Gomes, 32, started 90 games for the Nationals last season. He struggled at the plate for most of the year, with his batting average hovering around .200 for most of the summer. But he was reliable behind the plate, the personal catcher for left-hander Patrick Corbin — appearing in each of Corbin’s 33 starts — and was in the lineup for the last four games of the World Series. He also heated up in September, crushing six home runs, when Suzuki was dealing with right elbow inflammation.
ESPN was first to report Gomes’s reunion with Washington.
The Nationals declined Gomes’s $9 million club option for 2020 in early November. When he arrived last spring, he was coming off an all-star season with the Cleveland Indians. Members of the Nationals’ front office privately called him the most valuable addition of a busy winter. And while he didn’t live up to high expectations, leading to the declined option after the season, the Nationals always were interested in bringing him back at a lowered price.
Their negotiations were also accelerated by a quick-moving catchers market. The Atlanta Braves kick-started it by retaining Tyler Flowers in the first week of free agency. They followed that by signing Travis d’Arnaud to pair with Flowers. Then Yasmani Grandal, the best catcher on the market, went to the Chicago White Sox, for four years and $73 million. Then Stephen Vogt signed a one-year deal with the Arizona Diamondbacks on Tuesday evening.
The Nationals were looking for a veteran catcher again to split the workload with Suzuki, who is 36 years old and battled injuries throughout the fall. Suzuki and Gomes were the only two catchers to start for Washington in 2019, and the organization did not feel that Tres Barrera or Raudy Read was ready to be a major league backup by next year.
A personal familiar with the Gomes discussion said a resolution — whether he was staying with Washington, or going elsewhere — was expected by the end of this week. But the numbers all lined up late Wednesday night, and an agreement was struck. The deal does not include any options for 2022, but there are performance incentives that would allow Gomes to up his annual salary.
This was the Nationals’ first move of what has been a tepid offseason around the league. They still have holes to fill at first base, second or third, depending on what happens with Anthony Rendon, and with their bench and bullpen.