Jonny Gomes, Ryan Sweeney, and Maximizing Advantages


Earlier this offseason the Red Sox signed former Athletic, Jonny Gomes, to a two-year, $10 million deal. Many, including me, were puzzled because Gomes, a notoriously poor defender, would be slated to get the bulk of the playing time in left field with David Ortiz entrenched at DH. While Gomes was certainly productive last year (he hit .262/.377/.491 in a pitcher-friendly environment), nearly all of that damage came while having the platoon advantage, raking to a tune of .299/.413/.561 against southpaws. Compare that to an anemic .209/.324/.391 against right-handers, and Gomes’ need for a platoon becomes all the more obvious.

Mar 6, 2013; Fort Myers, FL, USA; Boston Red Sox left fielder Jonny Gomes (5) at bat in the first inning during a spring training game against the Pittsburgh Pirates at JetBlue Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Enter Ryan Sweeney. Sweeney, a former top prospect who peaked at 55 on Baseball America’s top 100 list, hasn’t quite lived up to his previously lofty expectations. Up to now, Sweeney has failed to show any power (only 14 career home runs, career .378 SLG) and has had serious difficulties staying healthy (missed 77 games last year). So, he might not be perfect. But right now, Sweeney is the best internal option the Sox have to maximize both of their abilities. For his career, Sweeney has hit .293/.347/.402 against right-handers, clearly better than his numbers versus same sided pitchers (.225/.298/.281). In addition, Sweeney adds an element of defense that Gomes simply does not have. These contrasting skillsets allow both players the best opportunity to succeed in their given roles and would best serve the team in this capacity.

Furthermore, manager John Farrell can mix and match both players given the situation during the game. If the Sox are winning and Gomes started, Sweeney could come in as a defensive replacement to further preserve the lead (as well as save Gomes any embarrassment from his defensive limitations). Conversely, Gomes could enter the game and tee off against a lefty specialist if the Sox are in need of runs. This versatility that both provide could be a major advantage throughout the season, and one that gives the Sox the best chance to win.

Clearly, Gomes and Sweeney would make a pretty solid platoon option. However, some would argue that spending $5 million on a part time player is a waste of money and roster space. For now, enlighten me with a blind player comparison. We’ll call these players Y and Z. Last season, player Y hit .287/.365/.474 with 18 home runs and 63 RBI in less than a season’s worth of at bats. Similarly, player Z hit .282/.346/.478 with 25 home runs and 95 RBI last season. This upcoming season, player Y is scheduled to make approximately $7 million while player Z will make $14 million as part of the $100 million extension he signed last offseason. In terms of accolades, player Y has none while player Z is a former all-star, silver slugger, MVP vote getter, and is the face of his franchise. Player Z is none other than Ryan Zimmerman. Player Y is Gomes and Sweeney and their numbers against the platoon last season. While this fails to account Zimmerman’s superior defensive abilities, the Gomes/Sweeney platoon posted similar offensive statistics for half the price. Strip away the word platoon, and the Red Sox have an all-star caliber player on their hands this upcoming season.

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