WASHINGTON -- The catching duo of Kurt Suzuki and Yan Gomes helped give the Nationals an upgrade behind the plate last season after years of minuscule production at the position. And Washington has decided to bring back its catching tandem for the 2020 season as well, agreeing to a two-year, $10 million contract with Gomes late Wednesday night, a source told MLB.com’s Mark Feinsand.
The club has not confirmed the deal, which was first reported by ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan, but the reunion brings Gomes back to D.C. to pair with Suzuki to continue a platoon the Nationals were happy with in 2019 when the two split time almost evenly.
Gomes, who also caught the final out of the World Series behind the plate, played in 97 games and received 358 plate appearances, while Suzuki appeared in 85 games with 309 plate appearances (numbers that would have been closer had Suzuki not been limited with an injury down the stretch in September). Together, their production was in about the middle of the pack compared to all of baseball. Nats catchers were good for 1.1 Wins Above Replacement, 19th in the Majors per FanGraphs, while posting an 88 wRC+, tied for 12th best in MLB for an offensively challenged position.
Suzuki, 36, had a much better season offensively (17 homers and 102 OPS+) compared to Gomes, 32, (12 homers and 78 OPS+). However, Gomes was the far superior defensive catcher and pitch framer (even with a -1.6 framing runs above average, he still outranked Suzuki’s -8.6, which was 103rd among 113 qualified catchers, according to Baseball Prospectus).
Still, a few of the Nationals starting pitchers, most importantly ace Max Scherzer, formed a bond with Suzuki and preferred to be paired with him during their start day. Gomes was continually paired with Patrick Corbin and usually handled whichever of the Nats’ young fifth-starter trio (Erick Fedde, Joe Ross or Austin Voth) received the chance that turn in the rotation.
When the Nationals declined Gomes’ $9 million club option earlier this month, they insisted they did not want to close the door on Gomes and remained open to bringing him back at a lower price. By bringing him back through 2021, the Nats retain the better defensive catcher of the duo and are betting Gomes still has a rebound left in his bat.
In his first year in D.C., Gomes hit .223/.316/.389 -- a disappointing year especially coming off his 2018 season with the Indians, when he made the All-Star team and hit .266/.313/.449, with 16 homers and 103 OPS+.