Jonny Gomes won a World Series title in 2015 and made a stirring victory speech during the Kansas City Royals' parade and celebration, but he will lace it up with a new team in 2016. In fact, he will lace it up in a new country.
According to Ken Rosenthal of FoxSports.com, Gomes "agreed to a one-year contract with the Rakuten Golden Eagles. The deal, announced by the team early Wednesday, includes a mutual option."
The Golden Eagles play in Japan.
Rosenthal noted the outfielder "grew tired of waiting for an offer, tired of the slow-developing market." ESPN.com's free-agent tracker lists a number of quality outfielders who have not yet signed with teams, including Dexter Fowler, Alex Rios, Marlon Byrd, Austin Jackson and Shane Victorino, among others.
Gomes reflected on the free-agency market, per Rosenthal:
This is not how it’s supposed to be. It seems like the players are getting bullied. It’s February. These people are human beings. They have families. They’ve got to make plans. I’m not trying to get back at baseball by any means. But I’m not just going to hang around. What has changed since the end of September? It’s not like a guy is hot right now or in a slump.
Rosenthal pointed out Gomes said part of the appeal with Japan is the chance to expand the education of his three children. However, Gomes didn’t sound like someone ready to simply play out the string overseas, per Rosenthal: "This isn’t a farewell tour. This isn’t like my last year. I have no plans of hanging it up. I can always come back or—if I take off over there—finish my career there."
Part of the reason Gomes didn’t attract as much attention in the major leagues was his lackluster 2015 at the plate. He spent the season with the Atlanta Braves and the Royals and hit .213 with seven home runs and 26 RBI. What's more, he took a back seat for Kansas City during its World Series run because of the depth in the outfield and did not appear in the playoffs.
He is well past his prime at 35 years old, but he has provided power throughout his career with 162 total home runs. He also won a World Series with the Boston Red Sox in 2013 and boasts three different seasons with at least 20 long balls on his resume.
Even at this stage of his career, Gomes probably could serve as a pinch hitter in critical situations against left-handed pitchers if he ever came back to the majors. According to ESPN.com, Gomes posted a .250 average with 17 home runs against southpaws the last three years compared to a .215 average with nine home runs against right-handed pitchers.
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports provided another reason to sign Gomes when he ranked the outfielder as the 116th-best free agent available this offseason: "Look, you’re going to the playoffs if you sign him—five of his last six teams have played in the postseason—so just pony up the $2 million and get it over with."
ESPN analyst Jim Bowden also offered an endorsement of the outfielder:
Alas, Gomes will play in Japan for the time being, but the fact that he said it wasn’t a farewell tour should catch the eyes of teams looking for additional depth in the outfield in the near future. If he demonstrates the same intangibles and occasional power overseas, there could be a team looking for an extra bat off the bench in 2017 that takes a flier on the veteran.