Cubs

Cubs add some catching depth in the form of Jonathan Lucroy

Cubs add some catching depth in the form of Jonathan Lucroy

The Cubs are adding a veteran catcher to the mix in the form of Jonathan Lucroy.

Lucroy, 33, was designated for assignment last week and after he cleared waivers, the Angels released him, officially making him a free agent as of Wednesday afternoon. The team confirmed the move after the 10-1 win over the A's, sending Taylor Davis back down to Triple-A Iowa to create room on the roster.

Lucroy is expected to be available for the Cubs Thursday in Cincinnati as they begin an 11-day, 10-game road trip. 

"I've heard a lot of wonderful things about him," Joe Maddon said. "He adds that veteran mix behind the plate that I think is really important, especially this time of the year. ... He can swing the bat. He knows what he's doing back there. Cole Hamels played with him in Texas, for example, and he spoke very highly of him, too. 

"So we're really excited to get a player of that caliber right now with everything that's going on for us. We're pretty fortunate."

The Cubs needed some more catching for the stretch run after Willson Contreras injured his hamstring in Saturday's game. The two-time All-Star starter underwent an MRI Monday and is looking at a four-week timeline. This is the same injury he had in August and September of 2017 when he missed about a month.

Lucroy signed with the Angels over the winter on a one-year, $3.35 million deal but since he was released, the Cubs would not have to cover the prorated portion of that contract. With this being the first year of no August waiver trades around Major League Baseball and Contreras' injury coming just after the July deadline, the Cubs' options were limited at adding another backstop from outside the organization, but it worked out in their favor that Lucroy hit the market.

The veteran missed most of July after suffering a concussion on a brutal collision with Houston's Jake Marisnick at home plate:

He returned from the injured list July 31 and played one game before being designated for assignment.

Lucroy hit .242 with a .681 OPS, 7 homers and 30 RBI in 74 games in L.A. and it's been a little while since he was above average offensively (even for a catcher). He made the All-Star team with the Brewers in 2016 and was traded to the Rangers in the middle of that year, finishing with 24 homers, 81 RBI and an .855 OPS. 

Back in 2014, Lucroy led the NL with 53 doubles and finished fourth in MVP voting with Milwaukee.

Lucroy doesn't strike out much at the plate and could form a nice platoon with Victor Caratini, whom the Cubs prefer to face right-handed pitchers. Lucroy also provides more depth and a veteran presence who has been to the postseason four times.

He already comes with some experience with the Cubs pitching staff, as he's already logged more than 100 innings behind the plate for three Cubs pitchers — Hamels (111), Yu Darvish (129.1) and Brandon Kintzler (132.1). In fact, no catcher has worked more with Kintzler in-game and only one other catcher (Geovany Soto) has been behind the plate more in Darvish's MLB career.

Regardless of how he hits, he figures to be a valuable addition to help manage the pitching staff and give the Cubs experience at the most important defensive position in the middle of a tight playoff race. Plus, it's added protection against injury, as Caratini has taken a couple of dings to his wrists/forearms in recent games.

"Obviously a guy who's been around for a long time, has a lot of history against the Cubs. Glad to bring him over here and have him come in and get his perspective on a lot of things and win some ballgames," Kyle Schwarber said.

Given Contreras' timeline, he probably wouldn't return before Sept. 1 when rosters expand, so the Cubs could conceivably work him back slowly with Caratini and Lucroy still on the roster. 

Willson Contreras, expert at going viral, tells hilarious profanity-laced story from 2019

Willson Contreras, expert at going viral, tells hilarious profanity-laced story from 2019

Willson Contreras and viral moments at Cubs Convention go hand-in-hand.

At the team’s annual fan festival in 2018, Contreras stole the show with a story from the 2017 season. During a mound visit against the Cardinals, the Cubs catcher gave profanity-laced advice to Jon Lester, the Cubs starter who rarely throws pickoffs due to a serious case of the yips.

"I went out there and I said, 'Hey motherf--ker, throw the f--king ball to first,'” Contreras recalled in January 2018.

Contreras stole the show again Saturday, telling a story about a moment against the Cardinals — this time from the 2019 season.

“So last year, we were facing the Cardinals and I started talking to [Marcell] Ozuna,” Contreras said. “He told me ‘Just call a fastball right down the middle.’ [And I said] ‘Yeah okay, I will.’ Then I called the fastball and he took it.

“I told him ‘What the f— are you talking about? Just hit the ball, just hit it.’

“He asked me ‘Just call it again.’ And I did it. He took it. Swing the [bat]. I called a third pitch and it was a strikeout. And then next time it was like just ‘Shut up,” or something."

Warning: graphic language

How Contreras will top this at 2021 Cubs Convention is uncertain, but considering he now has two viral moments on his resume, we can be sure the next one will be just as amazing.

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Cubs announce plans for extended protective netting at Wrigley Field for 2020

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USA TODAY

Cubs announce plans for extended protective netting at Wrigley Field for 2020

Baseball fans will be more protected than ever at Wrigley Field this season.

Saturday, Cubs president of business operations Crane Kenney announced the club is extending protective netting at Wrigley Field to the elbows of the ballpark. Essentially, it will stretch a bit past where the old on-field bullpens were and stop before the walls in the left and right field corners.

Kenney added the extensions will be ready by Opening Day.

Last month, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred announced all 30 ballparks will extend their netting for the 2020 season. Manfred didn’t specify which teams would do what, but he said netting at each stadium would extend “substantially beyond the end of the dugout.”

With pitchers throwing harder than ever and batter exit velocities are through the roof, fans have little time to react in the stands when a ball is launched their way. It’s nearly impossible to avoid getting hit, even for those paying attention.

The Cubs have experienced this firsthand. In a game against the Astros last season, an Albert Almora Jr. foul ball struck a 2-year-old at Minute Maid Park. That young girl has a permanent brain injury, her family’s attorney announced earlier this month, an injury that affects her body similar to how a stroke would.

Almora was visibly shaken after the incident and said Friday at Cubs Convention it weighed heavily on him for the first couple of days.

“After that I had no other choice but to move forward,” Almora said. “But I always have that in the back of my mind. Every update that does come up, I am on there and I am seeing all of this."

Almora said he’s tried reaching out to the family but is respecting their privacy. As a father of two himself, he said there’s no reason to even think of his sons getting hurt while attending a game.

“Obviously prayers go out to the family. It’s unfortunate, and like I said before, that should never happen on a baseball field."

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