The Astros kicked off the trade deadline frenzy when they acquired Scott Kazmir from the Oakland Athletics. They now join the Blue Jays and Royals as American League contenders that have added to both their rotation and their lineup by acquiring Carlos Gomez -- along with starting pitcher Mike Fiers -- from the Milwaukee Brewers.
Little-known fact, but Carlos Gomez was almost traded to the Mets on Wednesday night, in a deal that was reportedly nixed due to the their concern over what they learned about his hip from his medical reports. When asked about his health, Cargo responded with what might be the quote of the trade deadline.
Asked whether he's hurt, Carlos Gomez said, "I don't have no problems. I'm playing, and I feel really sexy about it."— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) July 30, 2015
But the thing is, Gomez hasn't exactly been playing sexy this year. I mean, he looks good, but his stats have waned considerably from his production over the last two seasons, when he accumulated 13.2 fWAR, the fourth-highest total over that period. Not only is Cargo alleged to have a hip issue, he also spent time on the DL early in the season after injuring his knee on a leaping catch to rob Brandon Phillips of an extra base hit early in the season.
Despite the downturn in performance this season, Gomez still represents an upgrade to the Astros current outfield, since George Springer is sidelined with a wrist injury until mid-August. ZiPS projects him to accumulate 1.4 fWAR over the remainder of the season, more than any other Astros outfielder.
Center fielder Jake Marisnick looked like a break-out candidate entering the season, but he's the only regular outfielder in the group with below average offensive production. While he has swatted just three fewer home runs than Cargo, his average average exit velocity (84.7 mph) and average batted ball distance (297 ft.) suggest a more striking difference between the season that he and Gomez (88.5 mph, 307 ft.) have had.
In Gomez, the Astros not only get an offensive threat, but one of the premier defenders in center field over the past several seasons. Since 2012, there has been only one better defensive center fielder in the game than Gomez. That just happens to be Juan Lagares of the Mets, who edges out Gomez in both DRS (58 to 44) and UZR (50.7 to 43.4).
One question is whether the Astros should risk Cargo's lower half in center where Tal's Hill looms large, or whether shifting him to a corner and playing Marisnick and/or Rasmus in up the middle is a better option. Cargo's defensive ratings have slipped this season, and along with his diminished offensive production, give some credence to the health concerns that caused the Mets to kill Wednesday night's trade. Rasmus spent most of his career in center before signing with Houston, though his defense graded out at just average according to URZ (-0.1) and DRS (8).
Platooning Marisnick and Rasmus in center may seem like an attractive option, given that they hit from opposite sides of the plate, but Marisnick actually shows reverse platoon splits for his career, and hits worse than Rasmus against both left and right-handers. So it seems unlikely that Marisnick will see many plate appearances with the addition of Gomez. Should Preston Tucker continue to swing a hot bat once Springer returns, it should be him spelling the Astros' corner outfielders. Whether Marisnick winds up watching Astros games from the bench, his iPhone on the Grizzlies bus, or another dugout remains to be seen, but his days of playing regularly in them appear to be done.
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