Gomes brings offensive boost at backstop

All-Star catcher to share time with Suzuki

December 1st, 2018

WASHINGTON -- His name had been swirling around the rumor mills for weeks, so was not surprised to get a call from Indians president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti late Friday afternoon informing him of a potential trade. Gomes was surprised, however, to hear the Nationals were the team closing in on him, because they were not one of the teams he had read was interested.

Then, almost immediately, his mind jumped to working with Max Scherzer and and a rotation comparable to the one he would be leaving behind in Cleveland headlined by and . After the trade became official on Friday night, Gomes received a text message from Scherzer to welcome him to the team.

"I've been fortunate enough to get to work with some unbelievable starting pitchers with the Indians," Gomes said during a phone interview at the team's WinterFest event on Saturday. "And the Nationals' starting pitchers are right there."

Although Washington wasn't on Gomes' radar, he was one of the catchers being eyed by Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo from the start of the offseason. Washington acquired Gomes to pair at catcher with , who signed as a free agent on Nov. 20. The duo will be capable of giving the Nationals an offensive boost, which has been lacking for two seasons from the position.

Rizzo said he envisioned the two splitting time behind the plate but still getting ample playing time, although he left it to manager Dave Martinez to figure out how much exactly.

After Gomes was signed, Rizzo called Suzuki to discuss the move, and Suzuki was on board. And while Gomes had yet to have any conversations with anyone in the organization about the specifics of playing time, he said he was open to doing whatever the team asked of him.

"They're both going to split time," Martinez said. "We'll get to Spring Training, and I'll have conversations with them, but they're both going to play a lot."

Gomes is coming off his best season at the plate since 2014. He was an All-Star for the first time, and he hit 16 home runs with a .762 OPS as he finished with 2.6 Wins Above Replacement, according to Baseball Reference. Rizzo also made it a point to highlight the pitch-framing ability of Gomes, who ranked 15th in baseball in framing runs last season.

While the addition of Gomes crossed one item off the Nationals' to-do list this offseason, they had to surrender outfielder Daniel Johnson and right-hander , weakening their already shallow starting pitching depth. Rizzo, though, believed this was his best option to turn what had been a weakness in his lineup into a strength.

"Gomes is a terrific player," Rizzo said. "He's always been an elite defender. Our analytics love the framing and the defense. Our scouts really liked the performance last year. He's handled some elite staffs. He's handled Cy Young Award winners. He's played on the biggest stage that we play on, and he played well."