The Chicago Cubs have announced not only the waiver claim of 1B/OF Shane Peterson today, but also the claim of former Red Sox catcher Ryan Lavarnway (who was on waivers from the Dodgers). To make room on the 40-man roster, the Cubs designated utility man Logan Watkins and pitcher Donn Roach for assignment, which gives the Cubs 10 days to trade, release, or waive the players. Presumably, the Cubs will try to get each through waivers so that they can be outrighted to AAA Iowa.
Wakins, 25, was used sparingly in the Majors the last two years after a big minor league season in 2012. His 40-man spot has been insecure for a while, and the early-offseason addition of Tommy La Stella seemed to mark the tipping point.
Roach, 25, was claimed by the Cubs earlier this offseason. He was expected to compete for a bullpen job, or head to AAA Iowa as depth.
Lavarnway, 27, was a long-time Red Sox prospect – a borderline top 100 type a few years ago – and, although he saw time in the bigs, he never quite stuck. His addition gives the Cubs four catchers on the 40-man roster, together with Miguel Montero, Welington Castillo, and Rafael Lopez. I believe Lavarnway has no minor league options left, so he would have to make the Cubs’ big league roster out of Spring Training or be subjected to waivers again.
The claim of Lavarnway at least makes you wonder whether the Cubs don’t like their chances on free agent backstop David Ross. Odds are, the Cubs are just grabbing any interesting players that pop up, but it’s notable that the Cubs did not claim Lavarnway a couple weeks ago when he was available and the Dodgers grabbed him. It’s fair to wonder what changed. The Cubs did add Montero, a lefty, in that span, so you could also argue that the timing here suggests the Cubs are planning to trade Welington Castillo no matter what.
In any case, Lavarnway has been an excellent hitter throughout his minor league career, with a great walk rate and some pop. He bats righty (has pronounced minor league splits, too, as he’s been a lefty-destroyer), and makes for interesting depth in that regard for the Cubs, especially if they decided to move Castillo. In about 300 big league plate appearances, though, Lavarnway hasn’t done much: .201/.249/.315.
I don’t know too much just yet about Lavarnway’s catching skills, but I can take a reasonable guess that, if they were top notch, he probably would have been a big league regular a long time ago, given his bat. The teeny, tiny volume of framing stats for him that we have suggest he’s slightly below average there.
All in all, I really like the Lavarnway addition for the Cubs, which could give them a little flexibility over the rest of the offseason.