On November 6th, 2009, Doug Melvin completed what at the time was an unpopular trade as GM of the Milwaukee Brewers. Melvin sent away fan favorite shortstop J.J. Hardy, who was coming off a down season, to Minnesota in exchange for center fielder Carlos Gomez.
To that point in his career, Gomez was considered a disappointment based on how hyped of a prospect he'd been. Just 23, Gomez had already played parts of three seasons in the majors and had managed an OPS+ of below 70. The Mets and Twins told Gomez to focus on hitting the ball on the ground and to be a "lead-off" hitter, and Brewers' manager Ken Macha followed the same course with GoGo.
Things changed when manager Ron Roenicke was hired, however. Roenicke let Gomez loose, allowing him to become the player he saw himself as. After taking over as the starting center fielder in the second half of 2012, Carlos finished out the season by hitting .278/.321/.488 with 14 home runs and 26 steals over his final 274 plate appearances. The Brewers then rewarded Carlos with a three-year, $24 million extension.
The next season, Gomez blossomed into a full-blown star. He hit .284/.338/.506 with 24 home runs and 40 steals in 2013 while also capturing the NL Gold Glove in center field. He finished 9th in MVP voting in 2013 despite leading NL position players with 8.5 bWAR. He followed that up with a .284/.356/.477 slash with 23 home runs and 34 steals in 2014, posting another stellar WAR total of 4.8.
Things didn't go quite as planned for Gomez or the Brewers in 2015, however, and as the Brewers' began rebuilding he himself in the midst of a bevy of trade rumors. After a proposed deal with the Mets fell through, Carlos was dealt to the Houston Astros with Mike Fiers on July 30th. Over his six seasons wearing Brewers' blue, Carlos his .267/.325/.452 with 87 home runs, 152 steals, and 19.9 Wins Above Replacement.
Carlos returned to Miller Park yesterday for the first time since the trade and reflected upon his time with Milwaukee:
"I feel in my heart and in my mind that this is the organization where I grew up. My best memory in my career is in a Brewers uniform and I'd like to retire some day in this uniform. I have a lot of respect for this organization. They gave me the opportunity to be the way I am right now. And the fans are passionate and they are always there for you, when you're good or you're bad. I feel like I'm home."
Okay, come on now y'all. How can you NOT love Carlos Gomez? He loves what he does and plays the game with a passion and exuberance that arguably cannot be matched. He endeared himself to the fans in Milwaukee with his outstanding defense and hustle in center, bat-flips, and his just overall "sexiness."
"I will always have good memories for the Milwaukee Brewers. It's something that I'm never going to forget. The best one is the opportunity they gave to me when I'm not doing so well. They continued to believe in me and give me an opportunity. That's something I'm never going to forget, me and my family."
We'll always have good memories of you too, Carlos. And here's hoping that after you score a $100+ mil contract with someone on the free agent market this winter, you can someday retire as a Milwaukee Brewer.
Statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference