God’s Wrath has had a particular taste for Chicago Cubs catchers this year.

Today the Cubs revealed that Geovany Soto’s sore knee is the product of a slight tear in his meniscus, and the catcher will have arthroscopic surgery to clean it up. Recovery from these types of procedures is typically good, but it will take three to four weeks. Given that a torn meniscus can be particularly brutal on a catcher, who repeatedly squats and unsquats, surgery is the right move.

Overall, this is bad news for the Cubs. No, Soto isn’t hitting well right now, and his trade value couldn’t be much lower. But he certainly isn’t going to reclaim any of it while rehabbing from knee surgery. At best, he’ll be back in late June, with only a few weeks to show he’s (1) healthy, and (2) productive. That’s a tall task, and the catching-needy teams may have already gobbled up another option by then.

The only upside of the injury is that the Cubs will get an extended look at life without Soto. Welington Castillo will continue to draw the bulk of the starts behind the plate until Steve Clevenger is healthy. Clevenger is still about a week away from returning to the lineup from an oblique strain/cartilage break, so the Cubs will have to call up a back-up before tomorrow’s game. It’ll likely be AAA journeyman Blake Lalli, who’ll have to be added to the 40-man roster (there is an open spot).

After Clevenger returns, I’d expect to see something like a 60/40 platoon between the two catchers, favoring the lefty-hitting Clevenger.

If the Cubs like what they see from Clevenger and Castillo, they can appropriately plan to move on from Soto later this year or in the offseason. Soto, 29, is eligible for arbitration for the last time in 2013, and stands to make $6 to $7 million if he’s tendered a contract. It would take a mighty hot second half at this point for Soto to overcome good performances by Clevenger and Castillo.

  • TrueblueCubbie

    Well, lets hope for a speedy recovery and a healthy month and a half to show he is healthy. If they can’t trade him or don’t want to trade him, hopefully he can be productive on offense and continue calling a good game.

  • Ivy Walls

    WOW this is putting kinks in many fantasy trading plans.

  • Stinky Pete

    Paging Jason Jaramillo. Mr. Jaramillo, your seat is ready.


    Bah. Stupid Brewers.

  • Patrick

    There’s one thing that I would like to see today, just because. Darwin Barney is the emergency back-up catcher today. Now mind you, I would like to see this, say, in the top of the ninth with two outs and the Cubs up by 17 and Wellington getting tossed from the game by the home plate umpire, but I’d like to see it.

  • EQ76

    So much for that trade to the Nats…

  • MikeW

    Why in the world do you think he’d make 6 or 7M? I know guys get raises in arbitration, but in what world would an arbitrator give a guy who’s not hitting .200 a 50 or 75% raise?

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Soto’s low BA is due to his ridiculously low BABiP, which will rise simply due to regression to the mean.  If, somehow, this does not happen, then Soto’s agent will make this abundantly obvious to the arbitrator.  Soto’s agent will also make clear that Soto’s “true” stats (HR & walks) and his “fairly true” stats (doubles) are very good for a catcher.  The arbitrator will then compare the salaries of other catchers, and probably see that what Soto’s agent is requesting is closer to that mean than the Cubs’ offer.

      • MikeW

        No way. Arbitrators don’t take that kind of sabermetrics into account. They’re notorious for things like RBI’s mattering. There’s no way that unless soto rebounds to over .250 that he’s gonna get a 50-75% raise. Just no way. I did about 10 minutes of research and i can’t find a precedent.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          First of all, yes, they do. Times change slowly, but all stats – including advanced stats – and other factors (team performance, standing in the community, service time, etc.) are taken into account.

          Second of all, I take issue with your math. Soto makes $4.3 million this year, so a jump to $6 million is a 39.5% raise. That’s very, very common.

          • MikeW

            Brett – I beg you to find me a guy who got a 40 – 60% raise after a piss poor season (and he’d have to go on a hot streak for this to even qualify as piss poor) this late in arbitration. More often than not, they’re non-tendered.

            I seriously did some research and couldnt find one.

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