Phillies closer Jeanmar Gomez hasn’t done much to inspire confidence in his ability to handle the ninth inning. He served up a two-run home run to the Reds’ Scooter Gennett, cutting the Phillies’ lead from 4-1 to 4-3 in the ninth inning on Opening Day. On Sunday against the Nationals, Gomez erased a 3-0 lead when he gave up a game-tying, three-run home run to Ryan Zimmerman.
Gomez’s struggles date back to last season. Between August 14 and the end of the regular season, Gomez appeared in 19 games, accrued 15 innings, and gave up 22 earned runs on 29 hits and eight walks with 10 strikeouts. That’s a rather large 13.20 ERA for those keeping score.
Gomez doesn’t have the stuff often seen with closers. He struck out batters at a meager 15.8 percent clip last season, well below the 22.7 percent league average for relievers. His 7.4 walk rate was only marginally below nine percent league average as well, not nearly good enough to make up for the lack of whiffs. Gomez has a fastball that sits in the low-90’s, relying more on getting ground balls. But the two ground balls he induced for outs in the ninth inning Sunday were his first two of the season; he has yielded five fly balls and three line drives.
MLB.com’s Ben Harris reports that manager Pete Mackanin is “considering” demoting Gomez from the closer’s role. He’ll have a talk with the veteran to determine his next steps. It would not be surprising to see Joaquin Benoit or Hector Neris take over the ninth inning if not on Monday, then before the month is out.
Yankees outfielder Aaron Hicks left Sunday’s game against the Rangers after four innings due to soreness in his right oblique. After the game, Hicks said he expects to go on the 10-day disabled list and miss the next three to four weeks, MLB.com’s Bryan Hoch reports.
Hicks was 1-for-2 with a single before departing on Sunday. He entered the game batting .288/.397/.515 with 10 home runs and 37 RBI in 198 plate appearances. It is by far the best season of his career.
Jacoby Ellsbury is on his way back from a concussion, so the Yankees will only have to bridge the gap in center field for a week or two. Mason Williams could draw some starts in center field in the meantime.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe reports that the Phillies are making third baseman Maikel Franco “more than available” in trade discussions.
Franco, 24, is having an abysmal season after showing promise in 2015 and ’16. Through 289 plate appearances, he’s hitting .221/.280/.365 with nine home runs and 37 RBI. His hitting has tanked and his already below-average defense hasn’t shown any improvement.
It’s a bit surprising that the Phillies would be so eager to move Franco with his value about as low as it can go. Franco is also under control of the rebuilding Phillies through the 2021 season, so the team doesn’t have to rush into moving him. He will become eligible for arbitration for the first time after the season.
Furthermore, the Phillies don’t have an immediate replacement for Franco at third base. Andres Blanco would likely get everyday starts at the hot corner in the short-term, but as far as prospects go, there are no third baseman banging down the door. If the Phillies were to trade Franco, it would likely have to be in return for a young, talented third baseman who will be under team control for several more years.