5 reasons Gomez could be a savvy addition

November 22nd, 2016

has experienced a range of peaks and valleys in the last year and a half. The dynamic outfielder was blockbuster Trade Deadline acquisition by the Astros a year before being released, then signed a Minor League deal with the Rangers and ultimately started in the postseason for the team with the best record in the American League. Now, he has hit free agency.

It's been a roller-coaster, to say the least, and now the 30-year-old Gomez is available to all 30 Major League teams on the open market. In the latest installment of a series examining five statistics for some of this year's key free agents, here are five noteworthy Gomez stats that teams might consider this Hot Stove season.

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Much-needed change of scenery

Once he got a fresh start with the Rangers this August, Gomez excelled -- becoming a key contributor down the stretch. After posting a 60 wRC+ in Houston, Gomez's wRC+ jumped to 139 with the Rangers. In 33 regular-season games for Texas, he slashed .284/.362/.543 -- good for a .905 OPS -- with eight home runs, 24 RBIs and five stolen bases. That torrid pace, projected over a full 162 games, would produce 39 homers, 118 RBIs and 25 stolen bases.

New place, old bat

In Texas, Gomez rediscovered the swing that led to his back-to-back All-Star seasons with the Brewers in 2013 and '14. Specifically, he started hitting the ball in the air again. In his years in Milwaukee, Gomez posted fly ball rates around 40 percent, per FanGraphs, but with the Astros in 2016, that percentage dropped to 29.6. With the Rangers, though, Gomez's fly ball rate rebounded to 47.4 percent. From Houston to Texas, he more than doubled the number of fly balls he was hitting for every ground ball.

Finding his stroke

Gomez didn't just start hitting the ball in the air with the Rangers; he also started hitting it harder. In his 85 games with the Astros, Gomez had an 86.7-mph average exit velocity on batted balls, according to Statcast™, well below the Major League average. In Gomez's stint with the Rangers, his average exit velocity jumped to an above-average 90.5 mph. Per FanGraphs, Gomez cut down his soft-contact rate by almost 10 percent from Houston to Texas, with a corresponding increase in medium- and hard-hit balls.

Dual threat

Despite the statistical drop-off over the two seasons that followed his All-Star years, Gomez maintained his impressive tools. He hit double-digit home runs and stole double-digit bases for a fifth straight year in 2016, with 13 homers and 18 steals. Even including his 2015 and '16 campaigns, he's averaged 18 homers and 29 steals over his last five seasons, totaling 91 home runs and 146 stolen bases. He is the only Major Leaguer to homer 90 times and steal 140 bases in that span.

On patrol

One area where Gomez has always excelled is defensively -- although even his fielding metrics took a hit in Houston this past season before improving once he joined the Rangers. Overall, by Ultimate Zone Rating, Gomez has rated as a clearly above-average outfielder in each of his 10 Major League seasons, including 2016, thanks in large part due to his impressive range. Since Gomez's first full season, 2008, his UZR of 13.6 runs above average is fourth best among outfielders in the Majors on a per-150-game basis.