Although it’s not the first time his name popped up as a possibility for the Chicago Cubs, David Ross is getting a little heat thanks to a Ken Rosenthal tweet (indicating the Cubs, together with the Red Sox, Braves, Padres, and others, are pursuing Ross) and a Jesse Rogers article (sources tell Rogers the Cubs are interested in Ross). The Cubs have just two catchers on the roster, Welington Castillo and Rafael Lopez.
We still don’t know exactly how the Cubs will proceed behind the plate – will they merely add a back-up and keep Castillo on as the starter? will they try to add a starter like Miguel Montero or Yasmani Grandal? – but it’s likely that, however they proceed, bringing in Ross will make some sense.
Ross will play next season at age 38, and he’s coming off of back-to-back down years with the bat in Boston, as his strikeout rate climbs. But, here’s the thing about that: not only are you not pursuing Ross for his bat, but, when it comes to back-up catchers, he’s actually a pretty good hitter, even in those down years. Ross’s wRC+ in those two years was 86 and 72, but the mark for all catchers was just 93. So, yes, he was below average, but not super below average for a catcher. And I imagine that, if I could easily look solely at back-up catchers, he’d be right up there among the best.
As I said, though, the Cubs wouldn’t be pursuing Ross for his bat so much as his leadership, his experience, and his glove. On that last one, not only does Ross remain an above-average defensive catcher, he’s one of the best framers in the game.
And then there’s the Jon Lester connection. The two reportedly got on well in Boston, and the results certainly indicated that Lester liked pitching to Ross. I’d rather not put the cart before the horse, but, if the Cubs do manage to land Lester, then adding Ross becomes all the more agreeable.
A back-up catcher isn’t going to make or break a season, but he can be a significant chunk of all that peripheral stuff that good teams do well.