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.