The Washington Nationals received unsatisfactory production from their catchers last season. General manager Mike Rizzo seems determined to make sure that won't be the case in 2019. Rizzo signed Kurt Suzuki to a two-year deal early in the winter, and on Friday he was in agreement to acquire Yan Gomes from the Cleveland Indians for outfielder Daniel Johnson, right-handed pitcher Jefry Rodriguez, and a player to be named later, according to the teams.
Gomes, 31, hit .266/.313/.449 (103 OPS+) with 16 home runs in 112 games. It was a welcomed sight considering he'd posted a 67 OPS+ over the previous three seasons. To his credit, he's consistently graded as a plus defender thanks to his framing ability and quick transfer on throws.
Depending on how Gomes fares in 2019, he could remain under team control through the 2021 season. His contract will pay him $7 million next season before morphing into a pair of club options: the first worth $9 million, then another for $11 million.
On Cleveland's side, Johnson gives them a controllable outfield option. Ranked No. 7 in the Nationals system by MLB.com, Johnson has the physical tools to be a quality player. He has above-average raw power and a strong throwing arm. He's also a good runner, giving him a chance to stick in center field. Johnson spent most of last season in Double-A, but could well reach the majors in 2019 if he hits the ground running in Triple-A. Rodriguez threw in 52 innings, posting a 5.71 ERA and recording nearly as many walks as strikeouts. On the plus side, his heater averaged 95 mph.
The Gomes trade would mark the second high-ranking catcher dealt in the past few months, joining prospect Francisco Mejia. If it happens, Eric Haase and Roberto Perez would become Cleveland's projected backstops. That could change before winter turns to spring, of course. At minimum, Cleveland would have freed up a chunk of money to reinvest as they see fit.