A platoon of Yan Gomes and Kurt Suzuki looked good on paper, but it’s time for the Washington Nationals to choose their starting catcher.
Few can fault Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo for trying to upgrade the catching position this past off-season. Trading for Yan Gomes and signing Kurt Suzuki in November made sense, as did the team’s plan to platoon the two catchers.
Hopes were high, with this site’s former expert even arguing that acquiring Gomes could be the best of Rizzo’s many off-season moves. Suzuki, for his part, was already popular in Nationals circles after his 2012-13 stint in Washington and 2017-18 career renaissance in Atlanta.
While Suzuki has lived up to his two-year contract so far, Gomes has unfortunately become a liability for a 4th place Nationals team that can no longer afford to experiment with its lineup. Based on performance, Suzuki should be anointed the team’s starting catcher, with Gomes shifted to a backup role.
In 36 games, Suzuki is batting .278 with six home runs and 27 RBI. His grand slam put an exclamation point on Tuesday’s victory in Chicago, and his staggering .419 average with runners in scoring position (.533 with RISP and two outs!) is a godsend for a team that often struggles with situational hitting.
In 44 games, Gomes has been solid with RISP (.355) but far below expectations overall. His .229 average is the worst of all Nationals regulars other than the injured Ryan Zimmerman, and his two homers and 19 RBI in 144 at-bats are not what Washington was hoping for.
Even more troubling has been Gomes’ defense, which was supposed to be his biggest strength. He has struggled to consistently communicate with Nats pitchers, which was spotlighted during a nationally televised game in May. Gomes has made numerous mental mistakes, including not throwing to second base as the winning run moved into scoring position Friday in San Diego.
During Tuesday night’s loss in Chicago, Gomes inexplicably allowed his seventh passed ball.
In addition to being the best move for the team, Gomes might benefit in the long run from some time on the bench. It would give him a chance to reset mentally and hopefully get on the same page with Nats pitchers.
With the 2019 season on the line in the upcoming homestand, the time for stubbornly clinging to preseason plans has passed. The Washington Nationals must put their best players on the field each and every night, which should make this decision an easy one for Rizzo and Davey Martinez.
Suzuki has earned the starting catcher’s role. It’s time to give him the job.