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.

  • Noah_I

    When you look at your backup catcher and say “this guy is all but guaranteed to put up a positive WAR”, it’s win. Solid defensively, not a black hole offensively. I like the move.

    • Bucky

      Kottaras is a great pickup!!!! I take it Jake Taylor wasn’t available.

  • cub2014

    Kotteras was the right move, nothing exciting.
    Still need to sign a starter: Kazmir,Baker,Hughes,Arroyo
    Sign a closer: ?
    Go after Tanaka ?
    Get a CF-leadoff (Ellsbury or Choo)?
    Its my wishlist, probably not Theo’s though.

    • Featherstone

      We’ll probably kick the tires on Hughes and maybe Baker. If not we’ll go with Shark, Wood, Jackson, Arrieta, Grimm/Rusin as our rotation.

      It looks like they’ll try Strop in the closer role, he’s certainly got the stuff and no point in paying for saves let alone on a team that wont get that many opportunities.

      Tanaka is definitely in the plans to go after, whether or not we win is something completely different.

      Ellsbury is going to get $100+ mil somewhere else and Choo cant really play CF, but we’ll hang around and see if his prices comes down to where there is some value.

      • willis

        Please God no on Baker. We already got burned on that one.

        I would like the Hughes tired kicked for sure. I wouldn’t mind it on Kazmir either. Tanaka is main goal, but I think it’ll be too expensive for the cubs in the end.

        No need to spend on a closer. Have plenty of good arms for the back end of the pen. They won’t spend on Ellsbury or Choo.

    • praying the cubs get ready to win

      Agree with you and add a big bat to protect Rizzo and maybe after trading a few pieces like Shark things will fall in place.

      • ClevelandCubsFan

        This article on the Fielder trade suggests l8neup protection is a myth…

        • Luke

          It is a myth.

          Pitchers do not fundamentally change they way they pitch to a guy based on who is on deck. A hitter who can’t hit high fastballs still can’t high fastballs if you change the hitter who bats behind him, and is therefore likely to see a lot of high fastballs. Teams aren’t going to start pitching him low and away just because the name in the on deck circle changed.

          You can argue that pitchers don’t want to walk hitters who hit in front of dangerous hitters, and that makes them more likely to throw strikes. But the counter is that pitchers never want to walk hitters in any situation, so it just washes out.

          And if you check the numbers, it does in fact wash out. The protection effect, if it exists at all, is so slight it’s really not worth mentioning.

          • ClevelandCubsFan

            that was the first piece I had read on that piece of the game, I found it fascinating. Good to know that the Sabre minded folks at this site thInk similarly. frankly I would be more concerned about the opposite effect. As good a hitter as Fielder is, there is just no comparison to Miguel Cabrera, and I have to imagine Miguel Cabrera on first with fielder at the plate is a very inviting double play target. :)

          • Scotti

            Protection is indeed real and occurs in crucial game situations (perhaps not even once per game per team) and not in every instance (unless you’re a roided up Barry Bonds). While statistically speaking it may wind up at the level of “noise,” because it occurs in crucial game situations, it is VERY relevant to the game (i.e. W-L).

            Very similar to closers in that those innings represent winning or losing but, to someone with a calculator, those innings are the same as any other innings in the game.

            • Scotti

              FWIW, while the general saber community hasn’t move much, if any, on closers, protection and clutch, it’s good to know that Theo, and folks like Bill James, have. There is a very solid place between the two polar sides of these issues.

            • Edwin

              So you’re saying that a pitcher will change how they pitch to a batter in close and late situations based on who is hitting behind the batter? Are there some examples we can look at?

              • Scotti

                No, I didn’t say “close and late.” “Close and late” muddles thousands of non-relevant AB’s into the statistical equation.

                Sometimes a team will IBB a guy in a crucial game situation. Sometimes they will throw him a couple of pitches and THEN IBB him. And sometimes they will carefully pitch to/around him. They wouldn’t do any of the above if there is a really good hitter behind him.

                As I said, Theo and Bill James (former Theo employee) have come around on this and other issues.

  • v23

    Meh….unfortunately no way we can replace Dioneer Navarro who was unbelievable in the back-up roll last year. So, while not a big deal….I’ll put this as a “net negative” from last year.

    • cubfanincardinalland

      Has there ever been a backup catcher who batted cleanup in 30 games for his team before?

      • jt

        either Yogi or Elston depending upon which was the backup (one or the other would play LF)

    • Senor Cub

      Dioner wasn’t going to break the bank and if you can secure that position why not do it while at the same time allowing your #1 to get better at his position. How often are catchers as productive as the platoon we had last year. Molina and Buster are the exception not the rule.

      • ClevelandCubsFan

        Because… Maybe Navarro didn’t want to be a backup backstop? Maybe he thought he can be a #1. Maybe he thought he can have another couple years that are good and get one more 2 year deal after this one. It’s not about paying what he’s worth.

  • Gabe Athouse

    Brett, you are on a role, oh wise wizard. I hope we don’t lose you to Theo the way you’ve been suggesting moves this year.

  • MightyBear

    Nice tweet from Kottaras. Seems like a good guy.

    George Kottaras ‏@GeorgeKottaras 1h
    Want to thank the @Royals for a memorable experience last year. Excited to be a part of the @Cubs and make 2014 an amazing year. #Chicago

  • Tommy

    Brett – you convinced me this was a good pickup. I hope you’re right!

    • Patrick W.

      I don’t know why this sticks out in my mind, but when we signed Navarro, I believe you (I think it was you) said something like “I like this move, a few years ago”. How many years ago do you like this move? :)

  • Chuck24

    Kottaras is a lifetime .214 hitter and has thrown out only 18 percent of the runners who have tried to steal against him. Neither number thrills me. Will the Cubs do ANYTHING to get us excited about the 2014 season? Looks like another 90-plus losses and a fifth straight fifth-place finish in the NL Central. This team was boring and uncompetitive last year. Looks like more of the same coming up.

    • LeotheCub

      Agree…would love to see something to get excited about. I listen to MLB everyday hoping to hear good news on free agency or trades

    • ClevelandCubsFan

      Batting average vs. OBP. Not too concerned there. Throwing out runners is important but taking this stat out of context isn’t helpful. Throwing out runners is at least as much about the pitchers.

  • Ruh roh

    Kottaras is bad at baseball. He’s a less defensively acceptable version of Koyie Hill. He can’t hit and he can’t throw. What he can do is take a walk. BFD. This is a yawner of a move to add catching depth in the organization. Nothing more. If he’s the backup catcher then we have a weakness at the catcher position.

    • ssckelley

      Horrible comparison, Kottaras is about the same as Hill defensively but far better offensively and it is not even close. For a back up catcher this looks like a pretty good move.

    • davidalanu

      Kottaras has a career ops of .730, Hill’s is .553. Please stop now. There is no comparison. They’re both backup catchers who don’t hit for average. One is a net positive offensively, the other is a black hole.

  • jeff1969

    It funny in an stupidly idiotic hateful way to see people criticize signing Kotteras as competition for the backup catcher spot. The FO knew what they were doing kinda last year when they signed Navarro & people complained then too. The anger crew must think Theo, Jed & Co. are sitting there with their thumbs up their arses, using a magic 8 ball to make their decisions for them as if these haters could do a better job building this team.

    • Andrew

      Yeah cause they have done a great job building a team. Another 90 loss team and bs stories about they are still years away from winning. At what point do you guys realize this owner only cares about the bottom dollar and making money?

      • jeff1969

        Wake up Andrew. Look at their farm system. At what point do you realize that Theo & Co. might be more qualified than you to run the Cubs? You were happy with the kind of teams that never ever make it to the World Series? Not me. Change is hard for most people.

  • MoneyBoy,0,1603855.story

    Much man love for Chris Bosio!!! I love the blunt, honest assessment. Cub Nation needs to hear more of it. I’m relieved and impressed that management kept him on board.

  • Andrew

    Same old garbage signing…why is signing a 180 avg back up catcher even worth a story.? Hilarious that anyone is excited by this.

    • Brett

      About as hilarious as using batting average to rip a trade for a back-up catcher.

      Thanks for reading!

    • ssckelley

      Who is excited about this?

      • Tony_S

        Um, I’m kinda excited about this. I’m at least excited that Theo, Jed, Brett, and me by extension, are all on the same page.

        Makes me happy.

        PS, Kottaras is SO not K Hill.

        • ssckelley

          Your easy to please.

          • Brett

            His easy to please what?

            (winky face)

            • ssckelley

              Not my fault you have no edit button?

              You’re busting my chops here!

  • jt

    Add my voice to the “nice call Brett” chorus.

  • Crazyhorse

    A weak hitter that could not throw out a three-toed sloth is bad news for the Cubs . I understand that he is just a backup catcher but the bar is set pretty low .

  • another JP

    Just can’t help but be amused by the bashers. For those bitching about this acquisition, who do you suggest the Cubs sign and why? I haven’t seen a single coherent post addressing who would be better at similar $$.

    • MichiganGoat

      A genetic clone of Johnny Bench, Ivan Rodriguez, Yadier Molina might make them happy.

      • Chef Brian

        Goat, they’d find a reason to bitch about that too.

      • another JP

        All I have to say MG is that the same comments were being spewed last season when we signed Navarro and look how that turned out. When I see that we signed a guy with a lifetime wOBA of .322 for about $1M and there were some folks suggesting the Cubs might go after Kurt Suzuki with his career wOBA of .302 and $6.5M salary in 2013, I would say the FO had a good day.

        • MichiganGoat

          I agree for some reason people need to complain about regardless of how small or smart the deal actually is.

          • mjhurdle


            sorry, just needed to complain about your post :)

            • MichiganGoat

              Thanks for making my point. 😉

    • Chef Brian

      Because its easier to whine without offering an alternative. Just endless bitching, day in and day out. I get it that people are disappointed, but the whining is a conversation killer. I can work with the Cubs should do this or that, or I don’t like the Cubs move here’s why. But I can’t take another conspiracy theory about the owners being cheap or purposely losing to rake on all that dough from the empty seats losing causes.

  • Chuck24

    Hey “Another JP”…How about at least attempting to re-sign Navarro? Look at his career numbers…how much juice does he have in asking for a ton of money? And there is no conclusive evidence that he can be a number-one catcher. I liked when the Cubs signed him last year, he’s a nice player who can share the job. Again, there’s nothing right now that the Cubs are doing that says “be excited about 2014, we’ll be competive and fun to watch”. Signing the guys like Kottaras and Casper Wells and talking about trading Smardzija doesn’t lead to any real sense of optimism.

    • mjhurdle

      how do you know they didn’t try to re-sign Navarro? Does Theo call you and update you on every player he is inquiring about?
      Navarro is in position now to ask for more money and a starting job, whether or not you think he deserves it. And he should ask for the most possible. he is coming off a great year, why settle for a back-up job on a bad team before even seeing if anyone else gives more?

    • another JP

      I guess that depends if you’re an optimist or pessimist and can adequately weigh alternatives. It’s great that you at least suggested somebody but I still don’t see any solid analysis backing up the resigning of Navarro from you.

      Dioner had a career season in 2013 by a wide margin and still has a lifetime wOBA of only .301 where Kottaras is at .322. Navarro has a much better record against base runners but at a salary that will be at least $3M/yr. he’ll make more than double what Kottaras will…. on top of that he wants a chance to be a starting catcher. Sorry you won’t be excited to watch the Cubs next year, but if you need a back-up catcher to motivate you there cannot be any team that would please you then.

  • Ch1town23

    Good call on this one Brett… You should become part of the cubs trifecta and help rebuild our beloved cubs….

  • Frank

    Could have signed hank white and got a two for one. He could catch and coach first base. Lol

  • Crazyhorse

    Rafael Lopez C seems to have the same tools and at 1 million less

  • Chris

    When we signed Navarro last offseason to a major league deal I was really skeptical. I thought we could’ve brought him in on a minor league deal for sure and didn’t think he was worthy of the $ we gave him. He had such a weird track record…didn’t play much in 2012 in the bigs until the end of the season.

    Boy was I wrong on him…

  • Barroof

    Wow. 47 people feel the need to comment on a backup catcher on a 90 plus loss team. I would call this ” Low Expectation Training”

    • ssckelley

      Will you stick around and tell us when it is acceptable to comment?

    • Brett

      And one person felt the need to comment on the very commenting that he thinks wasn’t worth making. Odd approach.

    • DarthHater

      “I would call this ‘Low Expectation Training'”

      Don’t worry, we’ll expect even less from you in the future.

  • Eric

    Great pick up by the Cubs. Rare that I get a prediction correct….especially before Brett does!

  • Die hard

    Possibly a flip in a trade is more like it

  • CubsFaninMS

    I haven’t read the thread too much on this article so I apologize if this has been discussed. My thoughts are that this is somewhat of an indicator that they plan to keep Welington Castillo. That and, utilizing our “arm chair front office” logic that Wieters is far more expensive and may provide minimal upside, I believe it is ill-advised to get rid of Welington Castillo. If Castillo made a huge splash this year and gained alot of notoriety, the front office may have a card to deal if they don’t have a high degree of confidence in his upside. But Castillo quietly had a very solid year and is a breakout candidate in the next couple of years. Let’s have him break out with the Cubs, then decide what we’ll do with him.

  • Chuck24

    Nope JP….I think you missed my point. I am saying the Cubs are doing a poor job of upgrading their major league roster heading into 2014. After the salary dump offs in mid-2013, this was a lousy team that was not close to being competitive. Right now, there is nothing that says next Summer will be any better. I understand the need to rebuild the farm system, but there is no reason why a major market franchise can’t be competive while that happens. The Cubs are not the Kansas City Royals. And as far as all these top tier prospects the Cubs have, we’ll see. Success in the minors is no guarantee of success in the majors. There have been plenty of great minor leaguers who couldn’t cut it in MLB.

    • CubFan Paul

      “The Cubs are not the Kansas City Royals…Success in the minors is no guarantee of success in the majors. There have been plenty of great minor leaguers who couldn’t cut it in MLB”

      Chuck is new here.

  • college_of_coaches

    I don’t know if anyone has posted this yet.

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