Adding a veteran catcher sounds like the next trade-deadline move for a Cubs team built around pitching and defense and Willson Contreras’ almost unlimited supply of energy.
“We have a lot of hooks in the water right now,” general manager Jed Hoyer said before Tuesday’s 7-2 win over the White Sox at Wrigley Field. “But whether or not something happens soon, I’m not sure.”
The Cubs aren’t hunting for a big fish, because Contreras has already become one of their most valuable players, a dangerous cleanup hitter, a physically gifted thrower and receiver and an eager student when it comes to the team’s sophisticated game-planning system. Just look at how Contreras set the tone by launching a Carlos Rodon fastball 417 feet onto Waveland Avenue for a three-run homer in the first inning.
With that in mind, the Cubs are not as high on Detroit Tigers catcher Alex Avila as some reports indicate. The Cubs also don’t have Jonathan Lucroy near the top of their list, sources said, because the Texas Rangers catcher needs to play regularly to be effective and would ideally go to a situation where he could showcase what made him a two-time All-Star with the Milwaukee Brewers and recoup some free-agent value after a disappointing walk year (.632 OPS).
Leading up to the July 31 deadline, the Cubs are actively looking at backup plans where rookie catcher Victor Caratini would return to Triple-A Iowa – where he hit .341 in 69 games before Miguel Montero’s epic rant – and become a September call-up.
If the Cubs stay focused on a veteran backup who will only play once a week, A.J. Ellis could make sense. The price would be less than $1 million in salary and wouldn’t cost a top-tier prospect. The Miami Marlins are sellers and Ellis – who used to work as Clayton Kershaw’s personal catcher – knows the pitching infrastructure catching/strategy coach Mike Borzello helped design for the Cubs after their time together around Brad Ausmus with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
“We’re still in that process,” Hoyer said. “I think some teams prioritize timing. They have a bunch of deals they need to make, and so they’ll say: ‘OK, we’re going to move this guy by Thursday.’ Sometimes it happens…right now, we’re kind of sorting out that.
[MORE: Willson Contreras may be ‘the f------ Energizer Bunny,’ but Cubs still need to get another catcher before trade deadline]
“But a lot of this time of the year is about timing. Unless the team prioritizes moving early, then usually things aren’t going to happen for another four or five days.”
This sounds like a matter of when – not if – but the Cubs won’t rush to get their new catcher in uniform before this weekend’s showdown against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park.
“If it happens, that’s great,” Hoyer said. “But otherwise it’s kind of a false deadline. You want to careful not to react to that. You don’t want to do a deal for a couple games.”