July 26, 2011
Transaction Analysis Blog
Reds Trade Gomes, Promote Alonso
Alonso finding a permanent home in the majors has been a long time coming. Drafted in 2008, Alonso has experienced his share of injuries, drama, and disappointment. A broken hamate bone early in his developmental cycle did not help put a rest to the idea that he may never hit for the power that the first base position calls for. Not helping matters was playing the same position in the same organization as Joey Votto, casting an immovable roadblock onto Alonso’s path.
The Reds started playing Alonso in the outfield last season, and worked with him on it at length during the spring. This season, Alonso has actually played more outfield than first base, and is implicitly serviceable out there—although, the Reds were also willing to live through Jonny Gomes’ crimes against defensive nature, so who knows. Alonso’s bat is what got him here, and he bats from the left side. For now, Alonso has a career Triple-A line of .296/.364/.478. One thing to watch for is Alonso’s power production. He has the reputation for being a line drive hitter, but his .193 ISO this season is the highest he has produced since a .194 showing back in 2009 at High-A Sarasota, and that came before breaking his hamate bone. That injury is known to sap power, so it'll be interesting to see if Alonso is fully recovered and able to produce, or if it his increased pop was a result of being more experienced than his leaguemates.
With Chris Heisey and Fred Lewis in tow, the Reds have enough options to whet Dusty Baker’s imagination. He could just choose to play Alonso daily, or go to something of a platoon format with Heisey getting reps against tough lefties, and Alonso handling the righties and weaker lefties. Ostensibly, Lewis is the odd man out, but he can still offer value to a team, should the Reds look to move him or just sit him at the end of the bench.
As for the return on Gomes, Rhinehart is a 26-year-old outfielder with 13 Triple-A plate appearances under his belt. A 963 OPS in Double-A Harrisburg this season looks good, but keep in mind Rhinehart has more than 1,100 plate appearances at the level and a career 758 OPS to show for it. Manno was drafted by the Nationals in 2010 and has struck out 14.4 batters per nine innings pitched in the low minors as a reliever. That’s an impressive tally, but he is a college kid facing less experienced hitters, so it’s not necessarily a telltale sign of future prospect status.
Gomes is a likable personality with an inspiring background. After recovering from a heart attack in the minors, he went on to become an enforcer with the Rays, going so far as to participate in a tag-team match during the organization’s Wrestling Night promotion. The Nationals acquisition of Gomes is presumably not in an attempt to capitalize on that market, but to create a tag-team of their own, with Gomes handling the southpaw pitchers.
Hitting lefties is the one thing Gomes does well. He has a line of .281/.376/.510 against them for his career, and has a 976 OPS this season, despite an overall OPS of 735. The return of Rick Ankiel has caused Davey Johnson to shoehorn his other outfield options into left field. Right now, that means mixing and matching with Roger Bernadina, Jerry Hairston Jr. and Laynce Nix, so presumably Gomes is going to take playing time from Hairston Jr. and come in handy off the bench the rest of the time.
Don’t expect to see Gomes trotting off the pine in a pinch-runner or defensive replacement capacity either. His defense is poor and can result in unintentionally hilarious images and memories—once, in spring training, he was too busy talking to the players jogging along the warning track to catch a ball hit his way. Projected to be a Type B free agent, the Nationals probably will not offer Gomes arbitration unless they have a handshake deal in place. It also makes you wonder if the Nationals aren’t employing some gamesmanship here, as the Braves had reported interest in Gomes, and seemingly have more motive in acquiring short-term fixes than the Nationals.