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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.

  • Blackhawks1963

    George Kottaras? Like getting a new pair of socks for Christmas. Whoopie.

    • Cubbie Blues

      I bet you’re a blast at the company Christmas party. Instead of having fun and enjoying everything that is going on, you sit in the corner and stew about everything that is wrong with the company.

      • MichiganGoat

        Remember when two years ago we had good catered food and this year its a party sub, damn this company damn them straight to hell.

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

          I love getting sloshed at the company wind dig. But I always find the guy’s wife with the incredible sweater pups, who knows it, but loves to flirt overtly with any guy.

          But I digressed.

          Add the guy to the gang! The land of platoon toys! ;)

      • hansman

        It’s fun, you should try it some time.

    • jt

      I like warm feet in December

    • Featherstone

      I dont know about you, but I love getting socks for christmas. The feeling of wearing new socks is just fantastic.

      • Stinky Pete

        YES!!! That is the best part of Christmas at my inlaws. Santa always bring me new socks. Now you’ve created the analogy and I am very excited for the Cubs to sign Kottaras!

        • MichiganGoat

          I’m the same way with new white undershirts, every year I get a whole new set of socks, undershirts, and underwear and throw out all the old ones.

      • Soda Popinski

        Are you seeing this, Brett? Time to add socks to the BN store (preferably wool).

        • Stinky Pete

          And coffee cups.

          • auggie55

            I like the coffee cup idea.

            • hansman

              September callups brought to you by the BNer Coffe Cup

              • Cubbie Blues

                *coffee
                The *cough* cup is something totally different.

                • MichiganGoat

                  That would be a spittoon

              • MichiganGoat

                Nice or the BN Cup-o-Joe “Perfect for Riding the Pine”

    • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

      I’d love some new socks!

      • Cubbie Blues

        Thanks for the reminder. Time to listen to some French. EV85 will have to be played a couple of times.

        • http://www.frenchrocks.net Ian Afterbirth

          Aw, what a swell guy you are! I’m actually just about to record some guitar for our new CD as soon as I hit “submit”.

        • TWC

          French Rocks!

    • wvcubsfan

      If he is signed or traded for you know his BN persona has to be Socks now.

  • http://www.backingthepack.com Rynomite

    Kottaras’s career OPS v. RHP is 99 points higher than Navarro’s. (.749 to .650). Seems like this would be an upgrade and a cost-saving measure at the same time. Navarro has a career year that’s very unlikely to be repeated.

  • itzscott

    Sounds like someone’s on the happy pills this morning….

    I’m willing to bet that George Kottaras never had a writer get so excited over him.

  • CubFan Paul

    His walk rate would kill my liver if Castillo got injured (I play the OBP drinking game), nor does he slug much versus RHP, so no thanks.

    • Coop

      Kottaras has a career .430 SLG% vs RHP, including 26 HR in 554 ABs. Seems pretty decent for a backup…

  • Blackhawks1963

    Yeah, we could really look forward to those days when the lineup card has Valbeuna, Barney and Kottaras hitting back to back to back !!!

    • Soda Popinski

      I’ll hit your mom back to back to back…

    • CubFan Paul

      Coffee doesn’t taste good when regurgitated.

  • MichiganGoat

    This is perfect example of why AVG is so flawed, if I gave you a choice .180 AVG or .349 OBP everyone would jump on the OBP but scream hell no to the .180 AVG.

    • jayrig5

      Flawed for sure, although a player who hits .280/.349 is still more valuable than a player who hits .180/.349.

      • Cubbie Blues

        Yes, but that players numbers would be higher across the board.

      • Senor Cub

        @Jay – non-sense, Kottaras .180 will fit right in with the rest of this team.

        • CubbiesOHCubbies

          Not only will he fit right in, he may be batting fifth…… Crap it’s gonna be a long ass season. C’mon trade deadline???

      • Norm

        But what about projecting forward? Is he TRULY a 180 hitter, or did he have a down year?
        Even if the 180/350 hitter only hits .215 next season, that might move his OBP up to about 385. It isn’t as likely that the 280/349 hitter will get there.

        Looking back, sure, you take the 280/349 guy. But looking forward? Whole ‘nother story.

        • MichiganGoat

          A 280/349 catcher would be a very prized commodity and would not be DFA so you can’t really compare the difference but looking for a cheap backup catcher that can walk and have a OBP of 349 is much better than many of the other affordable back up options.

    • EQ76

      eh.. I don’t think AVG is all that flawed, it’s a good measurement of how good a hitter is at getting actual hits OBP tells a better overall story about getting on base.. no reason to hate the AVG stat when you can glean a lot from both. I think a .180 AVG and .349 OBP is more of a rarity than anything else.

      • MichiganGoat

        If the goal of a hitter is to get on base and not create an out why does how he get there matter? If your talking about the power of hits then SLG is a better way to measure but the goal is to get on base and not record an out so AVG really only matters because we have been following it for so long. Believing in the power of AVG leads to belief in RBI and both of these stats have wonderful replacements but we’ve just been so historically trained to believe AVG is the stat that matters- its just isn’t that good of a measurement.

        • CubFan Paul

          Mike Trout for MVP (again)

        • Edwin

          I can kind of see that on the extreme margins, how a player reaches base can make a difference. After all, a walk doesn’t drive in a run very often, or give a baserunner on 1st a chance to advance to 3rd. But obviously, there are better ways than BA to make those type of determinations.

          I think the disconnect is that the difference in value between a single and a walk is much smaller than the difference in value between an out and a walk.

          Maybe. I’m throwing this comment together pretty lazily, so I could be wrong.

        • EQ76

          true.. but most of the metric fanatics tend to want to dismiss all the standard stats as meaningless and a waste of time.. To me, there’s a stat for everything you want to know.. none of them alone tell the whole story but all are valuable and serve a good purpose. I’ve always like the combo stat line of AVG/OBP/SLG because, collectively, they tell the story much better.

    • jt

      The past 2 years he has had 14 HR’s in 325 PA’s. That, along with his willingness to take a BB, I find interesting.
      *
      Both times Kottaras was HBP happened in 2013. Half of his 4 IBB happened in 2013. I assume those were 4 PA’s in which he had no control. Take away those 4 PA’s and his 2013 OBP drops 0.328 in 122 PA’s.
      I assume they walked him to get to Escobar or Getz who together had 879 PA’s and a 0.560 OPS. Who would throw a strike to Kottaras, who has a little pop, with those two guys hitting behind him? Neither the 0.180 average nor the 0.350 OBP says a whole heck of a lot.

      • Ron

        Perfect bat him infront of Barney and nothing changes.

        • jt

          I’ve posted several times that 2B is the first upgrade need. But if they do keep a 0.550 OPS bat hitting 8th then having a guy who is willing to take a walk and the power to keep pitchers from becoming too bold is not a real bad thing.
          It could also be that as pitchers tossing closer to the plate against him might cause the SLG rate rise as the BB drops.
          Who knows?

  • cavemencubbie

    Does walk rate negatively correlate with BABIP?

    • Cubbie Blues

      No, because when a player is issued a walk, they did not put the Ball In Play.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      No. This year there was a very weak positive correlation. Next year it could be a very weak negative correlation. However, there do exist significant positive correlations between batting average *given contact* and walk rates as well as XBH rates and walk rates. So, guys who take walks hit the ball hard more frequently than other guys: but that winds up not affecting BABiP as much as other factors.

  • Randy

    I dig the scrap heap. Don’t bother going to Sears, just go to Big Lots.

    • cub2014

      we have to add a left handed catcher who
      is going to play 40 games is good defensively.
      I minimally care who it is this year. SINCE WE
      ARE TANKING AGAIN!

      Unless of course we can flip him then by all
      means sign McCann.

  • MADDMAZZ

    Why do we keep getting players nobody else wants? It’s time management stars acting like we are a big market team.

    • Chad

      Whoa, my mind is blown. I have never thought of this before! Someone please tell Theo and Jed.

      • MichiganGoat

        We’ve cracked the code! Only sign big name free agent players.

        • cub2014

          we would be playoff competitive today and
          not mortgage our future in 3 major step and
          2 minor ones:
          1. sign tanaka
          2. sign choo
          3. trade for eithier or kemp or gonzalez
          4. sign a closer
          5. sign a veteran starter

          hard to do because other teams want the 1st
          3 guys as well, so its awfully hard to come
          away with that trio.

          Our payroll would go up around 45million put
          us at around the leaugue average of 115-120
          milion. It sounds like a reasonable plan to me.

          • wvcubsfan

            WHAT??? How in the world do you plan on pulling off all 5 of those items for only 45M per year?

            • MichiganGoat

              Yeah that seems really cheap the way the market is developing:

              1-Tanaka – I’m guess after the post fee around $10-15M a year and that might be cheap… so lets say 12M
              2-Choo – at least $15M in this market if not 20M just for giggles lets say 15M (total 27M)
              3-Those contracts are going to be at least 10-20M for either (CarGo’s contract grows quickly and Kemp is unknown depending on what the Dodgers give) so lets say 15M (42M already)
              4-Closer – well at least 5M just to be very very conservative (47M)
              5-Starter – the way the market is look 10M is very likely (57M)

              so yeah being conservative I’ve got close to 60M to do this.

            • cub2014

              wv, our ML payroll this year as it stands now
              is about 50 mil. You can easily add those 5
              for 60 million. 45-50 million for the 3. 15 million
              for the 2. thus 115million to 120 million

              • Edwin

                I don’t know where you’re getting that number from. If you have a link, or could explain it, please do so.

              • Edwin

                Never mind, I see what you’re doing.

                In your $50MM, you’re not including arbitration elligble players. Since they’ll get paid, you need to factor them in. Otherwise you’re ignoring players like Schierholtz, Wood, Samardzija, and Barney.

                You also need to include players who are not yet eligible for arbitration.

                • wvcubsfan

                  I’m seeing that as well, there should be at a minimum 25M or so in arbitration eligible players.

                  • cub2014

                    My payroll numbers ( i did forget about dejesus):
                    Again these 3 are all good long term fits for
                    the Cubs
                    2014
                    Contractual 49m
                    Wood 2m
                    russell 1.5m
                    others 6m
                    (traded) schierholtz,barney &
                    samardijza to get eithier or gonzalez)-6m
                    *so that is where i came up 52m
                    add in dejesus 59m

                    eithier 15m (dodgers will have to
                    give some money back)
                    choo 15-17m
                    tanaka 10-15m 53-66mm
                    pitcher 8-10m
                    reliever 5-8m
                    payroll 112m to 125m
                    2015 take off Sori&Dejesus -20m for 2015

                    • cub2014

                      So payroll goes to 125m max in 2014
                      drops to 105m in 2015? Puts us in
                      the middle of the road for payroll in
                      2014 and in the bottom half for 2015.

                      Makes sense to me. Maybe not to
                      Ricketts?

              • Mick

                $50 mil current roster + $23 mil in projected arbs = 73 mil.

                Tanaka $12 mil/year
                Choo $17 mil/year
                Kemp $21 mil/year
                Nathan $10 mil/year
                Kazmir $8 mil/year
                Kottaras $2 mil

                ==================
                $143 mil + $60 mil posting fee for Tanaka

                Is that you Jim Hendry???

                • MichiganGoat

                  I really think these projected salaries are quite conservative, the posting fee for Tanaka could be much higher some are even speculating 100M and Kazmir could expect 10-12M if not more as well as Nathan the way the salaries are projecting for pitchers. Hell Choo might be able to get a 4/5 year deal for 100/125. Anyway you look at it we are talking about a near 150M payroll to add those players (minus the posting fee) and I’m not sure it would get us all that close to .500 if we the prospects don’t appear and make a splash.

                  • cub2014

                    I didnt count the posting fee (i am sure
                    ricketts would) because it doesnt affect
                    long term payroll.

                    • MichiganGoat

                      I’m not either I just think you are looking at nearly 60M annually to add all that you have suggested and that’s not including the posting fee.

                • Edwin

                  Yeah, I’d say the Cubs have, at most, $30MM to play with this offseason. That would put the Cubs close to where they’ve normally been at, and would coincide with what management has been indicating is the current payroll level.

                  Whether they Can or Should be able to spend more than that is a separate arguement, and turns into a waste of time quite quickly.

                  • MichiganGoat

                    Agreed 30-40M annually added is about the tops of what we can expect.

                    • cub2014

                      Doesnt sound like the FO is
                      interested in anything like that.

                      Our payroll in 2014 is going to be sad,
                      and our 2015 payroll is going to be
                      embarrasing.

        • Edwin

          If they’re such big names, why don’t other teams want them too?

    • Soda Popinski

      We’re in the middle of a rebuild. Ideally, we’ll want to buy those big name free agents when our prospects start making an impact. If that is three years down the road, and you sign a guy like Cano now, he gives you his best years before we need it. Yet, we’d still be tied to his contract. This is called premature impactulation.

    • wvcubsfan

      “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)”

      Yes I’m sure no one would want a back up catcher that plays good defense, bats left handed, and has a .300+ OBP.

      • CubFan Paul

        “I’m sure no one would want a back up catcher that plays good defense, bats left handed, and has a .300+ OBP”

        There’s nothing more to the guy. He’s a shiny Koyie Hill.

        • wvcubsfan

          So he’s a good version of a player that every team needs. I still don’t understand all the angst in regards to picking up players like this. There is a hole on the roster right now at back up catcher. There is nothing in the high level of the farm system to fill that hole. What’s the problem in picking up a proven commodity to solve the issue?

          • CubFan Paul

            This player in particular sucks. The cubs can find better than a walk happy, below baserunning catcher with no pop.

            • willis

              I think they angst isn’t Kottaras by himself, it’s that it’s another in the same type of pick ups this FO has made, and it will be spun by the brass as a very important, positive move. Then we’ll all have to hear about the potential and how significant this is to sollidifiying the roster blah blah blah.

              This dude is a fine player, but just so typical,. I thnk that’s where it comes from.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Is this your first time watching baseball?

          That was glib of me. But come on. Shiny Koyie Hill? Sure, if a diamond is just a shiny rock.

          • MichiganGoat

            Yeah lets just look at two similar years in playing time roughly 80 games

            2012 Kottaras – AVG .211 – OBP .351 – SLG .415 – OPS -.766
            2008 Hill – AVG .237 – OBP .312 – SLG .324 – OPS -.636

            yeah soooo similar and obviously Hill was better because of the .237 AVG. If Kottaras is good at catching then having his 2012 line would be a very good backup.

            • MichiganGoat

              sorry thats 2009 for Hill

  • MichiganGoat

    No it has no impact at all, you have to put the ball in play (BIP) in order for it to count in the formula.

    • MichiganGoat

      Sorry this is in reply to cavemencubbie’s question about walks and BABIP

  • Stinky Pete

    “(“no, he’ll never be royals” … I’m sorry for that)”

    Interesting. I heard a little blip on the radio yesterday. That song was inspired by a picture of George Brett in a National Geographic. She has no idea what baseball is, but she really liked the way the word “Royals” looked on Brett’s uniform.

    http://www.foxsportskansascity.com/mlb/kansas-city-royals/story/Its-true-Lordes-big-hit-Royals-inspired-?blockID=964391

  • ETS

    OH NOES!!!!! The cubs are looking at low risk options (as every team does). :insertStandardComplaintsAboutRicketEtAl:

    Dumpster Diving!

  • Hee Seop Chode

    Question I’ve always wondered: why is BABIP understood to carry a degree of luck, when different players have different career BABIP averages? It would seem to me that a middle of the order power guy would have a higher BABIP than a light hitting backup catcher because he hits the ball harder.

    Am I missing something? If BABIP is random shouldn’t most batters have similar BABIPs?

    • CubFan Paul

      Luck isn’t a statistic, it has nothing to do with BABIP.

    • DocPeterWimsey

      Ground ball to flyball ratios play a big role. Groundballs are more apt to get through for singles than are flyballs: so, Guy A with a high GB:FB ratio will have a higher BABiP most of the time than Guy B with a low GB:FB ratio. Of course, Guy A also slugs a lot less and hits into a lot more double plays, so this sword has 2 edges: slugging in particular creates a lot more runs than singles do.

      There are weak correlations with speed and with K rates. That suggests that both speed and swinging hard can help; of course, a lot of the guys with speed don’t swing hard and a lot of the guys who swing hard don’t run well, so these two often cancel each other out. (Slow slap hitters probably are a bad idea, and everyone wants a brawny speedster.)

    • ETS

      Players have some control over BABIP (how fast are, do you frequently make “solid” contact, what’s you line drive rate, etc) but there’s an element of it that is beyond their control (how good of defense are you facing, did you hit it right at some one, etc) as well. That’s why people say things like “this year player X has a BABIP of .230 but he is a career .310 BABIP guy so it’s reasonable to assume that this year was more of an outlier than a true representation of his skill level.”

      • ETS

        Ninja’d by Doc.

    • Edwin

      BABIP isn’t totally random. There’s a general range that most big league hitters are in, but good hitters normally end up with a higher BABIP. Hitting the ball hard, or being fast, can lead to a higher BABIP.

      Still, there’s no denying that in baseball, sometimes a player hits a seeing-eye grounder, or a pop fly that falls in. Or sometimes a player hits line drive right at someone. That’s where the “luck” comes in.

      In general, hitter’s have tended to have more control over BABIP than pitchers. Either way, when looking at a player’s BABIP, it’s helpful to look at that player’s career norm.

      • ETS

        That’s good point, and the moneyball book stresses it, that pitchers have little control over BABIP.

  • David

    If I were a pitcher and saw his stats, I would give him nothing but fastballs down the middle.

    • jt

      over the past 2 years Kottaras has hit 14 HR’s in 325 PA’s. He probably doesn’t hit 28 HR in a 650 PA season but still he presents some danger. That is why they do not throw him fastballs down the middle.

  • Spriggs

    So if Socks Kottaras retires after this season, will he be HOF eligible in 2019 or 2020?

    • Edwin

      Steroid era player like him? He’ll never get a chance.

  • Cheryl

    Doesn’t mean he’ll be picked up by the cubs.

  • itzscott

    Seriously now….

    You guys miss Koyie Hill????

  • D-Rock

    My vote is Navarro for backup catcher. Pay the guy.

    • wvcubsfan

      Even though Socks had higher stats against RHP?

      • D-Rock

        Yes, even that isn’t enough for me to like the guy who hit .180 last season.

        • wvcubsfan

          True, but he’s always hit better in the NL and Navarro isn’t going to sign to be a back up.

          • D-Rock

            Are there any teams that are currently looking to sign a starting backstop where Navarro would be an upgrade? I’d be surprised if Navarro gets what he wants. I predict he’ll get another backup role on a contender.

  • http://www.backingthepack.com Rynomite

    Why do people keep saying Kattaras has no pop? 29 home runs in 692 at bats, or one every 23.9 ABs. Rizzo averages one every 27.5 ABs. Kat gets on base and has pop. Don’t let the Royals’ front office stupidity fool you. Hope we nab him for 2 years and 5 or 6 million.

  • cub1

    Imagine how high his walk rate would be going to the NL and batting in the 8th hole….30%, or could he be a poor enough hitter otherwise that it won’t be affected much

  • wernert

    Sigh. This is excellent article, Brett. It sort of gives me a sad because I could see how some smart FO would want to scoop up that sharp guy that writes for blog and finds all these undervalued assets.

    Oh sorry. What the hell do we want with this trash heap .180 spells his name with a K waste? I want us to sign the most expensive ballplayer on the planet right away or I will be really, really mad.

  • cub1

    career ops over .700, looks like a solid backup as long as he is avg or better with the glove

  • HCS

    Out of curiosity, if he does indeed hit waivers, wouldn’t the entire AL have a shot at him before the Marlins, then Cubs? I might be remembering incorrectly…

  • mjhurdle

    Didn’t realize so many fans had such high standards for a back-up catcher.
    I guess there is nothing left to do but trade for Buster Posey to back up Beef.

  • Willis

    90 posts and counting on the merits of picking up the released backup catcher who was dumped by the Kansas City Royals ! Only in Cub world !

    • Cubbie Blues

      To be fair, some of those were about socks and Christmas parties.

    • willis

      You stole my name dude.

  • http://permalink toby taylr

    this is too funny- the serious thought is why wouldn’t we want someone at the bottom of the order to like actually take a walk and get on base ” to move the line” per say? isn’t that the way a lineup is supposed to work or did I miss something in little league?

  • Bill

    So, the Dodger motto is sign all the good players, the Cubs motto is sign all the ex-Padre and ex-Red Sox rejects. Wonderful :-)

    • EQ76

      the other Cub’s motto is that they’re flat broke unless they put a sign up in left field.

  • http://BN Sacko

    bats a buck 80? put Barney behind the plate..I’m sick of watching that kind of Not hitting. come on man Castillo is coming off an injury, better go after DV.

  • http://BN Sacko

    excuse me DN

  • Mike

    he only bats .188 vs lefties with a career .312 slugging %…he is decent against righties but castillo will get the majority of those at bats…could use someone who can hit lefties better

    • cub2014

      Mike, you lost me.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      ?

      Why would you sit Castillo in games against lefties?

      • wvcubsfan

        think he means Castillo hits against lefties where Socks struggles.

    • cub2014

      kottaras hit .354/.407 as a starter against right
      handed hitters last year (dont know career
      numbers)

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