Everyone knew J.J. Hardy would be traded from the Brewers after the 2009 season. Most felt his departure would bring the Brewers a starting pitcher to compete for a spot in the rotation in 2010.
No one expected a trade for a center fielder—especially when Mike Cameron said he was willing to sign for less than market value to remain in Milwaukee. GM Doug Melvin decided it was time for the team to move on, and he pulled the trigger on the deal to bring Carlos Gomez to Milwaukee.
Gomez became expendable to the Twins, thanks to the emergence of Denard Span and Gomez's inability to get on base. In three seasons with the Mets and Twins, he had a .246 batting average and a .292 on-base percentage.
To find steady playing time as a Brewer, it's imperative for Gomez to raise both his batting average and on-base percentage significantly.
He has drawn only 55 walks in 1,102 career plate appearances—compared to 120 walks in 1,087 plate appearances by his former teammate Span in Minnesota.
With such a poor history at the plate, some questioned why Melvin traded for Gomez.
There are three main factors that make the 24-year-old an attractive option: He's under team control through the 2013 season, he already is at a Gold Glove level defensively, and he has a ton of speed to burn.
Gomez qualified as a Super Two player this past winter, but he won't reach free agency for four more seasons. Having that much control of a player is very important for a mid-market team like the Brewers.
Even Gomez's biggest critics in Minnesota admit that he is a wizard in the field. Cameron was great defensively for the Brewers the past couple of years, but Gomez is better. A Gold Glove is all but guaranteed once he can improve his performance at the plate.
One thing the Brewers didn't do much of last season was run the bases. Gomez has stolen 59 bases in 80 attempts, including 33 steals in 2008 for the Twins.
If he can get on base more, he is a perfect candidate to be a leadoff hitter, allowing Rickie Weeks to move lower in the lineup where his power can be better utilized.
Jim Edmonds was added to the Brewers' 40-man roster today. The veteran has played great this spring, and it's quite likely he will make the 25-man roster for Opening Day.
Having one of the best defensive center fielders of all time to tutor him is important, but Gomez needs to produce so Edmonds doesn't steal any of his playing time.
That's the exact situation Gomez thought he was getting away from when he was traded from Minnesota. Making him split time could be detrimental for his growth, and he could regress as a result.
The Brewers still have enough offensive talent in their lineup to deal with any slumps Gomez may encounter at the plate.
He's still too young and talented to give up on—and he shouldn't have to share time with a player who didn't even play in the majors last year. Stunting his growth would be a huge mistake by manager Ken Macha and the rest of the coaching staff.
To his credit, Gomez has had a very good spring for the Brewers. He's batting .298 with eight steals in 16 games. The average is great, but he's only drawn one walk. His OBP is .313—still far too low for him to be considered for a spot at the top of the batting order.
If he can hit anywhere near what he's hit in spring training, the pressure will definitely be on Macha to give Gomez the bulk of the playing time.
It's not unreasonable to think Gomez could hit .270 with an on-base percentage of .330. Putting up those numbers will ensure Gomez plays the majority of the time in center. It should also mean close to 40 steals and countless amazing plays in center field.
Most importantly, it will mean Gomez replaced Mike Cameron adequately, taking away the sting from his departure and the trade of former fan-favorite Hardy.
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