Catcher Yan Gomes told reporters in a conference call at Winterfest last month that he was excited to join the Washington Nationals’ rotation after the 3-for-1 trade that brought him to D.C. from Cleveland.
Getting to catch pitchers like Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg, Gomes explained, was the first thing he thought of when he learned he’d been dealt.
“That was literally the first thing that I thought about,” the 31-year-old catcher said.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to get to work with some unbelievable starting pitchers with the Indians, and the Nationals’ starting pitchers are right there. You’ve got definitely got two of the top guys in the league and it’s exciting. I got a text from Scherzer last night, and that to me felt like it spoke to the whole organization and the kind of place I’m going into.
“He seemed really excited, and I just told him I’m ready to get working. That’s the kind of personality that I have, I want to get right to it and get going.”
GM Mike Rizzo and Co. in the Nationals’ front office have since signed both Patrick Corbin (to a 6-year/$140M deal) and Aníbal Sánchez (2 years/$19M), adding the left-hander and veteran right-hander to the mix alongside Scherzer, Strasburg, and whichever pitcher or pitchers end up filling out the back end of the rotation, whether it’s in-house options (like Erick Fedde or Joe Ross) or another addition.
Gomes, who will share the catching duties with Kurt Suzuki, who signed as a free agent this winter, finished the 2018 campaign at .266/.313/.449, with 16 home runs, 26 doubles, and 101 wRC+ in a 2.2 fWAR season, guiding Cleveland’s pitchers to a combined 3.83 ERA in 111 games and finishing third among major league catchers in Defensive Runs Saved (+4 DRS).
Gomes talked again on Wednesday afternoon, in an MLB Network Radio interview, about the upgraded staff he’ll be working with this season.
“First, I’m just pretty blessed to be on the side that gets to catch these guys and not on the other side that gets to face them,” he joked. “We definitely get to face some unbelievable staffs, but I get to catch an unbelievable staff. Right from the get-go I get a text message from [Scherzer] — we got to play against each other when he was with the [Detroit] Tigers, quite a bit, and those weren’t fun days — and once he went to the Nationals you could see his level just went above like — it went pretty crazy, and just right from the get-go, getting to talk to him and chat with him a little bit — you can tell why the guy is who he is.
“The intensity-level, the wanting to win, and everything is unbelievable and I’m excited for that and then you’ve got 3-4 other guys back there that can compete just as much as [Scherzer]. Strasburg, who is definitely one of the best pitchers in the game, and Corbin, the best lefty in the game right now, and rightfully so he got the contract for it, and then you’ve got a veteran guy like Sánchez, who — I mean, talk about some redemption coming from two years [back] and now he is who he is, he’s back to the kind of guy that he was before, so I’m super-excited to just get to meet these guys and get to know them and learn from them. These are elite pitchers that I’m going to get to work with and I’m honored because I know it’s going to make me better to get to work with such amazing guys.”
It’s not just the pitchers that have Gomes excited about the upcoming season, however. He said he talked to Rizzo after the trade and the General Manager’s enthusiasm got him going.
“That conversation was really cool,” Gomes said. “This is the second time I’ve been traded, and I was kind of like a smaller guy in the first one. I actually joke around with Mike Aviles and some of the guys that I was the ‘other guy’, but they traded for me this time, and first and foremost that’s an unbelievable honor to be seen that way and seen as a guy that they wanted and they needed.
“And that conversation with Mike Rizzo was — I mean, he was right to the point. He’s definitely, ‘Hey, we’re excited to have you here, we’ve been going after you since the beginning of the offseason,’ and then he’s like, ‘Hey, we want you to get right to work,’ and you can kind of tell the fire that he has and that’s going to feed a lot of guys. I know it impacted me for sure to just come in and put it all out there to take this team to the next level and I hope I can be a part of that.”