welington castilloWith Dioner Navarro a free agent, Welington Castillo undergoing (minor-ish) knee surgery, and a cavernous void of MLB-ready catching talent, it’s no surprise that the Chicago Cubs are going to have to spend some money on catching this offseason.

But would you be surprised if the Cubs spent a lot of money on catching?

MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes would no longer be surprised, after talking to “multiple agents” who say they expect the Cubs to spend “good money” on a free agent catcher this offseason.

Castillo, who is expected to long be over his knee issue by Spring Training, emerged as one of the top defensive catchers in baseball this year, and matched it with a solid offensive effort (.274/.349/.397). Absent a trade (or deep-seated organizational fear that his mid-.300s BABIP of the last two years is going to crater next year), he is clearly the starter heading into 2014. So what could spending big money on catching be about?

There will be some interesting options available. Brian McCann is the big name who will get big money. Jarrod Saltalamacchia is certainly an intriguing option after he finally seemed to put it together this year (of course, he, too, was blessed with an absurdly high BABIP (.372)). But would he settle for a job in which he’d be splitting time with Castillo? And would the Cubs want to pay “good money” for that kind of part-time duty?

To be sure, I do think the Cubs will spend relatively good money on a back-up catcher this offseason, given the dearth of reasonable options in the upper levels of their minor league system. But signing a starting-caliber option for $10s of millions? That’s harder to see. With limited resources this year, there appear to be better areas to upgrade and have more impact.

That all said: as it was with pitching, when this front office sees an organizational deficiency, they’re smart enough to know you have to add depth any way you can get it. Having Castillo, alone, isn’t enough to feel good about the Cubs’ catching situation going into 2014 or 2015.

  • cub2014

    is steve Clevenger available?

  • macpete22

    McCann makes sense. Left handed and surprisingly he’s only 30, for some reason I thought he was older

    • YourResidentJag

      Always thought he did. For a C, he would be our no 3 or 5 hitter.

  • Brian Peters

    Harummmmpppphhhhhh…..(managerial talk please)…….

  • chris bradley

    spending good money on a good catcher could be a great idea then the Cubs could ship Castillo for prospects or package him along with other prospects for David price

  • Brian cubs fan

    Maybe the cubs want to trade Wellington in a package or for prospects

  • PKJ

    Matt Wieters is available in 2016. Wait to pull the trigger on him.

    • Rizzo1684

      Seriously? Have you looked at his numbers? Give me Castillo and solid back up like Navarro and i’m happy for the next 2 years. Hopefully a catcher is avail in the draft that the front office likes and they can draft someone.

      • PKJ

        Which numbers are you talking about? The 14.4 career WAR he’s put up? Not exactly pedestrian. 7th in the majors among catchers since 2009.

        According to Keith Law, the catchers available in the 2014 draft class are pretty thin. I’ll take my chances with a proven commodity at the peak of his career.

        • hansman1982

          “I’ll take my chances with a proven commodity at the peak of his career.”

          That’ll be a fine discussion after the 2015 season. No sense in basing current plans on the potential future free agency, that is 2 full seasons away, of a catcher.

          Hell, no sense in basing any current plans based on the guys who are possible free agents after next year.

        • Rizzo1684

          I’m talking about his .235//.287/.704 numbers, I’m talking about the numbers of him not being that much of an upgrade over Castillo. I’m also talking about the numbers that he would be a 29 year old catcher when he’s a free agent costing a lot of numbers in terms of dollars. He’s not worth it and I agree with hansman you can not count on someone for 2 years from now.

          • SenorGato

            What about every other offensive season in his career (well, not 2010, which isn’t even a disaster) or years of high quality defense at C?

            Weiters is a better talent than what they have at catcher right now. The real issue with him is that he’s not actually available right now.

    • SenorGato

      I like Weiters but would the Os let him go?

  • Jared G

    Koyie Hill must still be available somewhere right?

    • Pete

      He caught a no-hitter for the Marlins on the last day of the season, I believe.

  • cubspong

    Although its hopefully/probably nothing to worry about, I just hope Castillo’s injury isn’t more serious than we think…

  • Mike

    If they are going to sign a backup catcher, why not re-sign Navarro? I was pretty happy with him this year. Will he demand more than the Cubs would be willing to pay? Will he be focused on finding a starting position somewhere?

  • cubsfanforever

    Maybe a trade in their minds. Prospects for Price. Sounds good to me.

  • Jono

    probably a good move

  • chrisfchi

    Just resign Navarro. He has to be cheaper than Salty/McCann.

  • A_Mazz_Ing

    I mean, Joe Girardi was a catcher…

  • Corey

    This tells me either Navarro wont resign, they are trading Castillo, or that the FO just wants catching depth.

  • Corey

    I’d take Salty.

  • CubChymyst

    Castillo won’t start every day so their is an organizational need for a second catcher. The question going through my mind reading this is; Would the FO be willing to play an athletic catcher in LF occasionally? Maybe find a catcher who could serve as a short side of a platoon in the outfield while giving Castillo the occasional rest. A similar role to what Evan Gattis played for the braves. I have no clue of Saltalamacchia could do it but it be away to get who ever is signed into the line up more.

  • Zogie

    The cubs should keep Welington Castillo. He looks like an emerging star. He is looking more like a younger Yadier Molina. Just comparing stats, he has similar number as Yadier at the age of 26 and 27. Another note is that according to baseball reference he has a better dWar than Yadier. Castillo (2.8 dWAR), Molina (2.1 dWar)

  • Rizzo1684

    I’m sure Jesus Montero is avail in a trade. I’m sure it wouldn’t take much either maybe a Brett Jackson and some small pieces from both sides. I know the M’s love Zunino and would prefer someone better then Montero as a DH or LF. Who know’s i’m just trying to think outside the box.

    • The Dude Abides

      Montero is not a good catcher and after his PED concerns maybe not the hitter he was once thought to be.

      • Rizzo1684

        Your probably right and I’m not that big on him either. I was just trying to think outside the box.

  • Spoda17

    High priced catcher… uhm… not sure that is our biggest need for 2014. In order for that to be a smart move, they would need McCann. Offense, catching, pitch calling… if they do that, they would need to trade Castillo. So if they do that, it’s an offensive move that happens to be a catcher. Signing a big time free agent catcher does not address “organizational” catching depth…

    I agree we are light on catching, and we need [some]. I trust the FO if that is where they are going. I do like Castillo, and actually feel he could be a very good catcher of the future for the Cubs.

  • Cheryl

    They’ve needed a quality catcher for some time. McCann is established so they may decide to go after him. Are there any quality catchers available in the draft? If so, I’d expect them to target two plus more pitching.

  • YourResidentJag

    For those who liked his writing, Tom Clancy has passed away.

    • Cheryl

      He was a good writer. Haven’t read him in a long time though.

    • mjhurdle

      That is a shame. He was a great writer, and i loved his early work with Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games, Sum of All Fears, etc.


    • Fishin Phil

      Big Tom Clancy fan. I am now bummed for the day.

      RIP Tom

  • CubsFaninMS

    Sign Koye Clevenger!

  • The Dude Abides

    Navarro had a good year if possible resign him with the understanding he probably regresses a bit, if not sign any of the other numerous backup catchers that are available every year.

    McCann at 30 is beat to hell and will be looking for something longer than we should consider. I obviously have my doubts that any established catcher would be interested in the Cubs unless they have no other options IE McCann, Salty, etc. Stick to Castillo and let’s see what we have and bring in a dependable catcher that can handle a staff as a backup.

  • ssckelley

    I think the concern is Castillo’s inability to stay healthy along with the lack of depth at catcher in the organization. If Navarro does not resign and Castillo gets hurt the closest catching prospect they have is Rafael Lopez in AA. But resigning Navarro would correct that, if he prices himself out then signing another backup. Kurt Suzuki is a catcher that stands out to me as a potential buy low with good value type of player.

    But overall I see much bigger holes on the Cubs roster that need more attention than the catcher position.

  • Ivy Walls

    Speaking of agents has anyone really looked at Steven Mandell’s bio and client roster based in Chicago IL. This really looks like the stars are aligning for Joe and the Cubs.

    Managers are always short term or contractors but IF and when a manager like a coach (i.e. Ditka) bring home a winner for Chicago they set themselves up for a lifetime. This agent is in that business and coincidentally is also Ditka’s agent.

    I predict that Cashman has lunch, they go through the motions and is told that the Yanks can’t afford to keep Joe

  • CubsFaninMS

    Our organizational philosophy clearly falls in the lines of (a) developing/acquiring/drafting young minor league talent (b) having that young, cost-controlled talent shine in the major leagues (c) hand out team-friendly contracts to the high-upside, cost-controlled players and (d) acquire high-upside, established major leaguers to complete the areas of weakness. I know most of us savvy fans like to remain cautious after the initial excitement of reading a positive article on one of our team’s players, but an article Brett referred us to a couple of months back really laid out a strong case for Castillo being an excellent catcher. Castillo clearly falls into the (b) category at this point. Although McCann clearly falls into the (d) category, why acquire him when we already have a (b) at the Catcher position? I have no particular attachment to Castillo and McCann is, as of this moment, a better asset, I would prefer them let Castillo continue his progression and find him a good backup catcher. That being said, if we can acquire a couple of very good (a) pieces by trading Castillo, then sign McCann, we’d definitely have an overall upgrade in the short-term at that position.

    • cubzfan

      While I don’t disagree with your four points, overall the goal is still acquiring players that are good value for the money, and those four points are not the only ways to do that. So I’d propose (e) acquire established major leaguers who will produce more than their cost through free agency and trades. It’s possible that the Cubs think Castillo will be a good, long-term starting catcher, but that in this year’s market, the only free agents they think are solid buys are Saltalamacchia and McCann. The implication would be that with Castillo’s low salary and service time, there shouldn’t be a problem trading him after signing the new catcher, either in the offseason or in the near future.

  • Cheryl

    In the 2014 draft how about Reetz and Pentecost (sp?)

  • mjhurdle

    If the Cubs are spending ‘big money’ on a catcher, to mean that says that the Front Office does not see him as a starter next year, for whatever reason that i dont get yet. I think he did a great job this year, but they have more info than i do.
    I dont see any catcher worthy of spending ‘big money’ on agreeing to a deal to be a backup.

  • Jason Powers

    I think you do both. Scout out and trade for a good prospect catcher AND sign one to a 2-3 year 18 to 25 million deal. Pretty much have to cover the bases…Welington aint Posey or Yadi….

    • mjhurdle

      Wellington is not Yadi or Posey, but you aren’t getting Yadi or Posey, so that shouldn’t matter.
      If the choice was to land Posey or keep Wellington, then thanks for the good times Castillo and hope you find a job somewhere else.

      But is Salty that much of an improvement over Castillo? is McCann a big enough improvement to justify the money you will have to pay him?

      Im not saying i know the answer, but that is why this seems strange. There are no ‘slam dunk’ catching FAs that would explain why you would dismiss Castillo after the good season that he had, unless the Front Office knows something that isn’t apparent (which they probably do)

      • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

        It’s about contingency planning; since you missed the point of Yadi or Posey.

        I KNOW Welington aint Posey, which was to say, he is not a very good option as is. But, as we saw, and the Cardinals saw, what happens when the catcher gets injured. Assume for a moment, you are actually building a championship roster, do you thinking have a very good catcher matters, or not?

        The Cubs right now as their roster stands, has only 1 position guy that is a lock for his job: Anthony Rizzo. All the others, were deficient, or better upgrades are to be had on the open market or through the minors. But our star minor leagues still have a ways to go…So we are making due.

        Do you notice how the Cardinals always find guys to move up, and solve their problems. Not 100% of the time, but they do find ways to stay near the top.

        If Welington’s knee surgery, the lifeblood of a catcher, does not solve his injury, you still have to rely on….another catcher! Who, we know, probably is not Yadi or Bengie, or Posey, or Mauer, or whomever else we can currently name is actually a lock to be starter 135-140 games a season (aside from their injury risks.)

        You don’t build a championship quality team with only the bare minimum parts, hoping they will work out. You have fall back plans. Plan B or C….I think Theo would agree, even if you think it, “seems strange.”

        So, while you say “you don’t know the answer,” what is REALLY strange, is you don’t know the right questions to ask.

        A short history lesson:
        C Johnny ‘Noisy’ Kling
        Wally Schang
        Frank “Pancho” Snyder and Earl “Oil” Smith
        Spud Davis and Bill Delancey
        Mickey Cochrane
        Bill Dickey
        Yogi Berra
        Elston Howard
        Johnny Roseboro
        Gene Tenace
        Johnny Bench
        Thurmon Munson
        Jorge Posada
        Jason Varitek

        These guys all caught for WS champions, multiple times. On the field the talent diamond is C-SS-2B-CF and the Pitcher. Teams that win championships ALWAYS know you best have these positions in capable hands. (Sometimes a platoon that magically works out for a season or two.)

        Lastly, I didn’t say there were any SLAM DUNK FA catchers. I see you too can put words in my mouth. But Castillo has a total of 652 PA spread over 4 seasons – http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/c/castiwe01.shtml

        So, it is not like he’s a proven commodity; explore the downside risks of not having a backup catcher, AND not even having a tolerable call-up from the minors. You think the pitching staff will like not having a capable catcher calling the game????

        • mjhurdle

          First, i have no clue where the defensive hostility is coming from. I didn’t attack you or put words in your mouth. the ‘slam dunk’ were my words, not yours, in describing a really good catcher. much like i would do with ‘can’t miss’ or ‘game changer’, i used the single quotes to contain a phrase, if i was quoting you i would have used double quotes.
          Second, the point of my post was that, given Castillo’s improvement, i don’t see any of the FA catchers as being better for this team, unless there is something we don’t know about Castillo (injury is more serious, etc).

          At no point did i mention any desire to not have depth at the catching position. Or that the catcher wasn’t important. Where you got that out of my post i don’t know.

          • http://deepcenterfield.blogspot.com Jason Powers

            Your points henceforth will be taken under perpetual advisement.

  • college_of_coaches

    I wonder if the looming prospect of DH status in the NL is playing a role in the front offices interest in free-agent catchers. The idea being that a Brian McCann might have 2-3 seasons left as a full-time catcher, but his bat has more life in it as a DH.

    • hansman1982

      I wonder if that will be Bud’s parting gift to MLB.

    • cubs2003

      That’s a good point. I see Castillo as a cost controlled starter. Isn’t that what the Cubs are looking for? I don’t see the point in spending big money on a catcher. A Navarro type backup would be fine. That is, unless the injury is worse than was let on or talks with Girardi or another managerial candidate are already happening and he’s demanding to hand pick the catcher. I guess we’ll see.

    • kscubfan

      I think it has more to do with the fact that if you only has WC then you are only a play away from being in a big time bind. Cather needs to have 2 guys that can be starters if you are going to excell at that position. Couple that to not having anybody in the minors close then you need to bridge the gap for 2-3 years until the prospects are ready.

      Not sure what “Big” money means here, but wouldn’t be a bad idea to spend some here to make sure you have quality on the feild at all times.

    • YourResidentJag

      Yep, excellent observation.