Since he joined the team last season, Cubs pitchers have raved about what Yan Gomes has brought to the club. He’s a veteran with a 2019 World Series ring and a 2018 All-Star appearance under his belt. He knows how to handle a pitching staff, and that’s been pretty clear over the last year.
But what kind of value does he bring when he’s doing his thing behind the plate, AND he’s riding a hot streak at the plate?
“A ton of value. I don’t know if you want a dollar figure,” Cubs manager David Ross joked.
“He’s very important to us behind the plate,” Ross added. “He’s very important to us in the clubhouse. When he hits, it’s a huge bonus for us.”
Gomes proved how much of a bonus his bat can be during the Cubs 6-0 win over the Padres on Tuesday at Wrigley Field. Until Nico Hoerner broke the game open with a three-run triple with two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Gomes accounted for all of the Cubs offense. That included an RBI single two batters before Hoerner’s triple, which capped off his fifth-career four-hit night.
But the big knock came six innings earlier, when Gomes drove a ball straight into the wind blowing in from left field. Admittedly, the ball might’ve been long gone on any other night. The wind, though, kept everyone waiting for it to finally come down 405 feet from home plate.
“I was almost 99 percent sure that Trent Grisham was sandbagging me,” Gomes said. “He’s such a tremendous outfielder, I thought he was going slow, and I was like, ‘Oh, great. I thought I hit that well.’ I turned the corner there at first base screaming, because I had no idea it was going to go.”
It did go, obviously, and Gomes’ fifth home run of the season was the difference in the Cubs’ win. But rather than it being a surprise shot for the 35-year-old backstop, it was more of a continuation of the run Gomes has been on at the plate.
Over his first six games, Gomes hit .095, had a .329 OPS and produced a -23 wRC+. The Cubs weren’t expecting the duo of Gomes and Tucker Barnhart to collectively replace former catcher Willson Contreras’ offensive production, but they needed to provide some kind of an offensive spark.
While Barnhart hasn’t yet found that, Gomes has turned things around mightily. In his last eight games since April 11, Gomes is hitting .441 with a 1.251 OPS and a 240 wRC+. That’s brought the season totals for those numbers to .309, .898 and 138, respectively.
“I’d say [Gomes] doesn’t get enough credit,” Ross said. “Got off to a little bit of a slow start, pressing and trying to do some things, and he’s settled down really nicely.”
Of course, the offensive side isn’t nearly as important as what Gomes bring defensively. He’s something of an expert game-caller, someone who works well with every pitcher on the staff and knows how to develop the right gameplan each time out.
There’s a reason the pitching staff as a whole owns a 2.97 ERA this season, while the rotation itself is down to a 2.80 ERA. There’s a reason Justin Steele, who impressed once again with 5 1/3 innings of scoreless ball Tuesday night, owns a career 1.40 ERA with Gomes behind the plate. He knows how to manage a staff, and he knows how to get the best out of each arm on the roster.
“He’s been awesome,” Steele said. “He’s really, in different situations, helped me out numerous times. It’s awesome having him back there behind the plate, because you know — him and Tucker both — they’re both putting in the work, more work than I am, on the opposing lineups and stuff. That’s a really good feeling being out on the bump and knowing that.”
The Cubs went a different direction with their catchers this season, choosing to go with ones who would help the pitching staff perform near the top of the league on the field while providing veteran leadership off of it. Thus far, that’s gone according to plan.
Gomes himself said that he doesn’t try to expect too much on the offensive side. He understands hot and cold streaks are an inevitable part of the game, and the offensive stretch he’s on may not last a whole lot longer.
The Cubs get that, too, which is why they care a whole lot more on the other things Gomes does well. Any offensive production is a bonus.
“I don’t care what he does at the plate, to be honest with you,” Ross said, “because he’s so valuable in so many other areas.”