Pirates agree to terms with Gomez
Veteran infielder receives a one-year deal worth $1 million
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Though an official contract has not yet been drawn up, the Pirates and free-agent infielder Chris Gomez have agreed to a one-year, $1 million contract, according to Gomez's agent, Alan Meersand.
The final contract is pending a physical, though Meersand said, "I don't foresee any problems." The Pirates cannot officially comment until the deal is finalized.
After the Pirates made two waiver claims on Monday, Tuesday's news marks the Pirates' first splash in the free-agent market this offseason.
The addition of Gomez also meets one of the team needs that general manager Neal Huntington addressed just one day earlier when speaking from inside the Pirates' suite at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. With the Pirates lacking in infield depth after already opting not to retain utility infielders Matt Kata and Cesar Izturis, it was imperative that the club claimed a capable backup corner infielder before the beginning of the season.
"We would love to find a veteran [corner infield] presence to the mix," Huntington said on Monday after the Pirates' acquisition of middle infielder Josh Wilson. "[We would like] somebody that is used to that role and accomplished in that role, someone who can bring a veteran presence to the clubhouse and is accepting of that role and wants to try and help the young players."
Known to have a great clubhouse presence with a solid veteran influence, Gomez will make the 2008 season his 15th in the Majors. The Pirates will be the eighth team for the 36-year-old infielder during those 15 years, though only his second in the National League.
"They showed interest in me and they pursued," Gomez said over the phone from his home in Irvine, Calif. "If you have someone who offers what you think you deserve and they say that they want you to be a part of their team, you get excited."
A lifetime .261 hitter, Gomez split last season between the Orioles and the Indians, where he combined to hit .297 with 21 RBIs in 92 games.
He is known to have solid defensive skills, despite limited range. And though he is a natural shortstop, he has experience playing all four infield positions. That was especially the case during Gomez's nearly three years playing with the Orioles, who had Miguel Tejada locked in at short.
"I think [playing a number of positions] lately has helped me actually," said Gomez, who broke into the Majors in 1993. "It's really been refreshing kind of bouncing around. You have to embrace your role and accept that you might not always play. But if you understand that, this role can be kind of exciting."
Assuming that there are no unforeseen setbacks with Gomez's physical, the Pirates will have to make a corresponding roster move in order to open up space for him on the team's 40-man roster.
With the addition of Gomez, it would appear that Jose Castillo's days in Pittsburgh are numbered. Prior to news of the Gomez signing, Huntington wouldn't commit as to whether or not the team was prepared to tender a contract to Castillo by the quickly approaching Dec. 12 deadline.
"We are continuing to walk down a path where we are trying to determine whether Jose will be here," Huntington said. "We'll have to make sure that we're making the right decision about walking away from that ability if we decide to do that. Those calls are not easy. But there are some times when a player needs to go elsewhere to have their true ability come through."
After making $1.9 million last season, Castillo is sure to exceed the $2 million mark in what would be his second arbitration-eligible year. And even though Gomez will be signing a contract at half that price, his numbers are better than Castillo's in just about every offensive category.
It is also very possible that the Pirates will look to trade Castillo prior to having to make a decision as to whether or not to tender the utility infielder a contract so that the team can ensure getting compensation in return for not retaining Castillo.
Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.