The Astros, a team many expected to take a big step forward this season, have not gotten off to a good start in 2016. They have lost three of their last four games to fall to 15-24 on the season, 7 1/2 games back in the AL West. SportsLine says their postseason odds have dropped from 62.0 percent to 26.7 percent since Opening Day.
One of the (many) reasons the Astros are underperforming: center fielder Carlos Gomez. The 30-year-old impending free agent comes into Monday heading a meager .182/.238/.248 (36 OPS+) with no home runs and only 5 RBI. He's struck out 46 times in 121 at-bats. Only the Nationals (.490 OPS) have gotten worse production from their center fielders than the Astros (.494).
On Monday, Astros GM Jeff Luhnow stated what should be pretty obvious at this point. Gomez has to start hitting to avoid being benched.
Luhnow on Gomez: "I think he's going to have to turn it around at some point otherwise we're not going to be able to continue to play him."— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) May 16, 2016
The Astros called up prospect Tony Kemp on Monday, and Kemp is fully capable of playing center field. The team could also slide either Colby Rasmus or George Springer into center field. They have options at the position.
Gomez hasn't hit much since coming over from the Brewers in a trade last season. He put up a .242/.288/.383 (84 OPS+) batting line in 41 games with the Astros last year after hitting .262/.328/.423 (104 OPS+) in 74 games with Milwaukee. Gomez hit .284/.356/.477 (129 OPS+) with 23 home runs and 34 steals as recently as 2014, remember.
Manager A.J. Hinch has already started to scale back on Gomez's playing time. Jake Marisnick has started two of the last three and three of the last eight games in center field. Kemp is not coming up to ride the bench, so Gomez figures to lose more playing time going forward.
Gomez will be a free agent after this season, and while there is still plenty of season to go, it is very much in doubt whether the Astros will make him a qualifying offer. Gomez is still reasonably young, but, if he doesn't pick up the pace and soon, he's going to wind up costing himself a ton of money.