I think a lot of people have this idea that when you rebuild a team, you just throw as many young players into the mix and roll with it. See what the kids can do is the common sentiment shared by many who see a team rebuilding. However, the reality is that if a player is not major league quality, giving him at-bats just to “see what he can do” is a ridiculous proposition. Oh, I realize how can we really know what they can do if they don’t get a shot, but let’s be honest…if you weren’t impressive in the minor leagues, why should you get playing play just because of your age? If you don’t cut it, you don’t cut it.
And that is kind of the problem. The Atlanta Braves have a lot of outfield options, but none are that intriguing. Todd Cunningham has a career minor league OPS of .721 for a reason. Joey Terdoslavich is a nice bench option, but his defense is questionable at best. The only skill Jose Constanza really has is licking a bat. And who knows what the Braves have in Dion Toscano? The best you can see for this group is that they are diverse. But none of these four project to be anything more than a fourth outfielder, let alone a guy getting significant at-bats.
But we are conditioned to think just play them. They’re young so maybe you’ll get surprised. Well, Constanza’s not young, but you get the point. After all, who remembers Charles Thomas? Maybe one of these guys could be him for a year.
That kind of mindset might explain why people look at the news of pursuing Jonny Gomes with disdain. He doesn’t fit into the typical idea of what a rebuilding team should look like, except he does fit the typical idea of what a rebuilding team actually looks like. While we naturally think rebuilding teams play a lot of kids and they often do, they are meticulous about when to play those kids. Things like their readiness and service time are considered. And those prospects, unlike the four I mentioned, are actually real prospects.
Outside of those guys, teams focus on smart veterans to fill the team. Their role isn’t just as a mentor, though that’s definitely a part of it. They are often better than what you have on hand, though, or at least bridge the gap between that kid being ready for the majors. Guys like Gomes fit that description. Sure, he’s not a great player, but he does do something well. He hits southpaws.
You telling me you can’t find a reason to a play guy like Gomes against left-hand pitching? You wouldn’t want those stats against Cole Hamels or Gio Gonzalez? Now, granted, his power has decreased the last three seasons, but he’s still getting on base and is a tough out. And really, who’s at-bats would be taking away?
Oh, you want me to mention Zoilo Almonte? Good catch, Mr./Mrs./Dr. Reader. I purposely didn’t mention Almonte because he would appear to be platoon-limited, too. Here are are his splits for the last three seasons at the minor league level against right-handed pitching. Note…Almonte is a switch-hitter.
Now, granted, that is against minor league pitching so the comparison isn’t exactly the same, but for a second, consider combining Almonte and Gomes. That looks like a pretty good hitter. Not a great one, but a good enough one similar to the Julio Franco/Matt Franco platoon of yesteryear. Almonte, though a switch hitter, shows remarkably high platoon differences. Just because a guy can bat from both sides of the plate doesn’t mean the difference between the two won’t be significant.
Signing Gomes, if the Braves go down that route, gives a punchless offense a little extra value. It gives the Almonte signing a real purpose. And who knows, if the Braves suck like most of us think they will, Gomes could bring in a decent bullpen prospect before the deadline. Value is the name of the game and Gomes gives the Braves depth and production against left-hand pitchers. If you were against this type of signing or even on the fence, these numbers might not change your mind, but at least it brings clarity why Atlanta might be interested.