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george kottaras royalsYesterday, the Kansas City Royals designated catcher George Kottaras for assignment (“no, he’ll never be royals” … I’m sorry for that), primarily due to a catching glut and an impending arbitration raise. Their loss might just be the Cubs’ gain.

It’s no secret that the Cubs are heavily in the market for catching depth, and, at the top of the list is a solid back-up catcher whom they can pair with starter Welington Castillo. Since Castillo bats righty, finding a lefty would be ideal. Enter Kottaras.

Last year, Kottaras hit just .180 … but his OBP was .349. That’s right. Kottaras had a 19%(!!!) walk rate last year. For his career, he walks at an amazingly high 14% clip. That’s important, because he’s never hit for much average, with a BABIP that always hovers in the .250 range and a strikeout rate in the 22% range. Still, combine that walk rate with an ISO that’s around .200, and you’ve got a quietly valuable player. He also grades out well defensively, according to FanGraphs. Kottaras turns 31 next year.

I know what you’re thinking: if this guy is so obviously great, why did the Royals dump him? Well, his contract status is one reason (he made $1.2 million in 2013 and was set for a raise in arbitration). But the main reason is a serious positional glut at the big league level. After signing Francisco Pena to a big league deal (he’s 24, and is a very good third catcher option or possible back-up), the Royals had starter Salvador Perez (a young stud in whom they’ve already invested a bit), Kottaras, Brett Hayes (a capable backup who will be much cheaper than Kottaras), and Pena. Against that backdrop, it makes some sense that they might let Kottaras go, since they needed his roster spot for Jason Vargas, who signed yesterday.

That the Royals have DFA’d Kottaras doesn’t mean he’ll go on waivers, where the Cubs could pluck him for free (assuming they were comfortable paying him whatever he projects to make in arbitration – maybe $1.5 to $2 million?). The Royals have 10 days to waive, release, or trade Kottaras. It’s possible that the Royals know there is enough interest in him that, needing the roster spot now, they could freely DFA him and put a trade together quickly.

If Kottaras does wind up on waivers, the Astros, Marlins, and White Sox will have an opportunity to claim him before the Cubs get a chance. If there’s a reasonable fear that he’ll be claimed (the Royals grabbed him quickly last year when he was DFA’d by the A’s), the Cubs could consider sending along a C prospect to get a deal done.

To my mind, if Carlos Ruiz – who turns 35 in January – is worth three years and $26 million, Kottaras has to be worth $1.5 to $2 million, right? As a veteran lefty who takes a ton of walks and has posted an OPS+ of 98 or better each of the last three years (catchers are often late bloomers with the bat), I’m not sure the Cubs can find a better back-up catcher out there right now.

Furthermore, Kottaras came up in the Red Sox system after originally being drafted by the Padres. He even spent parts of the 2008 and 2009 season on the Red Sox’s big league roster. In other words, this front office is very familiar with him.

Maybe that makes him a prime target, or gives them specialized knowledge of why he shouldn’t be a target. Whatever the case, this is a guy who looks like a tremendous fit for the Cubs’ needs – and possibly an inexpensive one.

  • http://www.backingthepack.com Rynomite

    Kottaras .319/.430 in career vs. RHP
    Cubs, as a team, hit .301/.391 last year vs. RHP
    Castillo has hit .326/.392 vs. RHP in his career, so you can take him out for Kot once or twice a week against RHP and not lose anything.

    Again, why is there an argument against this?

    • MichiganGoat

      Because he has a bad batting average… many cannot get past that.

      • TK

        And he doesnt hit 85 HR every year, isn’t an All-Star, and has little “Fantasy Value” . . . screw the bum. Oh yeah, dont forget that he can’t hover 8″ above the ground! And we could spend that money on Ellsbury, Choo, Cano, and a Dodger OF (via trade).

    • wvcubsfan

      180 man, 180, can’t get past batting average

      • MichiganGoat

        Getting over AVG is good to do.

        • hansman

          I just cant quit you

  • Crazyhorse

    Which would you rather have a batter that bats 250 and a low walk ratio that driven in runs or a player that bats 180 with a high walk ratio that runs himself into double plays and do not drive or advance runners in the 7 or 8 spot in the batting order?

    • Cubbie Blues

      False choice, but I would take the player with over 50 points higher in OBP. (We really aren’t going to get into the RBI thing again are we?)

      • MichiganGoat

        Yeah I think we are… so just so I don’t have to say it again RBI are not individual stats they are team driven stats and do not measure a player’s worth accurately. Do some research and reading if you don’t believe me but I’m not getting into a RBI debate again.

    • MichiganGoat

      Um your going to have to give more information than this in order to have a good conversation, and remember we are talking about backup catcher here. If the difference between the .250 and .180 hitter is that the .250 hitter has a higher OBP & SLG then yes hes the better player and I’m not even going to consider RBI because we’ve beaten that horse enough.

      • Crazyhorse

        I guess what im saying is I understand the importance of OBP. if a person is not on base then runs can not be created but at the same token a player needs to drive in those players that are on base.

        if a the game is tied and a man on third do we really want a player with low batting average and higer OBP batting rather than a player that can put the ball in play to advance the runner.

        This is what makes sabermetrics so important – but to put a blanket statement that players with high OBP with low batting average comes with a price. leaving stranded players on base.

        I still think overall higher the batting average is usually the better offensive player. A player with lower batting average usually is lesser of an offensive threat. yet that same player with a higher OBP is just not as bad with the his peers with low batting average.

        A player with a with batting average of 300 is respectable and with a low walk ratio his standing among his peers is valued less with player that bat 300 but a player that has a batting average 250 with higher OBS then the Importance is who follows that player,

        I might not be explaining myself well. but that is why i feel OBP can be taken out of context. just because a player has a higher on OBP, his Batting Avg is just as important and depending where a player hits in the lineup

        A player that has a 349 obs is great yet he bats 180. Seems like he gets on base yet it seems he also sucks when it comes to advancing runners. Thisis a wierd stat but which stat is his true performance .

        I mean if i was the opposing manager – I would tell my pitchers a player with HIgh OBP but with a rather low batting challenge the batter make him earn his base.

        OBP is imortant but so is the batting average- its a baseline

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          This is also a productive comment. We can disagree on substance, but it can be a well-thought-out, nicely-put conversation. More this, friends.

        • Norm

          “if a the game is tied and a man on third do we really want a player with low batting average and higer OBP batting rather than a player that can put the ball in play to advance the runner.”

          You’d love to have the guy that can put the ball in play. But you cannot predict when these situations happen. And if you look at any players, any player at all, look at their splits, they only come to bat in these situations in a VERY limited # of at bats. I’m guessing, but I think it’s less than 10%.
          So in the other 90% of at-bats, don’t you want that higher OBP guy?
          That’s an exaggeration, but the point is, the # of situations where you’d prefer to have that ‘put the ball in play’ hitter up, is FAR less than the # of situations where you’d prefer to have a guy that can get on base.

        • Edwin

          Fair points. Still, because batting average treats a single the exact same as a home run, it can still be misleading about how good a hitter is. Without including power, you’re not getting the entire picture.

          The obvious (and probably overdone) example is Adam Dunn and Juan Pierre. Dunn has been a much more dangerous hitter to face than Pierre over their careers.

          Also, unless the situation is a “close and late” situation, the loss from the “worse baserunner advancement” is normally offset by the gain from the higher likelihood of not making an out.

          • MichiganGoat

            “because batting average treats a single the exact same as a home run, it can still be misleading about how good a hitter is. Without including power, you’re not getting the entire picture.”

            This is why I don’t see why AVG is even need both SLG and OBP give us a better measurement of how a player will perform.

            • Norm

              OBP treats a walk the exact same as a home run and SLG treats a triple as being worth three times a single (which is wrong).

              There is no reason to withhold AVG if you are using OBP and SLG. They all tell a story.
              If you want the entire offensive package in one number, you should just skip these and go to wOBA and wRC+.

            • Edwin

              True, but then why bother with those at all? Why not use wOBA, or wRC+?

              Batting Average might not tell me much about how valuable a hitter is, but it at least tells me what type of hitter a hitter is. It lets me know if the OBP is because the player draws walks, or because the player has good contact skills.

              If I’m going to analyss or try to measure expected performance, I’ll use wOBA or wRC+. If I want to find out what type of hitter a player is, I’ll use a triple slash line, or look at ISO, K%, and BB%.

              • MichiganGoat

                Oh I agree wOBA & wRC+ are much better than the triple slash line but I just don’t see what avg tells that OBP & SLG doesn’t.

                • Edwin

                  I don’t think average helps with valuing a player, it just helps if you’re interested in knowing what kind of hitter you’re looking at.

                • Norm

                  Player A: 359/477
                  Player B: 354/464

                  Without AVG, or ISO, these players look pretty similar. Why wouldn’t you want to include AVG?

                  Yadier: 319/359/477
                  J.Upton: 263/354/464

        • TK

          Dude, we’re talking about a BACK-UP CATCHER on a 95+ loss team, maybe 85 – 90 losses if things go well. He’d be cheap, effective, and LIKELY LEAD THE TEAM IN OBP. He won’t be our starting RF in 2016. Theres NO reason to dispute getting him. Aaaaaarrrrrrrrggghh!!!!

    • Internet Random

      Which would you rather smoke, a cigarette of human hair or a cigarette of human fingernails?

      • Ron

        Would the fingernails be ground down to the consistancy of snuff or just be clippings?

        • Internet Random

          I’ve always imagined them to be clippings.

          • Ron

            Are they random clippings or do I know the source?

            • Internet Random

              Unknown origin, but you can assume that the clippings and hair would come from the same person.

        • MichiganGoat

          Would the hair be natural? Would it be flavored? I need to know these things to fully make a choice. However I do think hair has a better chance of getting on base.

          • Internet Random

            Natural hair, not flavored.

            • TWC

              Andre: Right after graduation, you guys rolled me my first joint. That’s it. I kept it. I got crazy high.
              Kevin: Ruxin, you told me you told him!
              Ruxin: I never told him, how do you tell someone that? Do you know what is in that joint?
              Andre: Weed!
              Kevin: No, not weed. Our pubic hair.

              • MichiganGoat

                I just watched that episode last night love that show

            • MichiganGoat

              If it comes from a hot girl then I select hair.

      • wilbur

        This is why discussions of sabermetrics is generally useless, except in a very limited arcane sense.

  • BABIP (MichCubFan)

    Wellington has had a reverse platoon split so far…It would be better to platoon him with a guy who kills lefties…like Navarro did last year. So a right-handed hitting catcher would be preferable.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That might just be a sample size fluke – in the minors (at least for the little bit of data tracked), he has a typical split.

  • YourResidentJag

    If the Cubs are going to pick up Kotteras, then they should also acquire Irving Falu. He has a solid OBP as well. Granted most of it is in the minors, but I don’t why that wouldn’t translate to the majors.

  • YourResidentJag
    • jt

      That is the main reason I believe they make the most sense as a trade partner.

      • MichiganGoat

        But who do they have that we want that would save them major dollars? Butler has no place on the Cubs and if they trade Shields they are going backwards. I just don’t see a fit here.

        • jt

          Either Gordon or Shields could be the expensive player of interest. I’d also be interested in Zimmer along with Moustakas.
          For Shields and a window to negotiate and extension, I’d be willing to give up a package *starting* with Samardzija. And I would try to extend him to the cost of Tanaka money.
          I’m not going to pretend negotiate. But I believe there could be mutual interest of players both on the Major and Minor lg levels.

  • Sean

    Would love this signing not a bad option. Plus this guy killed us when he was with Milwaukee

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