Cleveland Indians: The best trade asset at the catcher position

The Cleveland Indians have a star catching prospect in waiting, so it is fair to consider the trade value of the two catchers on the roster.

The inevitable is coming. Everyone that follows the Cleveland Indians closely is itching to see what star catching prospect Francisco Mejia can do. His time is going to come, but it remains to be seen what the Indians will do with their current catching situation.

Yan Gomes is under club control through 2021, while Roberto Perez is under club control through 2022. Both have club options in the last two years of their contracts, and both contracts are pretty club friendly. Yan Gomes is owed $5.95 million in 2018 and $7 million in 2019.

Perez’s contract is especially club friendly. Perez is owed $1.5 million in 2018, $2.5 million in 2019, and $3.5 million in 2020. Both catchers are viable options as major league starters but lack the ceiling that many think Francisco Mejia has to offer.

Neither Gomes nor Perez will blow you away with their ability at the plate. Gomes is probably the better of the two hitters, but I think that the gap is closer than people would think. Outside of 2013 and Gomes’ breakout 2014 when he won the Silver Slugger award for catchers, he hasn’t been very good at the plate.

His best wRC+ since that 2014 campaign is 87, which happened in 2017. In 2016, he was horrendous at the plate, posting a 32 wRC+ in 74 games.

Perez boasted a 107 wRC+ in 2015, had a career-low wRC+ of 57 in 2016, and a 75 wRC+ in 2017, which is respectable given his defensive prowess. Perez’s total WAR from 2015-2017 is 2.5, compared to Gomes’ 1.6.

It is incredible that Perez is almost a full win better than Gomes in this span given how much more time Gomes has spent on the field than Perez.

The biggest difference for me is how much better Perez is behind the plate than Gomes.

Both of these catchers do a pretty good job at throwing runners out trying to steal. That’s not the defensive aspect I’m talking about. It’s pitch framing and receiving that really sets Perez apart from Gomes.

In 2017, Gomes got 13.2 percent of pitches inside the zone called balls, and just 6.7 percent of pitches outside the zone called strikes. Perez, on the other hand, had 11.7 percent of pitches inside the zone called balls, and nine percent of pitches outside the zone called strikes; good for eighth among major league catchers that caught at least 1000 pitches.

Perez also posted a 9.9 RAA in 2017, which was fourth among catchers in all of baseball. Yan Gomes’ RAA in 2017 was -4.1.

To me, the case is pretty clear. Roberto Perez is a much better trade asset. He is, in my opinion, every bit as good of a hitter as Gomes. Behind the plate it is no contest, Perez is one of the best in the business. Presumably, one of the two may be on their way out either during or after the 2018 campaign.

All signs point to it being Perez, but I would really love to keep him on as a backup. We will see very soon how it all plays out.