Within the context of non-specific, non-committal playoff roster questions, Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon dropped something fun on The Score today with Spiegel & Goff:
If the #Cubs go with two catchers on their postseason roster, Javier Baez is their emergency third catcher, Joe Maddon says.
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) September 13, 2016
Baez, an incredible all-around athlete, was a catcher in his much younger days, so this is not necessarily a surprise. But that doesn’t make it any less fun to dream on Baez’s lightning fast hands somehow framing two strikes on a single pitch, or his rocket arm gunning a runner down on a ball that reached the backstop, or him catching a pop-up into the stands behind his back on a unicycle while singing a song and drinking a glass of water.
In reality, I’d still lean toward the Cubs carrying all three of their currently-rostered catchers, Willson Contreras, David Ross, and Miguel Montero. Although the load has been lightened on Contreras lately, he seems like the best overall threat at the plate and behind it, especially when catching John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks. Ross is necessary to catch Jon Lester, but also because he’s excellent defensively and has been hitting perfectly well this year. Montero has been much better defensively lately, is hitting much better lately (.357/.419/.571 since August 20), and offers a lefty bat off the bench.
Plus, there’s the overall flexibility that having three catchers, one of whom can go out and play left field, offers a manager like Joe Maddon. I’d rather not limit what he can do in the postseason unless the rest of the roster construction absolutely demands it.
If the Cubs carry four starting pitchers and seven relievers – certainly possible in a short playoff series with built-in days off and plenty of time to rest in advance – then they’d have a whopping 14 spots for their position players. Even if the Cubs added another reliever, I still don’t think there is an issue. There are just 17 positional guys on the active roster now, and that includes September additions Munenori Kawasaki, Tim Federowicz, and Albert Almora Jr. I won’t call it easy to get the Cubs down to, say, 13 positional spots, but I don’t know that you have to sacrifice a catcher to get there.
I’m still not ready to offer up a postseason roster – there are three weeks left in the season, Pedro Strop is not even back yet, and so much can happen between now and then – but if I had to put pen to paper today, all three Cubs catchers would make my squad.