Former Red Sox outfielder Jonny Gomes, who is a free agent after having concluded the season with the A’s following a July 31 trade that sent him and Jon Lester to Oakland in exchange for Yoenis Cespedes, acknowledged that he and other Red Sox players were puzzled when word leaked of Boston’s unexpectedly modest four-year, $70 million offer to Lester early in the season. Gomes was whether he was surprised by the nature of the offer to the Sox’ Opening Day pitcher.
“Yeah,” he said. “[But] I’m a baseball player. There’s so much we don’t know. That’s why there’s so many front-office people. There’s language this and language that.
“At the end of the day, Jon Lester is going to pick where he wants to play. He’s going to land somewhere where he wants to be and they want him. The market changes every single year. I don’t know what’s fair and what’s not fair. … I can’t determine the market, the years, the wear and tear of a guy’s age, the wear and tear of a guy’s innings, but if it was Game 7 of the World Series and I had to pick just one guy, Madison Bumgarner just did it but I tell you what, Jon Lester has done it quite a few times and I’d still pick that guy.”
Gomes explained why he views Lester as the top player on the free-agent market this winter.
“I think he is [the top free agent],” said Gomes. “It was a crazy metaphor that I was explaining to a younger kid the other day. It’s like horse racing or dog racing or even dog shows. What do you go after first? You go after the pedigree. You go after they’ve won before. They’ve won the Triple Crown. Is there this young guy coming up with a lightning arm and all that? Yeah, absolutely. But when you go after No. 1, you go after pedigree. You see the Giants getting pretty decorated now. … Everyone is going to be looking to that guy with the pedigree to provide the answers, and everyone is going to try to get the ball in that guy’s hand.
“He’s got that pedigree. At the same time, you do a character check about him. He believes in all the right things, he’s a guy who’s a darn workhorse, if you see him not in uniform in the clubhouse he’s got sweat coming off of his head. That’s what you want out of your ace. When your ace is also your hardest worker, that’s a pretty good matchup.”
Gomes also discussed his own foray into free agency. Whereas Lester is reaching the open market for the first time in his career, Gomes is a veteran of the process, as this winter represents his fifth trip to free agency. His previous encounter with the process resulted in the first multi-year deal of his career, a two-year, $10 million deal with the Red Sox.
“At the end of the day, you’re unemployed. At the end of the day, you don’t have a manager, you don’t have a boss, you don’t have a uniform you can call home, a ballpark you can call home,” said Gomes. “I’d say the first couple times around were definitely more stressful. But I think now, 10 years in, my thumbprint, my blueprint, I think you don’t really need a character check at this point.
“I think teams pretty much know what they’re going to get when I show up and teams know what they get when my phone rings and negotiating starts and all that. … No telling how this go-round is going to be. I just want to land on my feet.”
Gomes also discussed the player for whom the Red Sox traded him and Lester, Yoenis Cespedes — and specifically Cespedes’ struggles to gain comfort playing the famed left field wall at Fenway Park. Gomes noted that his own transition to handling the position was aided by the fact that he’d spent time in Triple-A playing beneath the “Blue Monster” in Durham (the Rays’ Triple-A affiliate) and by his opportunity to work with the replica Green Monster in the Red Sox’ spring training facility in Fort Myers.
“That Monster is a monster,” said Gomes.”The best thing the Red Sox organization did was put that Monster in spring training. You need hundreds and hundreds and upwards of thousands of balls off that to even simulate one or two in-game. I could take 100 fungos off that exact column, and then you come in games, and obviously the velocity is going to be different, the right-handed spin vs. the left-handed spin, all new footwork. It comes with time.”
To listen to the complete Gomes interview, click here. To hear the entirety of the Hot Stove Show, click here.