The Jon Lester saga is going to drag on. The whispers we've heard is that the Cubs are not out and there is "no leader" and, of course, you can take that in many ways. You can take it at face value or you can say there is agenda behind it. There is a good argument to be made for either side.
What I don't want is for Lester to use the Cubs to get the best deal possible, as much as I would love to see the Red Sox pay dearly to retain him.
Here is what I do want to see the Cubs do: Go get Jonny Gomes.
I'd overpay for him a bit because other than Martin, I think he is the ideal choice to add to the team's clubhouse. You know who agrees with me? Joe Maddon. Here is an excerpt from an article by Peter Gammons,
In spring training, Joe Maddon said Gomes and James Shields were “the most important people” in taking the 2007-2008 Rays from a team that had never won 71 games to the World Series. Then ten days ago, I asked Evan Longoria who were the most important teamates that 2008 season when he was a rookie and he replied, “no doubt—Shields and Gomes.”
And then there is this...
Do you see where I am going with this?
These are just a couple of examples but you can find article after article on Gomes. And he is not just a rah-rah guy who is there when the team goes well. As mentioned above he was the key to the Rays shift from a 71 win to a contender.
"I guess I'm scarred in a positive way, and to me that's important," he said. "Like in [Tampa] in 2008, we went to the World Series with maybe a mediocre team. In [Cincinnati in] 2010, the superstars that are there now weren't superstars then. Last year with the A's, it was a young team that went on that run.
"What do all those teams have in common? Not that good, but where there's a will, there's a way. You've got to grind to shine. I sum up all those seasons, that's what they all have in common."
Gee, I wonder if the Cubs could use a guy like that?
He has also helped James Shields develop as a leader. Is it a stretch to envision him doing the same for Anthony Rizzo, Javier Baez, and Kris Bryant?
Now Gomes isn't a great player anymore and he realizes he has to show it on the field to have real value, In his own words,
To be the clubhouse guy with the spark, you still have to perform. You can't just be a rodeo clown … and then go and strike out three or four times, or not run the bases hard.
For what it's worth, he still hits LHP very well, even in his subpar season last year (112 RC+ vs. LHP). Two years ago that RC+ was at 171 and for his career it is 133 RC+. This is still a productive player and he will sill be 34 on Opening Day, just a couple years older than Russell Martin will be.
As to how he projects next season compared to other Cubs options (per Steamer):
- Gomes: 19 HRs, 11% walk rate, 99 RC+, .314 wOBA
- Coghlan: 9 HRs, 9.2% walk rate, 95 RC+ .312 wOBA
- Ruggiano: 7 HRs, 8,1% walk rate, 99 RC+, .318 wOBA
The numbers won't take a hit (and a platoon of Coghlan/Gomes would produce solid numbers). And more importantly, he out- produces them in the category the Cubs most want to improve -- the willingness to take a walk. and I think other than Martin, nobody embodies what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are looking for in a veteran more than Gomes. And when it strictly comes to intangibles, he may even be at the top of the list. If the Cubs go and get him, then I will probably be far more excited than I should be considering his recent numbers, but I think he will be a positive influence in that he not just leads, but exemplifies what the Cubs want out of their players as far as their approach at the plate.
In other words, he has the approach they want and the leadership skills to pass that on to the young players.
But I think there is more to it than just helping this team, he is the type of players others respect and it is no secret around the league,
Speaking of teammates, Aaron Hill was chatting Friday when Goldschmidt walked by. “There,” said Hill, “is one of the best people, best teammates and best players you’ll ever meet. He is special.”
I think if Jonny Gomes tells people the Cubs are the place to be, it will carry some weight and he is obviously the kind of guy players want in their clubhouse. And it doesn't hurt that one of those players is James Shields.
I don't want the Cubs to sit back and watch Lester make up his mind and hear afterward that the Cubs were a close second. I would do what I need to do to get Gomes here and then go kick the tires on Shields. I would take a long look at Brandon McCarthy, Justin Masterson, and Jason Hammel -- all guys who would be great fits. If Lester decides in the meantime that he wants to come to Chicago, then great, the Cubs can accommodate him. But if not, I want to get a head start on these alternatives.
But first things first. Go get Gomes.
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