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Tampa Bay Rays: Time To Replace Brandon Gomes

By Robbie Knopf
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Brandon Gomes deserves some credit. After managing just a 5.84 ERA as an up-and-down reliever with the Tampa Bay Rays in 2012 and 2013, Gomes has turned in solid numbers the last two years, managing a 3.88 ERA across 61 appearances and 65 innings pitched. Unfortunately for him, though, the Rays have too many relief options to keep a decent but far from spectacular pitcher like Gomes on their roster, especially when he is out of options. That is even truer when we consider how much he has been struggling lately.

On the year, Gomes now has a 4.06 ERA but just a 4.90 FIP. He doesn’t miss many bats (6.4 K/9), and though he doesn’t allow many walks either (2.9 BB/9), he gives up way too many home runs (1.5 HR/9). Big league relievers as a whole have allowed 0.9 home runs per 9 innings this season, making Gomes’ HR/9 figure particularly alarming. The fifth homer he allowed this season came in the eighth inning of yesterday’s game to make a 2-0 game where the Rays were a bloop and a blast away into a 4-0 deficit that was going to take a complete bullpen collapse to overcome.

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Gomes’ overall numbers don’t even tell the whole story at this point. It isn’t just that he is mediocre–the league has adjusted to him again, just like it has every single time. After Gomes delivered a 1.76 ERA and a 14-3 strikeout to walk ratio in his first 15.1 innings of the year, Gomes has a 6.32 ERA, just a 8-7 strikeout to walk ratio, and 4 homers allowed in his last 15.2 innings. Every pitcher has his rough stretches, but that is about as extreme as it gets. Brad Boxberger was allowing his home runs earlier this season while Kevin Jepsen gave up his walks, but even at their worst, they never achieved the trifecta of allowing too many walks and too many home runs while failing to strike anybody out.

It isn’t that Gomes is that bad of a pitcher, but the reality of the situation is that he is no better than the arms that the Tampa Bay Rays have been stashing at Triple-A. The Rays would be fine having him for a few days and then sending him down when he is unavailable, but letting him take up a roster spot even when he can’t pitch doesn’t really make since. He simply isn’t effective enough to warrant that. And with that in mind, the Rays are best off designating him for assignment–he is out of options so they can’t simply demote him, although they would like him to pass through waivers.

Who should take Gomes’ spot on the Tampa Bay Rays’ roster? It would be tempting to talk about the Rays making an outside acquisition, but we recently talked about why that wouldn’t make sense: the return of Drew Smyly will push a starter (possibly Smyly) to the bullpen. Eventually, the Rays will end up with a bullpen of Boxberger, Jake McGee, Jepsen, Steve Geltz, Xavier Cedeno, Alex Colome, and whichever starter ends up in relief. In the meantime, though, the Rays should be using that last spot on a variety of pitchers, at least until one guy impresses them enough to stay.

Just on the Rays’ 40-man roster, they have Andrew Bellatti, Jose Dominguez, C.J. Riefenhauser, Enny Romero, and Kirby Yates who can be called up at any point. They also have an open 40-man roster spot, so Everett Teaford, Scott Diamond, Ernesto Frieri, or Jhan Marinez could also be a possibility at any time. The Rays’ ideal would be to find another great reliever, but in lieu of that, they are best off having a fresh arm as often as possible. We just listed nine options to be that fresh arm, and Matt Andriese–who will stay in the minors as starting depth–makes it an even 10.

The two pitchers with the best chance to stick with the Rays more than a few days are Bellatti and Dominguez. Bellatti has come out of nowhere with his mid-90’s fastball and sharp slider, and the only concern with him is his control. Dominguez, meanwhile, has even better stuff but has dealt with shoulder problems and inconsistent results this season. Even so, Dominguez looked good with the Rays earlier this season and another call-up to boost his confidence may be exactly what he needs.

The Rays were the champions of bullpen flexibility earlier this season, and the moment has arrived for them to designate Brandon Gomes for assignment to get back to that. Gomes could easily pass through waivers and resurface in the Rays’ bullpen in September, but keeping him on the roster to pitch ineffectively doesn’t make sense for them right now.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays MiLB Recap: The Biscuits’ Two-Man Wrecking Crew

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