By Sheldon Ocker
Beacon Journal sports writer
CLEVELAND: Sometimes the best player in a trade is the one nobody paid attention to except the guy who consummated the deal.
How many Indians fans engaged in nonstop high-fiving after the acquisition of Yan Gomes along with Mike Aviles from the Toronto Blue Jays for Esmil Rogers last November?
As far as the sporting public knew, General Manager Chris Antonetti made the trade to bring in Aviles at the urging of manager Terry Francona. Aviles has been an integral part of the Tribe’s offense as one of the best part-time players in baseball.
But Gomes, the first Brazilian player to reach the majors? Kudos to Brazil for finally making it, and pardon us if we don’t stifle a yawn.
That probably was the reaction of Northeast Ohio fans 10½ months ago; now they know better.
“Kevin Cash and Dave Malpass were really high on this kid,” manager Terry Francona said Tuesday. “When we got him, we wanted to find out if he could become an everyday catcher.”
Cash was hired as the Indians’ bullpen coach over the winter after spending 2012 as an advance scout for the Blue Jays. Malpass is a veteran Tribe scout.
Gomes’ most obvious attribute is his workmanship as a hitter. In 236 at-bats, he is hitting .297 with 15 doubles, 10 home runs and 34 RBI. His on-base percentage is a respectable .347 and his slugging percentage an excellent .504 with 39 percent of his hits going for extra bases.
When the Indians announced the trade, they described Gomes as a first baseman/third baseman/catcher. Until spring training, the fans and the media thought Gomes was obtained for his versatility. But as Francona said, his catching skills were the focus of the club.
And for good reason. He has thrown out 45 percent (17-of-38) the runners who have tried to steal on him. The league average this season is 26 percent.
“I don’t know how to rate him, but he’s good, and he’s getting better,” Francona said.
Earlier in the week, Gomes took only 1.77 seconds to let loose with a throw to second.
“Anything under 2.0 is pretty quick,” Francona said.
Not only is Gomes quick, but he also has a strong arm that is very accurate.
In spring training, he had a choice to play for Brazil in the World Baseball Classic or stay in training camp.
“I told him it’s a huge honor and that Carlos [Santana] is going [to play for the Dominican Republic],” Francona said. “So if you stay here, you’ll catch every other day.”
Gomes remained in camp and made the team. Now, he is the odds-on favorite to wrest the everyday catching job from Santana in 2014.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.