Chris Gimenez

Cubs acquire catcher Bobby Wilson from the Twins

Cubs acquire catcher Bobby Wilson from the Twins

The Cubs continue to poke around the waiver wire looking for overlooked talent, already plucking Daniel Murphy from the Nationals, and it looks like Theo Epstein and the front office may have snagged an underrated framing catcher in Bobby Wilson. 

As the Tweet mentions, the Cubs are sending Iowa catcher Chris Gimenez back to Minnesota who he played his entire 2017 for, and a player to be named later for Wilson, who is currently ranked 22nd in all of baseball in framing runs - how many runs a catcher saves by making a ball look like a strike. For reference, current Cubs starter Willson Contreras is ranked dead-last in the stat at -15.1 runs saved, whereas Bobby Wilson has saved 3.1 runs due to his framing ability. 

The 35-year-old Wilson also has 8 DRS saved on the season, putting him in the 10 of catchers with a minimum of 350 innings played, and caught 8 of 19 would be base stealers behind the plate. It's clear the Cubs want to make sure they have a reliable backup option behind Contreras for the division race and postseason, and Wilson seems like a solid option in that role. He's also known as a good receiver from his days in Tampa Bay according to Sun-Times reporter Gordon Wittenmyer, however, he brings essentially nothing to plate offensively. 

Wilson is a career .202 hitter and is currently slashing .178/.242/.281 with two home runs in 151 plate appearances, but if he can provide the Cubs with some excellent framing behind the plate and solid defense in the running game he could still be valuable to any title contender. 

The Cubs did have to make run on the 40-man roster and designated RHP Cory Mazzoni for assignment, he had a 1.09 ERA in 8 games with the Cubs this season. 

Projecting what Cubs September roster might look like with reinforcements

Projecting what Cubs September roster might look like with reinforcements

Get ready for long games, messy box scores and plenty of pitching changes.

It's that time of year again, as MLB rosters expand Sept. 1, allowing teams to add as many as 15 extra guys to the big-league roster.

In the Cubs' case, the expanded roster gives manager Joe Maddon a plethora of different options, namely out of the bullpen.

The Cubs will have some some moving and shaking coming on their 40-man roster ahead of Saturday's big day, but here's an idea of what the roster could look like in the heat of the pennant race in the season's final month:

The sick bay

Most of the Cubs' roster reinforcements will come in the form of regular players returning from injury. The team's current disabled list is very long and that's not even including Yu Darvish, who is out for the season.

Kris Bryant (shoulder) began his rehab assignment Monday in Iowa, serving as the designated hitter. He's mere days away from returning to the big-league club, possibly making an appearance even before Sept. 1.

Tyler Chatwood (hip) made a rehab start in Iowa Monday night, too, but walked five batters and it would be shocking to see him called back up before Saturday. Even when he does return, his role on the team is murky at best as control issues have plagued him from the get-go.

Brandon Morrow (biceps) played catch Sunday and there is still no timetable for his return. At some point in September, he figures to slot back in at the tail end of the Cubs bullpen — it's just that nobody knows exactly when that will be.

Addison Russell (hand) is still resting and hasn't resumed baseball activities. He won't get a chance to go on a rehab assignment as the minor-league season ends this week and the Cubs shortstop definitely won't be back up with the club this weekend.

Mike Montgomery (shoulder) is slated to come off the disabled list this week and penciled in to start Thursday in Atlanta. He should be fine physically as the Cubs have given him an extended break from the rotation in an effort to monitor his innings.

Brian Duensing (shoulder) just gave up 3 runs and recorded only two outs Sunday with Iowa as he rehabs his own shoulder issue. The 35-year-old southpaw carries a 7.34 and 1.84 WHIP in 43 appearances in the big leagues this year, so unless he's able to right the ship soon, he probably won't play a huge role down the stretch.

Drew Smyly (elbow) is recovering from Tommy John surgery and has yet to pitch in a game at any level this season. He threw some live batting practice to Bryant over the weekend, but the chances of seeing Smyly on the mound in a Cubs uniform this season becomes less and less likely by the day.

The sure things

Anthony Bass was outrighted to Triple-A Iowa a couple weeks ago after returning from a thoracic strain and he figures to slot right back in as a low-leverage bullpen arm with the Cubs, where he sports a 2.93 ERA and 1.37 WHIP during his time in Chicago.

Terrance Gore is not on the Cubs' 40-man roster (which is full at 40 at the moment), so somebody will have to be bumped in favor of this speedster. Maddon has said he wants speed to supplement his bench and Gore is the best — and one of the only — pinch-running specialist in the game today.

Chris Gimenez has the same issue as Gore — he fulfills a position Maddon and the Cubs want to augment at the big-league level yet the player is not the 40-man roster. Gimenez spent time up in Chicago earlier this summer and will bring another backstop option to Maddon's disposal, allowing him to utilize Victor Caratini more as a pinch-hitter if he so chooses.

The Cubs may opt to designate pitcher Jen-Ho Tseng for assignment to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, but that only takes care of either Gore or Gimenez, not both. Any other cuts from the roster would be more difficult decisions.

Rob Zastryzny already has a spot on the 40-man roster and will serve as another left-handed option or potential long man out of the Cubs bullpen.

Dillon Maples is the dynamic 26-year-old right-hander who can touch 100 mph with his fastball and make hitters look foolish with his slider. He has a 1.59 WHIP and walks are a major issue — he's doled out 30 free passes in only 38.1 minor-league innings — but he also would bring swing-and-miss stuff (17.4 K/9) to a Cubs bullpen that could use a jolt like that. 

Luke Farrell has already accounted for 31.1 innings in the majors, making 18 relief appearances and a pair of spot starts. He's a surefire choice to add more depth in the bullpen.

Cory Mazzoni has also tasted life in the bigs, sporting a 1.04 ERA in 8.2 innings across 8 appearances earlier this season.

Pitcher James Norwood, 24, began the year in Double-A before blasting his way to Chicago for four appearances this summer. He figures to be back as well.

The possibles

Duane Underwood Jr. is still only 24 and should get to experience life in the majors more. He had a nice spot start for the Cubs in Los Angeles this summer, but probably won't be in the Chicago rotation in September unless somebody else gets hurt.

Outfielder Mark Zagunis is the only other player on the 40-man roster. He has posted a .771 OPS in 110 games in the minors, but probably won't see much playing time.

Chris Coghlan headlines a group of others who aren't on the 40-man roster, including Mike Freeman (shortstop depth), Taylor Davis (catching depth), Dakota Mekkes (bullpen depth), Ryan Court (infield depth) and Jacob Hanneman (speed).

If the Cubs give any one of these guys a shot in the bigs, it would mean releasing or designated another player from the 40-man roster to create room.

With that said and done, here's what the Cubs' September roster may look like 7-10 days into the month: (With this, we're taking some liberties and assuming both Addison Russell and Brandon Morrow will be healthy.)

Rotation

Cole Hamels
Kyle Hendricks
Jon Lester
Jose Quintana
Alec Mills (will slide to the bullpen if he is bumped from rotation)
Mike Montgomery

Bullpen

Brandon Morrow
Pedro Strop
Carl Edwards Jr.
Steve Cishek
Jesse Chavez
Justin Wilson
Jorge De La Rosa
Brandon Kintzler
Randy Rosario
Dillon Maples
Rob Zastryzny
Anthony Bass
Luke Farrell
Cory Mazzoni
James Norwood
Duane Underwood Jr.
Tyler Chatwood
Brian Duensing

(Note: That is one hell of a deep bullpen with 18 options at Maddon's disposal, and that's not even including Justin Hancock, who is on the 60-day DL.)

Catcher

Willson Contreras
Victor Caratini
Chris Gimenez

Infield

Kris Bryant
Anthony Rizzo
Javy Baez
Daniel Murphy
Addison Russell
David Bote
Tommy La Stella

Outfield

Jason Heyward
Albert Almora Jr.
Kyle Schwarber
Ben Zobrist
Ian Happ
Terrance Gore
Mark Zagunis

Gore, in particular, will be a fun watch, as he will get some opportunities to pinch-run, play the outfield as a defensive replacement later and maybe make a start here or there. The Cubs don't have a ton of speed currently, so Gore will bring a different dynamic to this team.

This roster expansion couldn't come at a better time for the Cubs, who are in the midst of a stretch of 23 straight games without an off-day.

Victor Caratini might finally be in the majors to stay as Cubs make backup-catcher swap

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USA TODAY

Victor Caratini might finally be in the majors to stay as Cubs make backup-catcher swap

The Cubs have always liked Victor Caratini. And now maybe he's finally in the majors to stay.

Of course, anything can happen from here on out, but Caratini was brought back from Triple-A Iowa ahead of Wednesday's game. With Chris Gimenez designated for assignment, perhaps this is the signal that Caratini — who has often seemed big league ready — will be the Cubs' backup catcher for the remainder of this season and beyond.

Caratini was sent down in favor of the veteran Gimenez back on May 25, after he hit .262 in his first 26 games of the season. In 32 games at Iowa, he had tons of offensive success, slashing .313/.409/.478 with 11 extra-base hits and 22 RBIs.

That all seems quite preferable to the four hits Gimenez managed in his 12 games with the major league club.

It's not the first time it's seemed Caratini was going to permanently slide in behind Willson Contreras on the Cubs' catching depth chart. Last year, he got a brief shot before the team acquired Alex Avila. This season, he made the Opening Day roster, only to be replaced by Gimenez a month and a half into the campaign.

Caratini has taken it all in stride, and he's just happy to be back in the bigs.

"It was a little tough at the beginning, but I just decided to give it 100 percent and try to get back up to the big leagues as soon as possible," Caratini said through a team interpreter Wednesday. "I feel really good right now. I got a lot of playing time down in Iowa, and I'm ready to go and I feel good.

"I'm here to establish myself and try to be here as long as I possibly can."

The Cubs like not only what he can do with the bat and what he can do behind the plate, they also love his versatility. Caratini was in the starting lineup on his first day back, spelling Anthony Rizzo at first base. He even played a game at third base with Iowa this season.

"Victor's been doing really well," manager Joe Maddon said. "Victor also provides the stability at first base that you like, too. The bat. And when we put him back behind the plate, we like a lot how Victor catches. Beyond that, the switch-hitting ability and hitting well.

"We knew that in spring training it was going to be kind of a back-and-forth thing, and that's how it's turned out."

The Cubs figure to have no question marks at the starting-catcher position for years to come with Contreras a star in the making behind the plate. But perhaps the question marks are drying up at the backup-catcher position, too, with Caratini maybe finally up for good.