The Indians traded one of their big arms — from behind the plate.
Cleveland, which has discussed moving right-handers Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco in possible trades while restructuring its payroll, dealt All-Star catcher Yan Gomes to the Washington Nationals on Friday night.
In return, the three-time defending AL Central champions got right-handed pitcher Jefry Rodriguez, minor league outfielder Daniel Johnson and a player to be named. Team president Chris Antonetti called Johnson and Rodriguez “upper-level prospects” who should be able to help the Indians in the next few seasons.
Rodriguez, 25, appeared in 14 games for the Nats last season, going 3-3 with a 5.71 ERA in 52 innings. Johnson, 23, spent most of 2018 with Double-A Harrisburg.
The Gomes deal is unlikely to be the last move this offseason by the Indians, who followed up another strong regular-season stretch run with a disappointing performance against Houston in the AL Division Series. Cleveland got swept, and with its window for contention possibly closing, the team is looking to fill some holes in the outfield and bullpen.
Cleveland may have to move Kluber, a two-time Cy Young Award winner, or Bauer to find help. Antonetti would not comment on any potential deals involving the right-handers.
“We’re focused on trying to build a team that’s capable of winning another American League Central Division title in 2019 but is also positioned for success beyond that,” he said. “We’re in a fortunate position that we have a lot of players on our team that other teams value. And that leads to a lot of conversations this time of year. I wouldn’t want to get into any speculation around that.
“We do view our starting pitching to be a strength of our team and our organization, and that’s something we place a great deal of value on.”
Antonetti declined to discuss possible negotiations on a new contract with Carrasco. The Indians exercised their $9.75 million option on Carrasco in October, and the club also had a 2020 option on the 31-year-old.
Cleveland also reached agreement with right-handers Danny Salazar, Nick Goody and Neil Ramirez as well as infielder Eric Stamets on contracts for next season. The team was facing a deadline to offer contracts to unsigned players on the 40-man roster.
Salazar, who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery in July, will make $4.5 million. The Indians believe he can fill one of their relief openings.
Ramirez will make $1 million. After spending the first six weeks at Triple-A Columbus, Ramirez joined the Indians in June and helped stabilize the bullpen.
Goody will make $675,000. He was limited to 12 games this year before elbow surgery.
The Nationals went into the offseason in need of a new catcher — and now have two new ones. They also signed 35-year-old free agent Kurt Suzuki to a $10 million, two-year contract last week.
Washington needed an upgrade after Matt Wieters batted below .240 in each of the past two seasons as the primary catcher.
Gomes has been a steady player — on and off the field — for Cleveland since coming over from Toronto in 2012. The 31-year-old had one of his best offensive seasons in 2018, batting .266 with a career-high 26 doubles, 16 homers and 48 RBIs in 112 games. He was also excellent behind the plate and was selected as an AL All-Star for the first time.
Gomes will make $7 million next season, and his contract includes club options for 2020 at $9 million, with a $1 million buyout, and for 2021 at $11 million.
“The Nationals have expressed consistent interest in Yan throughout the offseason,” Antonetti said. “They’re one of a handful of teams that expressed interest in him. The catching position was an interesting one. There were a number of teams that were seeking to upgrade their alternatives at catcher, and there were also a number of alternatives on the market in both free agency and trades. That was the dynamic we were navigating at the start of the offseason. It got to a point on a deal that we thought made sense for us.”
Gomes’ departure leaves the Indians with Roberto Perez and rookie Eric Haase as their primary catchers, and Antonetti said it’s possible the club will look to add depth at catcher this winter.
The Nationals also agreed to a $850,000, one-year deal with left-hander Sammy Solis, who struggled in 2018. He had a 6.41 ERA in 56 games.