The news of his trade to Minnesota, along with pitchers Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra in exchange for Santana didn't come as a complete surprise to the 22-year-old outfielder. Gomez said that he had heard all the rumors for the last few months that his name was being included in Santana trade talks.
Gomez tried to brush off all the talk for most of the offseason and just prepare as normal for Spring Training. But on Tuesday the call came from his agent with the news that he indeed had been traded to the Twins, pending the Mets and Santana agreeing to a contract extension by 4 p.m. CT on Friday and all players passing physicals.
And Gomez's initial reaction to the news? Excitement.
"This is my opportunity to be a center fielder," Gomez said. "I have to prepare for a new organization, but I'm ready. The only thing I want is to play baseball and play every day."
The most Major League-ready of the four prospects the Twins received in the trade, Gomez is expected to fill the hole in center field left by Torii Hunter's departure. He could possibly take over the leadoff spot in the club's lineup as well.
In his first Major League season with the Mets last season, Gomez batted .232 with two home runs and 12 RBIs in 58 games. That included missing two months of the season after fracturing the hamate bone in his left hand in early July.
Many scouts have listed Gomez as a five-tool player. He's already known for his blazing speed, solid defensive ability, and an accurate arm.
The one question mark that has plagued Gomez has been his inconsistent offense. Mets GM Omar Minaya has said that he believes Gomez can eventually develop into an above-average hitter with decent power given some time in the big leagues. But scouts say it's his inability to hit the breaking pitch which has hampered the young outfielder's progress.
Gomez said that was something he tried to work on this winter when playing for Escogido of the Dominican Winter League. He batted .269 in 29 games.
"I know I can hit," Gomez said. "I'm a young player and I have to practice every day, and see what happens. But this winter ball was good for me. They throw me a lot of breaking balls and I feel like I'm learning."
While Gomez said he was excited about the chance to play in Minnesota, he didn't want to completely commit to his new organization until the deal was finalized. He mentioned seeing the reports on the Internet on Thursday afternoon that Santana and the Mets were still far apart in contract negotiations, although a deal is still expected to be finalized before the deadline.
If Gomez does get the chance to compete for the Twins' center-field spot this spring, he will clearly have big shoes to fill. Trying to replace a seven-time Gold Glover in Hunter is not an easy task to ask of anyone. And Gomez said that he isn't going to try to match Hunter's skills.
"I don't want to say I can play like Torii, that guy is unbelievable," Gomez said. "I'm just going to be Carlos Gomez. But I think I can play center. I have speed, I like to hustle and I like to slide. I think I play a good center field and hopefully the fans will get to see that."
You say goodbye, I say hello:
This week's trade of Santana marked yet another farewell for Twins fans, who have seen their share of notable players leave the organization in recent years.
One such player to recently leave, Hunter, understands that it may be a difficult time for those fans now. But he believes that the young group of Twins will eventually earn the same admiration.
"It's just like in '98, '99, and 2000 when that group of us came up, it took awhile for people to take us in and embrace us," Hunter said. "Once we won that division in 2002 and made it to the ALCS, the fans fell in love with us. And that's what it's going to take for these guys too."
Despite the losses the club suffered this winter, including his own, Hunter doesn't believe it will take long for the Twins to get back on the track of winning titles. He praised the club's additions, like that of Delmon Young, as signs the club is not going to suffer a significant setback.
"I don't think they are rebuilding," Hunter said. "I think they are trying to put pieces in place around Joe Mauer, Justin Morneau and Michael Cuddyer. I think the bullpen is still the same. The starters, they are going to be young, but they are talented. This team has many of the right pieces already in place."
The Twins released their 2008 television schedule on Thursday. A total of 142 regular season games will be carried on Fox Sports Net North and My29 WFTC this season.