george kottaras royalsHooray – sometimes I’m right about stuff and things!

Today, the Chicago Cubs received catcher George Kottaras from the Kansas City Royals, who had designated him for assignment late last week. As expected, Kottaras was a touch too valuable to merely be plucked off the waiver wire, and the Cubs had to acquire him via trade, though it was a deal for cash.

As far as theoretical back-up catchers go, I’m not sure the Cubs could have done much better than Kottaras. He’ll make about $1.5 million in arbitration next year – a perfectly reasonable price for a back-up catcher, particularly one who is solid defensively and has the bat to arguably justify a starting gig. If the Cubs like him, they can even keep him for another year.

A blip from my full write-up on Kottaras a few days ago:

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.

The Cubs may continue to search for back-up catcher options, given their depth issues there (they’ve signed Eli Whiteside on a minor league deal), but Kottaras is your obvious favorite to back up Welington Castillo next year. Their opposite bat-handed-ness complements each other (that is say, Castillo bats right, and Kottaras lefty), and Kottaras is a veteran back-up who should be able to continue handling the role well.

Kottaras goes right onto the 40-man roster, which, by my count, now stands at an even 40. He’s eligible for arbitration, and must be tendered a contract by December 2.

  • Craig

    Great move. Glad they look at OBP when they pick up players. Thought he was real good with the Brewers

  • North Side Irish

    2014 is going to be the Summer of George…

    • Coop

      Well played!

  • MightyBear

    Back on track for 2015. Never a doubt.

    • Matty Ice

      I can’t tell if this is sarcasm or not. Knowing you though it’s not, which is just sad

      • Troy


  • itzscott

    Well I guess that changes everything now.

    The odds in Las Vegas just went down considerably.

  • Rynomite

    Excellent move. Catcher and first base look good for the next few years. Now about those other six positions in the field…hurry up Baez, Bryant, Almora, and Soler!

  • D-Rock

    Take that Cardinals! Great counter to the moves the Cards just made…

  • Kyle

    I mean, you can’t really make a *great* move when acquiring a backup catcher, but I’m pretty happy with this one.

  • North Side Irish

    Bob Nightengale ‏@BNightengale 46s
    The #Cubd grab backup catcher George Kottaras for cash considerations after being DFAd by #Royals

    More stellar reporting from Nightengale…

    • Professor Snarks

      Do you deserve a ‘Happy Birthday’ today?

      • North Side Irish

        How would you know that?

  • StillCubsFan

    Looks like we’ll have a better producing backup catcher than a starting 2B next year

    • YourResidentJag


    • YourResidentJag

      Well, the Royals did DFA Irving Falu. Should we pick him up too?

      • itzscott

        Is he rehabbing from TJ surgery?

        • YourResidentJag

          Umm…no. Paulino a SP they DFA’d…yes.

  • jon

    The new greek god of walks?

    • Tony_S


  • Featherstone

    I have an odd hypothetical question. I know conventional wisdom never has you batting the catcher that high in the lineup, but what if Kottaras was able to get on-base at a .380 clip. Would you even consider batting him in the 1 or 2 hole?

    • Tony_S

      I was going to throw out Kottaras leading off as a half-joke, but who the hell knows.

      Paging Bill Mueller…

  • Mick

    Nice call Brett and good move by the front office. Kottaras reminds me of a poor-man’s John Jaso, kind of a cyber-anomaly waiting to be exploited.

  • Blackhawks1963

    Okay move. Can’t get excited about a backup catcher. His job is to be excellent behind the plate and work well with a pitching staff. Any hitting he does is a bonus. Kottaras can’t really hit folks. Careful being seduced by the OBP of a backup catcher.

    • hansman

      I am beginning to wonder if you are a parody account of something.

      • TWC

        I wonder who he thinks the new manager is gonna be.

  • Jason

    You’ve got to start thinking that Theo and company check this website to get ideas for their next moves :) Good call Brett.

    • YourResidentJag

      You’d wonder.

      • Jason Powers

        Well, as Kyle said, he’s a backup catcher…and there was plenty of them on the market…

        About a .5 WAR player for 1.5M we saved about 1M if he does that.

        He does have a very good eye, as he’s got older, he changed for the better…His contact rate fluctuates (Contact%) between seasons. If he rebounds, he’ll be a guy we got coming off a poor contact year…a good thing.

        In 2012, he sprayed the ball more. In 2013, he got pull happy it seems.

        He is a very weak catcher for stolen bases: Base runners are 151/184 on him lifetime. 82% success rate. (Granted if the KC/MIL pitching staff sucks at holding runners on, its not all on him. But that’s about 10% (72-73%) above the league norm.)

        So that’s my analysis of one George Kottaras.


    • DarthHater

      Theo is Die hard. I thought everybody already knew that.

      • Tony_S


      • Wilbur

        I have always thought Die Hard was Brett’s alter ego, a sort of evil twin, who showed up to show us the emotional reasoning process versus the logical one …

  • Randy

    I am freaking stoked….
    Cant wait for the next move. Club should be excitingly shitty.

  • waittilthisyear

    though he brings obvious value via his OBP, i have a feeling i, after watching him flail away, will often be frustrated to the point of yelling “KOTTARASSSSS!”

    i am in no way criticizing the move, i think it is a good and necessary one

  • woody

    We still have to wait and see if maybe Baltimore sweetens the deal and send Wieters our way and Castillo to Bmore. I kind of doubt it though. My hunch is that the FO has a backup plan. I think they may go all in on Tanaka which would render all this ” we miss Jeff” stuff” meaningless. The Tanaka deal and the trade of Samardzija would accomplish a couple of goals. First it would add some premium arms to the system that are sorely lacking. And two, it would send a message to the fans and the team that we are not competing with Houston for the first round pick in 2015. I just can’t see trading Samardzija if they are not going to bring in a stud to take his place. Likely they can lockup Tanaka for quite a few years. We just have to look at the posting fee as the price of doing business. Tanaka won’t cause the loss of a second round pick in the upcoming draft. I like the aspect of having a lefty hitting catcher which gives Renteria the opportunity to platoon a little bit more. But I will miss Navaro. He did a hell of a job last year. Nothing is without risk. But the FO talked earlier this year like there would be money for one big deal this year. And that would be Tanaka.

    • Rebuilding

      Why would we want to downgrade at catcher for more money?

      • Tony_S


  • RotoChamp

    I’m surprised how well Kottaras projects. Our projections are the most optimistic, but CAIRO and Steamer also like him. Nice pickup.

    • YourResidentJag

      It’s like Rany Jazeryli said in his tweet. Cubs trade for OBP. Royals build with wins=money.

  • Bret Epic

    Not that this is an exciting move (still one of the most exciting, if not most in the Cubs offseason), but I think it was a wise move. I think the trade we made to get Arrieta and Strop was worth it, but I still sorta wish we had Clevenger as our back up going into 2014.

  • ssckelley

    Good move, love his OBP plus he has a little power. At least they did not bring back Koyie Hill.

    • auggie55

      Every time I hear Koyie Hill’s name I want to throw up.

  • Tony_S

    One thing I don’t like about Kottaras is he’s got a rag arm, doesn’t throw out anybody.

    Anyone have any scoop on how he calls games/frames pitches?

    • Kurt

      He’s actually quite good at framing pitches.

      The rag arm is no big deal as he can toss the ball to the pitcher who in turn can spin around and throw to second.

  • TWC

    I wonder if it will ever happen — just once! — that the Cubs make a relatively insignificant move (signing a backup catcher, minor-league FA signing, a DFA pickup, etc.) and it’s *not* greeted by some dickbag making the “all the pieces are in place”/”World Series here we come!” tired non-joke.

    Probably not.

    • itzscott

      All the pieces are in place”/”World Series here we come!

      • TWC

        Oh, you already laid your dickbag cards on the table with your earlier also-tired “TJ rehab” non-joke.

    • Pat

      It will absolutely happen once the major league team is competing. We also won’t be paying nearly so much attention to results from Boise at that point.

      • TWC

        I’m sure you’re right — on both points. It’s just unfortunate.

  • Oswego Chris

    Found a bit of a glitch in Kottaras’ split numbers, his OBP and his walk rate are higher against lefties…therefore I would tend to think that devalues it a bit since he shouldn’t get many ABs against LHP…

    • D-Rock

      Maybe that helps explain the .180 BA. I realize OBP is important, but BA is still relevant IMO. Especially BA w RISP which the Cubs have been very bad at lately. Anyone know Kottaras’ BA w RISP is?

  • Dustin S

    It’s hard to get excited about a backup catcher, but I will say what I like about it is that at least it’s a move towards better OBP. The FO has been saying that’s what they want and how important OBP is, but we haven’t seen it be a priority in most moves.

  • Tim

    So that officially closes the book on dioner Navarro >:'(

    • Featherstone

      he’s getting a multi-year contract from someone. He priced himself out of the back-up catcher range with this stats last year. I say, thanks for the season and good luck wherever you land.

      • CubsFaninMS

        I agree. He had a great year as a backup and deserves a shot to start. Fairwell. This is in honor of Dionner.

        • chrisfchi

          Agreed. He was the cubs Ray Emery.

        • Featherstone

          Besides, we’ll always have the Dionner Navarro game to look back kindly on.

  • Bob D

    Sorry if I missed it, but how long do we control Kottaras?

    • Featherstone

      2 years I believe. This year and next.

  • anonymous-ly

    Nice trade and the beauty is, he cost us nothing but cash!

  • CubsFaninMS

    Welcome back Kottaras!!

    • Tony_S

      Damn you. Had to read it twice, and now the song is firmly stuck in my head. Nicely done.

      • CubsFaninMS

        Ha Anything to make your Thanksgiving holidays better!

  • woody

    For “Rebuilding”. I never said I advocated that trade for Wieters. I was simply addressing that possibility since there has been speculation to that possibility. But yes it would be stupid to pay that kind of money for a catcher when that money is needed for pitching. And I am a fan of Wellington Castillo. My other point was that I can’t believe they will deal Samardzija and leave the cupboards bare at the big league level. Having only Wood and Jackson at the top of the rotation be suicidal for the moral of both the fans and the team. I am a supporter of the rebuild and give the FO credit for the job they have done replenishing the farm system. I only think that they owe the fans to put a more competitive team on the field.

  • Blackhawks1963

    In my opinion and my opinion only, TheoJed are not enthused about Wellington Castillo. Hence why I won’t be surprised to see him traded this winter. I’m not debating the topic but merely sharing my read of the situation.

    • ssckelley

      You lost me, you think the Cubs trading for Kottaras is a sign of the FO not being enthused about Castillo? If anything I think this trade solidifies the confidence they have in Castillo as the Cubs starting catcher.

      • Blackhawks1963

        I believe that TheoJed want a new catcher starting for the Cubs. Again, I don’t have a strong feeling one way or the other on Castillo. But don’t be stunned if he is traded within a week or two.

        • Tony_S

          I would be irate. He fits ‘The Plan,’ and I think he’s maturing nicely.

          I think on-field value of catchers tends to be under-rated, and I think Castillo is a guy I’d like to see them lock up.

          Again, I’d be uber pissed if Castillo suddenly got traded.

    • chrisfchi

      I would like to know how you came to this opinion.

    • cubfanincardinalland

      I completely disagree. One of the few guys who has started to embrace the hitting style they covet. Quality team player, better at working with pitchers last season. There kind of player.

    • Jason Powers

      I just see as them shoring up the backstop bodies in house. Eli Whiteside, Danny Canela, the somewhat glowing report written on a 26-AA Rafael Lopez, to quote:”That’s right, the catching poor Chicago Cubs have a Double-A All-Star catcher who posted a wRC+ of 118 and batted left handed. Surprise!” And their tinkering with the idea of converting a few middle infielders to catchers, all shows they are not heavily invested in the market for any catcher. Instead, they are acquiring just enough safety at the position without a big investment.

      The new one is just another platoon option, as is Lopez.
      They just basically made a trade without giving up a body. So, it works for what they see in 2014…

      But we have 2015 to look forward to!