Houston Astros v Milwaukee Brewers

It slipped by mostly unnoticed this week but the Milwaukee Brewers signed their center fielder Carlos Gomez to a three-year, $24 million contract extension a few days ago. Gomez was one year away from free agency and his deal covers the 2014-2016 seasons at $7mm for 2014, $8mm for 2015, and $9mm for 2016.

Gomez is just off his finest offensive season, where he hit 19 home runs and stole 37 stolen bases, both career highs. It was the first season of Gomez’s career in which he managed to post above-average offense at all.

The terms are reasonably friendly and he is an elite defender being paid as a below-league average player. Does that make it a good deal or a pointless one?

It is easy to judge contracts solely by their expected return. Even if the Brewers don’t believe Gomez can post even league average offense over the next three years, his defense might just carry the contract.

But if defense only is all the Brewers want from their center fielder, why pay for it at all? The minor leagues are lousy with players who can go and get it in center, why ink a player coming off a shock offensive season to a long-term deal?

Gomez was something of a different hitter in 2012. He swung at more pitches out of the strike zone, he walked less and he swung and missed at a higher rate than ever before. Gomez hit 15 of his 19 home runs in the final three months of the season, with much of his success coming against breaking balls.

There is a chance, though I haven’t read anything suggesting as much, that the Brewers simply let Gomez loose in 2012. A speedy player with contact issues, there is an inevitable compulsion to have him chop everything into the dirt and beat out as many infield singles as possible. Gomez wouldn’t be the first and he wouldn’t be last speedy outfielder facing this mandate.

Gomez once attempted 66 bunts in a single season, beating out 30 of them while a member of the Twins in 2008. Those bunt attempts for hits were all the way down to 18 in 2012, with six successful bunt singles. 2012 also marked the first time Carlos Gomez hit more fly balls than grounders, further evidence for a new approach.

Compare this home run from late September

To this inside-the-park scamper from 2011.

A defensive two-strike swing in the second video but everything about the stride and construction of the swing looks quite different. The more recent clip shows Gomez getting his front foot down early and really turning on a spinning slide. The 2011 highlight features of a more slap-happy approach, still trying for those infield hits and punch shots through the hole.

If Gomez can run into a dozen or so homers for the next three years while still playing strong defense (provided the 27-year old’s best days in the field aren’t already behind him), there is nothing wrong with the deal for Milwaukee. Likewise, if the Brewers find a better option, there isn’t much harm in relegating Gomez to a part-time role due his relative seven-figure pittance should his play suffer.

And the rest

Mike Trout, Jackie Bradley Jr. and service times. [Alex Speier]

Worrying about Derek Jeter‘s defense in 2013. Spoiler: the injured ankle won’t make it any better. [RLYW]

One of the best pitchers of his generation or your goofy uncle? [Bois Nation]

Game theory in the batter/pitch approach [Tango Tiger]

The DFJ podcast talks about the Jays potentially leaving their spring home in Dunedin, Florida. [DJF]

Mike Zunino will save the Mariners. [Sweetspot blog]

Lost in all the “Angel Hernandez called WHAT a strike” hoopla, howbout that frame job by J.P. Arencibia?! :\ [Eye on Baseball]