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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.

  • Brent

    I hate to be that guy, but would we ever see an announcement that said the Cubs planned to spend “bad money” on anyone? WTF is “good money”?

    • Chris S

      I think “good money” is a colloquialism for “a good amount of money” or “a decent amount of money”. I don’t think it’s good/bad in the traditional sense of positive/negative.

    • baldtaxguy

      “…devote a major portion of free agent $$ to…?”

  • Zogie

    Price for Castillo seems possible only if we can get McCann. Salty is way too much of a gamble. I still don’t like the trade because to me Castillo has more value than Price. He is cost efficient and controlled. Would you rather spend $20-30M on Price and McCann or S500K on Castillo. The only real reason I see all of this going down is that McCann can be our future cleanup hitter and that is a piece that is always tough to find.

    • bbmoney

      30M on price and McCann and it’s not close. Not really an option though at least not as you’ve presented it (Price for Castillo…ha).

    • SenorGato

      Yeah, I wouldn’t lose sleep moving Castillo in a Price deal. I don’t see anything special about Castillo and the decent season makes him a sell high guy to me.

      That said, I would prefer they buy Cano. As Castillo is cheap, the most importsntt thing on the planet, he should be appealing to everyone. No rush to trade him or anything, I just don’t think hes as good as paper says he is. Hes a nice fit with the Rays too due Molina being a FA and Castillo’s cheapness.

  • Blublud

    If this is true, then this is stupid. Catcher was probably our best position this year. Castillo is an emerging all-star caliber catcher. I don’t really see a need for an upgrade.

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      Except that we need 2-3 catchers. We need a second guy on the club, and hopefully someone at AAA we feel comfortable bringing up in a pinch. We really don’t have either right now. So depending on how much playing time they plan to give Welly next year, we need a solid backup and a solid backup’s backup. It’s not necessarily an upgrade, per se. But there likely won’t be another Navarro contract next year. Even if it’s Navarro, he’s going to cost a lot more.

      • Justin

        Yeah the Cubs spending big on a catcher would be pretty ridiculous. Considering Wellington had the best WAR by far on the Cubs with limited time, it makes no sense at all with the many other holes they have. Even if the Cubs have to bump Navarro to $5 Million a yr as a backup/platoon partner to Castillo that makes way more sense than opening the pocket book for a guy like McCann.

  • Bob

    With the limited operating costs of the Cubs, they couldn’t afford all of the letters on the jerseys for both Samardzija and Saltalamacchia. It would be fun to have that battery just once, though.

    • baldtaxguy

      heh

      • kubphan82

        Samarcchia… Saltamardzija… Salty Shark… Salt a la Shark

        When Sharky met Salty…(I’m bored)…

        • themusicbox

          LMFAO!

  • cubmig

    A lilttle weight-control plan for Navarro (205 lbs?), for good results, and we have what we need in an even better back-up catcher. Don’t quite understand why the talk for a back-up “C” has surfaced. ??? Might be the FO sees Navarro as leaving….As for McCann, one MLB headline I saw, broadcasts that the Rangers were going after him hard this winter.

    • cooter

      I was wondering the same thing for a little bit. I’m guessing Navarro wants to play starter and I think he’s earned it. it just won’t happen on this team.

  • Justin

    Very glad to hear you are considering a Bears site Brett. I think that’s a great idea for your site. The Bears blogs out there right now are so bad, and poorly ran. I think it would gain a huge following even if it was just mediocre, considering the competition..

    • Napercal

      What about a Blackhawks blog? There wouldn’t be much to complain about.

  • Peter

    this makes no sense, I know castillo is hurt, but navarro can fill in nicely, need bullpen and a bigger impact bat thats affordable, nelson cruz perhaps?

    • Cubbie Blues

      Navarro isn’t under contract.

      • willis

        Plus with his 2013, I’d think he’d definitely decline a smallish contract to be a backup, thinking he could hold out for a starting offer somewhere. He was pretty awesome this year and it would surprise me if there isn’t that opportunity somewhere.

  • Eric

    Since Salty has such a deep lefty/righty split, he would make a good platoon/backup option.

    • SenorGato

      His power is also pretty rare for the position. I don’t mind Saltalamacchia one bit, he’s basically a better version of what I think Castillo more realistically projects to be.

      Him plus a good backup like Navarro again would work very well. Adds a little more power to the lineup…Saltalamachia is a durable guy who stays on the field, which is nice…He’s experienced and for those prospect obsessed out there was once one of the best prospects in baseball…He definitely needs a good backup THO. Luckily guys like Jose Molina and Navarro are FAs this year and high quality backups.

  • BlameHendry

    I’m sorry, but I don’t get all the hype around Castillo. He’s pretty expendable to me. He was never projected to be anything more than average and after a *decent* season (I wouldn’t even call it good) people think he’s the new Rizzo. If other GMs are as stoked about Castillo as some Cubs fans are, then sell high. If he was bundled up in a package of players to trade for Price, I would not object one bit.

    • Justin

      Catillo had one the most amazing improvements in defense ever this year. It looks like he is still improving by leaps and bounds too. By many measurements he was a top 10 catcher in all of baseball, still young, and dirt cheap. Just go and google his name with WAR and other catcher standards, he you will see he was pretty badass under the radar. There are lots of reasons to be high on Wellington.

      • SenorGato

        Under the radar he is so not…Not to mention that defensively his performance came out of LF, and it didn’t even happen over a full year because he ended up hurting his knee.

        Throw on putting up an almost .350 BABIP as a catcher and I just don’t see any reason for me to believe he’s going to develop even further beyond where he is.

        It’s more like there’s some reason to be OK with him holding the fort at catcher for another couple of years, but there’s probably more reason to think he’s going to decline a little bit all around.

        • Cubbie Blues

          Actually, some of the coaches at the end of last year were saying that Wellington had Molina like abilities. Low and behold, he works with Molina in the off-season and he comes out killing it defensively.

          • SenorGato

            Quotes from the coaches saying this last year? It would be the first time in his prospect life that he got such high praise, and he was no young buck as a prospect last year.

        • Justin

          I think Wellington is completely under the radar. Sure, some Cubs diehards that follow blogs closely like us know about the good yr he had, but most people nationally have no idea who he is. I like him a lot going forward, my bad. I just disagree with your statements, sorry dude.

    • Patrick W.

      The final 2013 leader in Defensive Runs Saved by a catcher is Welington Castillo, with 19 Runs Saved.— John Dewan (@FieldingBible) October 1, 2013

  • Steve

    Sign Navarro and the combination of Castillo-Navarro as the catching duo for next couple of seasons will be the least of the Cubs worries. Money needs to be spent on bringing in a decent starting pitcher. Without a top flight pitching staff the Cubs will be making little progress while waiting for a few of our top minor leaguers get ready to make an appearance at the Friendly Confines in late 2014 and 2015.

    • Cubbie Blues

      Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. Navarro would have to agree and he is going to try to find a starting job somewhere. Only then would we be able to talk to him about a back-up position. Then we also have to look at a back-up to the back-up. We have nearly no depth at Catcher.

      • jt

        money, money, money….
        For much of the year Castillo/Navarro batted low in the order. Bat them higher in the lineup. A team with increased OBP would also create more PA’s for everyone. Castillo had 2013 428 PA’s and Dioner had 266. Under the above conditions 750 PA’s would be available to C/DH/PH. Give Beef 425 and Navarro 325 of those and pay Navarro. The chubby catcher then gets his money and perhaps prevents his career from being cut short because of excess wear on his knees due to excessive girthy squatting. Win/Win/Win!

        • Cubbie Blues

          1. 428 + 266 = 694 ≠ 750
          2. At what cost? The OP was looking to save money with Navarro, not spend it
          – I agree we should make a bid for him though.
          3. If money were the same (or close) he is going to take the starting position over a backup role.

          • jt

            If you move a batter up in the order he gets more PA’s. Beef and Castillo were hitting 7th and 8th in the order for the first half of the year. Starlin had 705 PA’s in 161 games. Castillo/Navarro figure to start 162 at C plus the DH thing plus the pinch hitting role.
            I believe The Cubs were 2nd to the lowest in OBP. Increasing the OBP would increase the number of PA’s for everyone in the lineup. I mean, it could not get worse than it was. 750 PA’s is easily in the realm.
            You pay for value! Navarro provided a 2.0 WAR. Barring injury they may well project him to do the same for a couple of more years. If so you pay him what that is worth.
            Given a lesser catcher as a Castillo backup would create a need for the load to be made larger on Beef’s back. Under such a load would Castillo still be able to create a WAR of 4.4?
            Together Castillo and Navarro seem to form a top of the lineup batter. Pay them as such. Pay Navarro this next year and pay Beef when he gets to his arbitration years. That would be a lot cheaper than giving a guy like Hunter Pence $90M over 5 years.

      • jt

        worry as to the backup of the backup catcher….
        that is funny

        • Cubbie Blues

          They are going to need one at some point next year. Currently I can’t name who that would be off the top of my head. Can you?

          • hansman1982

            A scrub from AAA can fill in at that point. Barring season ending injury you’re talking about 15 PA.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    After Rizzo’s poor year hitting v. LHP Saltalamacchia could spell him at 1B since he is a switch hitter. However, I believe they should resign Navarro and draft a couple of highly ranked college catchers in the first few rounds. Kyle Schwarber from Indiana is the best hitting , high % OBP type the FO loves. He is a LH hitter with substantial power and great eye at the plate. He will go in round 1. Grayson Greiner from South Carolina is probably the best defensive catcher in college ball and is major league ready with his throwing and handling pitchers. He is big at 6’5″ and 220 lbs. and needs some work on his hitting but could be had in round 3 or 4.

    • terencemann

      I’m not worried about a 23/24 year old’s minor struggles. It was still a decent year for Rizzo considering he lost somewhere in the range of 15-20 points of average/OBP to having a really really low BABIP.

  • Stevie B

    If we have to platoon Rizzo, after giving him that contract, I might just jump into the Chattahoochie.

  • http://bleachernation.com ramy 16

    Just bring back Navarro.. he did great last year! Mccan is going to want the money. .Navarro would be money better spent. . And then use the money you’d save to get a starter

  • Voice of Reason

    “Multiple agents” who happen to have catchers as clients who are free agents. And, of course, no specific agents are mentioned.

    They’re trying to drive the price up for catchers.

    If these “multiple agents” are going to make any statement at all its going to be all about some team spending money to drive up the price of their client(s).

    Really a story that didn’t need to be written.

    • jon

      Your moniker is quite the paradox.

  • mdel78

    They are just referring to the fact the Cubs will be spending a lot of money on an (ex-)catcher as their manager.

  • auggie55

    If the Cubs have decided they want to spend some money on C, how about Carlos Ruiz? If they want to go cheap, just bring back Hank White.

  • TigerCub

    They mean we’re gonna spend big on an ex-catcher. Joe Girardi. Hell, let him be manager & backup catcher. We’re gonna suck next year anyway.

  • dAn

    This is an absurd rumor. The only free agent catcher they’re going to spend “good money” on is the next manager of the Chicago Cubs.

  • kubphan82

    McFREAKINCann… The writing is on the wall… Well, maybe. The leaked out the need for going out a getting some high OBP for the team. Dejesus was the veteran leader on the team and traded away. McCann is a monster and is suited for split duty, if they can convince him. Looks like Castillo still needs some seasoning, and if he received McCann’s tutelage, he could become a badass worthy of Yadier mention.

    It’s not a perfect split but Castillo hits LHP pretty darn well. McCann hits RHP pretty darn well. McCann knows what age 30 means, especially to a C. If the Cubs can pull it off, I hope the DH hits as soon as 2016.

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