With Gomes Gone, Who Will Handle the Cleveland Indians’ Pitching Staff?

(Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ron Schwane/Getty Images) /

Things behind the dish will look a bit different for the Cleveland Indians this year. Without Yan Gomes, who will step up for the Tribe at catcher?

The Cleveland Indians parted ways with Yan Gomes in late November when they sent the All-Star catcher to the Nationals in exchange for right-handed pitcher Jefry Rodriguez, minor league outfielder Daniel Johnson and a player to be named later.  A little over a month later, Cleveland acquired catcher Kevin Plawecki in a deal with the Mets, sending minor league right-handed pitcher Walker Lockett and infielder Sam Haggerty to New York.

Plawecki, a 28-year-old veteran, spent the last four seasons with the Mets, logging 215 games behind the dish.  In 2018 he split time with Devin Mesoraco, who was acquired from the Reds in early May.  The backstop hit .210 in the 64 games he started, but his at-bats and overall play time decreased after the arrival of Mesoraco.  Plawecki’s platoon situation in New York is likely to be similar to what he will have in Cleveland this coming season with Indians’ catcher Roberto Perez still under team control for the next three years.

Perez is no stranger to platoon play either.  The Puerto Rico native has served as a backup to Gomes for much of his career, never appearing in more than 73 games in any of his five seasons in the major leagues.  And because he started 62 games a year ago—two less than Plawecki—the Indians’ catching situation is unclear.  But because Perez caught a majority of starts made by right-handers Trevor Bauer and Mike Clevinger during the 2018 campaign, perhaps Plawecki could handle Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco, and Shane Bieber, who is slated to round out the Indians’ rotation, according to a MLB.com depth chart.

The pair of catchers are both viable options for Terry Francona come late March.  Both are similar in age—Perez, 30, and Plawecki, 28—and have been playing at the major league level for nearly the same length.  Perez has played in just above 66 games a season since 2015, the same season in which Plawecki debuted.

The Indians also have Eric Haase, a 26-year-old catcher who’s only appeared in nine major league games, all after being recalled from Triple-A Columbus in early September.  In that short stint, he recorded two hits in 16 at-bats while providing rest to Gomes and Perez prior to the postseason.  Haase is a career .246 hitter over the course of eight minor league seasons throughout the Indians’ organization and is listed as Cleveland’s third catcher according to the same mlb.com depth chart.

Although the Indians are unsure of who will be behind the plate on Opening Day, one thing is certain: Whoever is will have to fill the void Gomes left.  Gomes was a key proponent to the battery power in Cleveland, catching 589 games since 2013, his first season in an Indians uniform while hitting .245 with 83 home runs and driving in 295 runs during that span.  The Brazilian-born catcher is no defensive slouch either as he ranks seventh among active catchers in caught stealing percentage, gunning down 34.72% of would-be base stealers over the last six seasons.

With Gomes gone, the durability of Indians’ catching becomes an immediate concern for Cleveland.  Perez, as mentioned, played the most games of his career (73) in 2017, and Plawecki played in the most games of any season in his career last season after appearing in 79 contests.  But neither catcher has played 81 games—half an MLB season—let alone 162 games, in one season.

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The duo will have their first crack at battling for the backstop position this week when Indians’ pitchers and catchers report to Goodyear, Arizona, this week.