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.