Tuesday evening before first pitch against the Marlins, the Nationals agreed to a trade with the Cincinnati Reds, as the Nationals sent OF/1B Bill Rhinehart and LHRP Chris Manno to Cincinnati for OF Jonny Gomes and cash considerations. Manager Davey Johnson mentioned when he first took over that he wanted to add a power right-handed bat off the bench, and GM Mike Rizzo granted his wish in Gomes. Gomes, 30, has a .211/.336/.399 batting line with eleven home runs in 218 at-bats in 2011 and a career line of .244/.330/.455 over nine seasons.
Gomes has the reputation as a lefty masher, as his career .281/.276/.510 batting line against lefties attests to: this season he has continued to be tough on lefties, batting .333/.439/.537. While Gomes clearly has a skill (hitting LHP) and is known as a terrific teammate, he is a liability defensively and cannot hit right-handed pitching, so he must be used by Manager Davey Johnson in specific situations to maximize his skillset. Gomes is projected to platoon in left field with Laynce Nix and Roger Bernadina and provide a right-handed bat off the bench. Gomes is scheduled to make 1.75 million in 2011 and will be a free agent after this season. Gomes currently projects as a Type B Free Agent, meaning that if the Nationals offer him arbitration after the season and Gomes signs a major league contract with another team, the Nationals would receive a compensation pick in the 2012 MLB Draft. This concept is pretty important, as I think it was the impetus behind this trade.
Bill Rhinehart was an 11th round pick for the Nationals in the 2007 draft from the University of Arizona. “Dolla” Bill Rhinehart (“Dolla” because he is money as a hitter) had a .283/.376/.587 batting line with 21 home runs this season in Double-A Harrisburg, splitting his time between first base, left field and right field. He has spent the better part of the last three seasons in Harrisburg, reaching Triple-A for only five games, and owns a .261/.331/.458 for his career. Limited in the field and almost 27 years old, I do not expect Rhinehart to receive more than a cup of coffee in the major leagues for his career. He is a solid minor league player, but not someone the Nationals will miss in the future.
Chris Manno was a 26th round pick for the Nationals in the 2010 draft from Duke University. This season in Hagerstown, Manno has a 1.47 ERA with a 14.4 K/9 and 3.7 BB/9 ration in 61 1/3 innings. I have watched Manno for years at Duke and two summers ago in Cape Cod, and while he has impressive numbers, he gets by with solid fastball command and deception in his delivery. My fear with Manno however, is that he lacks enough fastball velocity to get major league hitters out and he struggles to throw strikes with his fringy breaking pitches . While his off-speed stuff has improved in the past two years, I fear he will struggle at the Double-A level and I would be rather surprised if he ever develops into a major league reliever.
This trade comes down to a two month rental player and a gamble from GM Mike Rizzo to fetch a draft pick this offseason while trading two minor leaguers with terrific minor league numbers but limited potential to be productive major leaguers. Gomes makes $1.75 million this season, and should see a slight raise in arbitration to $2.0-$2.5 million for 2012; I fear that he will accept arbitration from the Nationals as I do not think his numbers warrant a multi-year contract from another club, and the security of a guaranteed contract will likely be more enticing than trying his luck in the free agent market. It is worth mentioning, Gomes has twice previously been non-tendered arbitration, likely for fears he would accept.
If Gomes plays for the Nationals for two months and leaves this offseason without being offered arbitration (30% chance), the Nationals lose this deal. If Gomes is offered arbitration and accepts arbitration from the Nationals (50% chance) this offseason, the Nationals again lose this deal, as I believe they could sign him (or a similar player) in the offseason for less money, and without giving up players. Finally, if Gomes is offered arbitration this offseason and signs with another team (20% chance), the Nationals win this deal quite handily, as the compensation pick the Nats would receive (likely pick #40-#60 in 2012) is significantly more valuable than Manno + Rhinehart. GM Mike Rizzo sounded very confident in receiving a pick as compensation in this scenario saying, “This guy gives us an added boost off the bench. It’s a compensation pick for us if we don’t get something done for him long-term. We thought it was a good, prudent move in giving up part of our depth and our strength in the minor leagues”. (Adam Kilgore’s quote from Nationals Journal article “Mike Rizzo on the Nationals’ trade for Jonny Gomes”)
Color me skeptical… I hope to be proven wrong, but this is an interesting gamble by GM Mike Rizzo and a column to revisit in Spring Training.
Overall Grade… D+ … though it goes to a B+ if the Nationals end up with a draft pick
** Note ** … This upcoming Sunday, July 31st, I will be live blogging both the Nationals game and the final hours up until the MLB trade deadline. Please join me with your questions and comments!
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