extreme (.974 OPS against lefties, .715 against righties), which was a big part of the reason the platoon with Seth Smith (.805 OPS in ’12 against righties, but only .521 against lefties) was so incredibly successful for the A’s this year.

With the platoon advantage, Gomes and Smith combined for a roughly .864 OPS in 557 plate appearances, a terrific offensive performance for an Oakland A at any position, given how difficult it is to hit at the Oakland Coliseum (huge foul territories and the ball doesn’t carry well).

Fangraphs rates Gomes’ 2012 performance as worth $9.7 million.  In my opinion, this is simply too high.  For one thing, since approximately two-thirds of major league pitchers are righties, Gomes, as the right-handed hitting part of the platoon, is going to hit a fair amount of the time against right-handed pitchers.  In 2012, 41% of Gomes’ plate appearances were against right-handers, while only 18% of Seth Smith’s plate appearances were against lefties, and Smith had more total plate appearances on the season.

Also, fangraphs’ metrics probably fail to take into account fully Gomes’ lack of defensive value.  Gomes’ fielding value for 2012 is listed as -0.7 runs per game (0.7 runs below replacement value), which is only this good/bad because Gomes played at most only 42 of his 99 games this year in the outfield.  The rest of the time he was a DH.  It seems to me that a player whose defense is so bad that he must play at DH to avoid significantly hurting the team defensively is worth less, because he only makes sense to an American League team.

Gomes getting about $5 million for 2013 on a one year deal sounds about right to me in terms of a fair contract for both player and team.  The A’s have a certain advantage in negotiating in that other teams may not see the value of a strictly platoon player to the same degree that they do, and Gomes isn’t going to draw interest from any NL team with the sense God gave a jack rabbit.

Platoon players are clearly one of the moneyball value points Billy Beane and his team have identified, which is why they signed Gomes and Smith in the first place.  Also, Gomes is from Petaluma, which means the A’s may get a home town discount, particularly coming off a winning season.  Playing at home for a winner is the dream of most young ballplayers.

The deal that makes the most sense would be one that guarantees Gomes $5 million but contains a team option for roughly the same amount in 2014.  In other words, $4.5 million for 2013, with a $5 million dollar option for 2014 or a $500,000 buy-out.  In fact, a similar deal for $8 million with $4 million guaranteed would probably get Gomes signed.

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One Comment on “What is Jonny Gomes Worth?”

  1. Burly Says:

    The market is indeed good for players this off-season. Gomes has reportedly signed with Boston for $10 million over two years.


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