The Indians traded catcher Yan Gomes to the Washington Nationals on Friday night. The Indians will receive minor-league outfielder Daniel Johnson, right-hander Jefry Rodriguez and a player to be named.
Gomes will make $7 million in 2019. He has club options for 2020 and 2021.
With Gomes gone, it’s expected the Indians will trade starting pitchers Corey Kluber or Trevor Bauer sometime this winter. They are reportedly in negotiations with Carlos Carrasco to extend his contract beyond his 2020 club option. If they do that, Carrasco will stay.
The Tribe played last season with a franchise-record $135 million payroll. They watched 12 players dive into the free agent market, but said they received no salary relief because of arbitration costs and raises due players with multiyear deals. That left them with little choice but to trade away pieces of a team that has won three straight AL Central titles. Gomes was the first on to go. Kluber or Bauer are expected to be the next.
The trade of Gomes leaves Roberto Perez and rookie Eric Haase as the Tribe’s top two catchers. The Indians, however, could add another catcher if they trade Kluber or Bauer.
“We feel we have two regular catchers within the organization at the major league level and now Roberto will have an opportunity to step in and be that regular guy,” said Chris Antonetti, Indians president of baseball operations. “He’s done that for us over the course of the past few seasons when Yan’s been injured. He’s demonstrated that ability to lead our pitching staff. He’s caught some of the most meaningful games that we’ve played over the last five or six years. Including that run in the 2016 postseason.”
Perez, with Gomes recovering from a broken hand, was the starting catcher in the Tribe’s postseason run to Game 7 of the World Series in 2016.
MLB.com ranked Johnson as Washington’s seventh-best prospect. Johnson, 23, is a left-handed hitter who has played center and right field. Last season Washington’s fifth-round pick in 2014 hit .267 (95-for-356) with six homers and 31 RBI at Class AA Harrisburg.
He has speed and a strong throwing arm.
“Daniel Johnson has a very good combination of power and speed,” said Antonetti. “He’s capable of playing all three spots in the outfield. Spent most of the time in center and right. We believe he has a chance to contribute and help us at the major league level at some point over the next few years.”
Rodriguez, 25, appeared in 14 games, including eight starts, for the Nationals last season. He went 3-3 with a 5.71 ERA. In 52 innings, he struck out 39, walked 37 and allowed 43 hits. He made 19 starts while bouncing between Harrisburg and Class AAA Syracuse, going 7-5 with 102 strikeouts in 100 2/3 innings.
“He has an above-average fastball and curveball with a developing changeup,” said Antonetti. “We think he can come into spring training with a chance to compete for a spot on our pitching staff. And if he doesn’t make that, he again adds to our upper level pitching depth and could be a contributor for us next year.”
Antonetti said the Indians should receive the player to be named well before the start of the 2019 season.
Kluber will make $17 million in 2019. He’s club options for 2020 and 2021. Bauer is projected to make $11.6 million in arbitration this winter. Kluber won 20 games for the first time in his career last season. Bauer ranked second in the AL with a 2.21 ERA and struck out 221 batters in only 175 1/3 innings.
When asked if he anticipated trading Kluber or Bauer, he said, “I have no idea. Where we are right now is at the early stages of the offseason in which we’re focused on trying to build a team that’s capable of winning another American League Central Division title in 2019, but is also positioned for success beyond that. As I’ve shared with you in the past, we’re in a fortunate position that we have a lot of players on our team that other teams value. And that leads to a lot of conversations this time of year.”
Regarding a possible extension for Carrasco, he said, “Nothing really to report on that. We’re focused on this trade and some of the other things we’ve already announced.”
The Indians had until 8 p.m. Friday to offer contracts to players including Bauer, Francisco Lindor, Nick Goody and Danny Salazar, Neil Ramirez and Cody Anderson. They reached one-year, non-guaranteed deals with Goody, Salazar and Ramirez to avoid arbitration. Bauer, Lindor and Anderson were tendered contracts.
Gomes is coming off an All-Star season in which he hit .266 with 16 homers and 48 RBI. He’s signed through 2019 with club options for 2020 and 2021. He will make $7 million in 2019.
Perez, who is playing winter ball in the Dominican Republic, is coming off the worst season in his career. Haase made his big-league debut in September after hitting .236 (102-for-433) with 20 homers and 71 RBI at Class AAA Columbus.
The Tribe considered catching a position of strength, which is why it made the trade. But they could use some help behind the plate especially after trading top catching prospect Francisco Mejia to San Diego for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber in July.
“We realized we’ve lost some depth in that area, but we do feel good with the guys we have going into camp,” said Antonetti. “I would expect that over the course of the winter it’s an area will look to add depth if at all possible.”
Antonetti acquired Gomes in a great under-the-radar deal with Toronto in November of 2012. Acting on a tip from then bullpen coach Kevin Cash, he acquired Gomes and Mike Aviles from the Blue Jays for right-hander Esmil Rogers. Gomes was a utility man for the Blue Jays, but soon beat out Carlos Santana for the starting catcher’s job.
“Yan has been such an important member of our organization since the time we acquired him in 2012,” said Antonetti. “In that time since we acquired Yan, we’ve had the opportunity to watch him grow and develop from an unheralded Triple-A corner utility player to an All-Star caliber major league catcher. He’s been an instrumental part of our team and our success and helped lead us to the best record in the American League over the past six years. . .He and his wife, Jenna, who made so many contributions to the Cleveland community in their time here will definitely be missed.”