The Tampa Bay Rays did not tender Jonny Gomes on Friday night, likely ending his days in the organization. Gomes now becomes a free agent.
Gomes, a fan favorite at Tropicana Field, has seen his role diminish and suffered through a disappointing campaign in 2008. He batted .182/.283/.383 in 154 at-bats while spending a large chunk of his time at Triple-A Durham. The outfielder/designated hitter burst onto the scene with an excellent rookie performance in 2005, posting a 139 OPS+ with a then-franchise rookie record 21 home runs. He ended up with a .282/.372/.534 line while emerging as one of the most important players on the Tampa Bay roster, though he struck out in 32.5 percent of his plate appearances.
Gomes then hit 20 home runs again in 2006, but saw his line drop significantly. Injuries, ineffectiveness and the emergence of several other outfielders limited his role from that point on. He is a Three True Outcome player who may add value if given enough at-bats, but his defense in the outfield is suspect. With his power, he is likely to be picked up by another team.
Gomes is perhaps best known for his role in two brawl incidents. During spring training, he came running in from right field to tackle Shelley Duncan, who took out second baseman Akinori Iwamura with a dirty slide in a March game against the New York Yankees in St. Petersburg. This set a nice tone for the season, telling the baseball world that the Rays would not back down from anything. He then was at it again in June, when he quickly came to James Shields’ defense in the infamous Coco Crisp brawl.
The news about Gomes is disappointing, though hardly a surprise. Due for a raise in arbitration, he was not worth the cost of a contract for the cost-conscious Rays. This will free up some payroll, but Tampa Bay, according to the Tampa Tribune, is willing to bring him back on a minor league deal.
After dealing Edwin Jackson earlier this week, the Rays now have five reaming arbitration-eligible players who are due for raises—Willy Aybar, Grant Balfour, Jason Bartlett, Gabe Gross and Dioner Navarro.
Gross is still expected to see a decent amount of time at right field, though Matt Joyce, the return in the Jackson deal, has a real chance to win the job outright in spring training.
Aybar, Balfour, Bartlett and Navarro should see significant increases in their salaries.
Aybar filled in admirably at third base when Evan Longoria went down while providing versatility in the infield and solid offensive production. Bartlett, selected as Rays’ Team MVP by the local chapter of the BBWAA, helped anchor the majors’ most efficient defense. Navarro, an All-Star, had an excellent first half and played an important role in the success as well.