Add another name to the list of possible fourth outfielder options for the Chicago Cubs: Jonny Gomes. After raking for the Cincinnati Reds last year, Gomes was non-tendered for fear that he’d bring in too much money for the small-market club in arbitration. Gomes, 29, was presumed to be looking for a starting gig, but as the offseason winds down and options thin, he appears to be willing to accept a reserve role.
And he also appears to be madly, madly in love with the Chicago Cubs, with whom he’s been speaking.
“Absolutely,’’ said Gomes, confirming discussions. “I’m a big fan of the game, a student of the game, and I follow a lot of history. I’m not only a player but also a client. Obviously, I’m a big fan of the Cubs, and a big fan of the city – it’s probably one of my favorite cities on the tour, as well as my wife’s.’’
Gomes, who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., a few miles away from the Cubs’ Mesa spring training facility, wouldn’t comment on details of where talks stood, but he said he feels he’s a better fit than some of the other players the Cubs have contacted.
“Most guys are [seeking multi-year deals]. I think that’s kind of where I stand out with other free agents,’’ he said. “With Rocco [Baldelli], Xavier Nady, Reed Johnson and Jermaine Dye, I’m one of the youngest. If I was ever to hold out for a multiyear deal or a while lot of money, it wouldn’t be after a year with  at-bats, regardless what the run-production numbers were. I definitely want to be treated fair, but I’m not really looking to break the bank or for a lot of years. I’m looking to help the team get to the playoffs.
“With the guys on the free agent market out there right now, I think I can bring a lot to the Cubs with what I have. I’m comfortable playing left and right, and messing round with some ground balls at first base in spring training.’’
He’s also comfortable with manager Lou Piniella, his manager in Tampa Bay when Gomes finished third in the American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2005….
Gomes, who says he’s been in contact with the five usual suspects of teams looking this winter for corner outfielders (including the Yankees, Royals and Braves), said another factor separating him from other free agents, such as Dye:
“What the Cubs have to offer, I’m totally OK with,’’ he said. “They’re asking for a fourth outfielder, and others are looking to start. I’m just looking to get in there. And I think it would be great to get back with Lou. I know how hard he is on young players and expects a lot, but we built a pretty good relationship in Tampa.
“I think it would be a good fit for both sides.’’ CHICAGO SUN-TIMES.
In more than a decade of obsessively combing over rumors and transaction details, I have never – never – heard a player publicly make such impassioned statements about wanting to be with a particular team while simultaneously describing why he’s a better option than the particular other players that had been rumored targets for the same spot. Heck, he even said that he’s not looking for very much money!
That all said, the Cubs will have to make a decision on Gomes carefully. Although he put up huge numbers in part-time duty last year for the Reds, his previous three seasons were, at best, so-so. The good news is that his numbers last year weren’t merely inflated by playing in Great American Ballpark – he had an OPS well over .800 on the road last year.
For his career, Gomes has raked lefties to the tune of an .885 OPS, which would make him a good platoon-mate for Kosuke Fukudome. And at just 29, there is still some upside.
Still, Gomes may not be a perfect fit for the Cubs. The fourth outfielder will be expected to be the top bat off the bench, and Gomes has never been much of a pinch hitter – just a .608 OPS in 67 pinch hit appearances. Further, the biggest knock on Gomes is his defense. Sure, he can play both corner outfield spots, but he doesn’t play them very well. Ideally, the Cubs could find a reserve outfielder who could play all three outfield positions – or at a minimum could play very good corner outfield defense. That will not be the case with Gomes (or Jermaine Dye, for that matter).
But whatever the flaws, by making very public entreaties like he has, Gomes is sure to get a long look from the Cubs. If nothing else, they’ve got to toss a low-ball offer his way, right?