By now, we all know how close the Mets came to acquiring Carlos Gomez from the Milwaukee Brewers last season for Wilmer Flores and Zack Wheeler. Fortunately for the Mets, and of course Wilmer Flores who has entered folk hero status ever since, the Mets did not make the trade and instead acquired Yoenis Cespedes from the Tigers for Michael Fulmer and Luis Cessa. If the Gomez trade went through, how would 2015 have played out for New York and where would they be in 2016? Let’s have some fun and play in an alternate universe where Carlos Gomez and Michael Fulmer are New York Mets.
Now, this is obviously all hypothetical. Thanks to the butterfly effect, we have no way of knowing how Gomez would have played in Queens (or how Cespedes would have played in Houston). For the sake of this exercise, we'll assume their production in their actual cities represented their true talent, meaning they'd have played at the same level no matter where they were.
Carlos Gomez being in center field for the Mets down the stretch more than likely would not have impacted the post-deadline deals for Eric O’Flaherty or Addison Reed; those trades to shore up the bullpen would have happened anyway. From the 2015 trade deadline on, Cespedes hit 17 home runs with a 157 wRC+ and totaled 2.7 fWAR. Gomez hit four home runs with a 81 wRC+ and accrued 0.9 fWAR. Since there is only a 1.6-fWAR difference and the Mets won the National League East by seven games, I think the Mets would have won the N.L. East whether Gomez or Cespedes had been in center for the final two months — although it would have been closer than seven games.
The playoffs are a different scenario: Cespedes and Gomez had nearly identical numbers in the division series:
Cespedes — .250 AVG., 2 HR, 4 RBI
Gomez — .250 AVG, 1 HR, 2 RBI
While their numbers are close, so was the series with the Dodgers. I think without the presence of Cespedes, the Dodgers may have won instead of the Mets. That is how tight that series was — even one player missing could have swung it another way. Even if the Mets had advanced to the NLCS with Gomez, Cespedes played a big part in defeating the Cubs, as he batted .286 with three runs batted in. One question that cannot be answered is would Daniel Murphy had gotten as hot as he did with Gomez in the batting order instead of Cespedes? Personally, I think the answer is yes, since he has continued on his torrid pace in 2016.
2016 would look a lot different — and not in a good way — if Carlos Gomez began the year in Queens. First, let’s begin with the contractual difference. Cespedes has a salary of $27.5M and Gomez has a salary of $9M in 2016, so that would free the Mets of $18.5M. Even with that extra money, I don’t think the Mets re-sign Murphy, as he seemed destined to leave NY, great October or not; I'd thus still expect them to trade for Neil Walker. Also, the Mets would still sign Asdrubal Cabrera, especially if they did not have Flores on the roster for 2016. The Mets would begin 2016 with the following lineup:
LF — Michael Conforto
CF — Carlos Gomez
RF — Curtis Granderson
3B — David Wright
SS — Asdrubal Cabrera
2B — Neil Walker
1B — Lucas Duda
C — Travis d’Arnaud
Almost the same lineup, minus what will turn out to be a glaring holes in Cespedes. Through August 15th, here is how both compare: Cespedes has 22 home runs with a 143 wRC+, putting up 2.3 fWAR, and Gomez has five home runs with a 58 wRC+, translating to -0.4 fWAR. It is safe to say, 2016 would be very ugly for the Mets if they had Gomez. Currently they are 2.5 games back for the final wild card spot, but without Cespedes, the Mets could be in fourth place behind the Phillies, since they are only four games ahead of them now.
On the bright side, the Mets would have a deeper farm system than they do now. They would still have Fulmer (more on him in a second) and Dilson Herrera. The Mets would likely have no need to trade for Jay Bruce since they would be out of playoff contention, thus holding onto Herrera, a young second basemen they were high on. Fulmer would still be a part of a very impressive crop of young pitchers, which with the current state of affairs would be the best outcome of the Gomez trade. Zack Wheeler has yet to return from Tommy John surgery after suffering two setbacks, and Matt Harvey has undergone TOS surgery and his future success is questionable. Meanwhile in Detroit, Fulmer is currently looking like the A.L. Rookie of the Year — and dare I say even a Cy Young candidate. Through August 15th, Fulmer has compiled a 2.6 fWAR with a 2.25 ERA and an 103/32 K/BB ratio.
There is no doubt the Mets made the right move by pulling out of the Carlos Gomez trade and trading for Yoenis Cespedes a few days later. However, it is interesting to think how different the outcome and outlook of the franchise would be had Gomez been wearing orange and blue instead of Cespedes.
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Carl Triano is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score and Minor League Ball.