When the Chicago Cubs decided to let three-time All-Star catcher Willson Contreras depart via free agency, it sent a clear message that the organization was looking for a different skillset behind the dish in 2023 and beyond.
Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins brought in former Gold Glover Tucker Barnhart, pairing him with Yan Gomes, who appeared in 86 games a year ago for Chicago – giving the club a pair of experienced game-callers to work with a young pitching staff on the rise.
Barnhart has been abysmal with the bat, but ranks in the 65th percentile in framing – so he’s provided some value in that sense. Gomes, though, has been the opposite – clocking in below average in terms of framing, but setting the world ablaze with his bat while emerging as a key veteran presence in the clubhouse.
“Yan’s been phenomenal. He is all about the right things. You can tell why he’s been on championship teams, why he’s won a ton in his career. Everything that he’s about is professional, for the group, unselfish and all-in on whatever it is we’re doing here.”
– David Ross on Yan Gomes
Entering Sunday morning’s matchup with Miami, Gomes carried an .867 OPS – well above his career mark of .715. It’s probably not sustainable over the course of the year, but he’s been a pleasant surprise – and a big part of Chicago’s hot start here in 2023.
Year over year, Gomes has more than tripled his barrel rate and has overcome a dismal walk with a strikeout rate that ranks in the top 5 percent of qualified hitters. After hitting 8 home runs last season, the former All-Star already has 5 this year – and is slugging .563, again far outpacing what he’s done historically.
With Miguel Amaya playing well with Triple-A Iowa, there’s cause for optimism when it comes to his getting back on track after several lost years. The idea of bringing Gomes back in 2024 on a $6 million team option and allowing him to mentor Amaya is certainly an intriguing one, especially with the veteran playing so well to this point.