Concern over outfielder's hip cited in breakdown of trade
By Anthony DiComo and Adam McCalvy
NEW YORK -- Just before an airplane full of Brewers lifted off from San Francisco International Airport late Wednesday, Milwaukee center fielder Carlos Gomez was told that he had been traded to the Mets. Within hours the deal had shattered, and the night descended into a swirl of speculation.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell informed Gomez of a deal that -- pending medical approval -- would have sent him to New York in exchange for starting pitcher Zack Wheeler and infielder Wilmer Flores, who teared up upon learning of the trade during the Mets' 7-3 loss to the Padres. Several hours later, Mets general manager Sandy Alderson broke the news that "there is no trade."
A source confirmed early Thursday morning that the Mets nixed the deal due to concern over Gomez's right hip. The former -- and no longer future -- Met spent two weeks on the disabled list in April with a strained right hamstring and has been dealing with a sore right hip since at least early May, when he skipped three straight games in an effort to quiet the issue.
The hip issues flared up again between June 10-21, when Gomez sat out nine of 12 games, but had been essentially a non-issue since. He has played in all but one of the Brewers' games since then.
"Deals really aren't done until they're announced, but now I guess they get announced before they're announced," Brewers GM Doug Melvin said. "We had to exchange medical information, and there was a certain discomfort ... that didn't allow the deal to get done."
Alderson went on to indicate that the Mets would not trade for Gomez before Friday's non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"Unfortunately social media, et cetera, got ahead of the facts," Alderson said. "It's one of those things that happens today with modern communications,so it's an unfortunate situation. But whatever has been speculated over the course of the evening has not and will not transpire."
And yet for hours, the trade was the buzz of baseball. Upon learning of it, several Brewers tweeted farewell photos from their flight, then Martin Maldonado expressed his happiness that Gomez was still with the team, posting "Gomez still a Brewers nice, good friend and teammate."
"He was told he'd been traded, but medicals had to be done," Melvin said. "The only reason we told him was the social media world we live in today. There's people that have to spill their guts and get it out there, so we just felt that instead of him sitting on the back of the plane and all this wonderment going on, we thought it was best to tell him. If it was 15 years ago, this kind of stuff wouldn't happen."
Instead, in the modern landscape, images of a grinning Gomez danced across numerous platforms as the Brewers ascended to cruising altitude. Those pictures were in direct contrast to the scene at Citi Field, where television cameras zoomed in on Flores' watery eyes.
Flores deduced that he had been traded in the bottom of the seventh inning, when he came to bat amid a standing ovation. The 23-year-old infielder received another ovation after grounding out, then returned to the field on defense and began tearing up. He remained in the game until the bottom of the ninth, when he was removed for a pinch-hitter.
"I was getting traded -- I got emotional," Flores said. "And when I came in, they told me there was no trade."
"I got guys in the dugout reporting this thing, and nobody's told me a word," Mets manager Terry Collins said. "I walk in, and there's no deal."
A trade to the Mets would have returned Gomez, 29, to his original organization. Gomez signed with the Mets for $60,000 in 2002, was traded to the Twins in the February 2008 blockbuster for Johan Santana, then traded again to the Brewers for J.J. Hardy in November 2009.
It was with the Brewers that Gomez harnessed the tools that once so engaged the Mets. Allowed by then-Brewers manager Ron Roenicke to be aggressive at the plate, Gomez pushed his on-base percentage above .300 for the first time in 2012, and after signing a four-year, $27.5 million contract the following spring, he set career highs across the board in 2013. He made the All-Star team, finished ninth in National League MVP balloting and won the Brewers' first Gold Glove Award in 31 years. In 2014 he set a career high with a .356 OBP and finished 16th in the MVP race.
Set to turn 30 on Dec. 4, he is earning $8 million this season and is due $9 million in 2016.
Wheeler is a 2009 first-round Draft pick of the Giants who has already enjoyed some Major League success, going 18-16 with a 3.59 ERA in 49 Mets starts before injuring his right elbow and requiring Tommy John surgery. He is expected to return to the mound next season, and could have bolstered a Brewers rotation that currently includes four young, homegrown pitchers in Wily Peralta, Mike Fiers, Jimmy Nelson and Taylor Jungmann, all of whom are all under club control for years.
All of Wednesday's activity came after the Brewers departed AT&T Park following a 5-0 loss to the Giants. Milwaukee has one more game on Thursday night before Friday's deadline for teams to trade players without exposing them to waivers first.
"There's a couple of days left before the Trade Deadline," said Brewers right fielder Ryan Braun, "and once that passes, I think it will be nice for everybody, because there will be a little less speculation, a little less anticipation, and certainly less distraction than there is leading up to the Trade Deadline."
The Mets, meanwhile, are left to tend to Flores' feelings and start their outfield search from scratch. One source said that the Mets have looked into acquiring Gerardo Parra or Jay Bruce, but that Gomez was their clear top target.
Asked about his plans going forward, Alderson said, "It's not Friday yet."