Jed Hoyer said this week that the Cubs had engaged on something north of four back-up catcher targets on the trade market, and if we exclude starting-caliber guys like Alex Avila and Jonathan Lucroy, we probably don’t know all of the options the Cubs have explored. That preserves a little mystery.
That said, we do know about Mets back-up Rene Rivera, and Marlins back-up A.J. Ellis, each of whom fit very well what the Cubs need: a solid veteran presence who receives well, plays good defense, doesn’t cost a lot in trade, won’t absolutely kill you at the plate if (God forbid) something were to happen to Willson Contreras, and allows the Cubs to get Victor Caratini back to AAA Iowa for regular playing time. It ain’t sexy, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t important.
To that end, Gordon Wittenmyer reports that Ellis remains a “focus” for the Cubs, and Buster Olney points out a past Cubs connection:
A clue re: Cubs search for a catcher: Cubs catching coach Mike Borzello was in L.A. when A.J. Ellis broke into the big leagues w/Dodgers.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 29, 2017
Undoubtedly, if Borzello thought Ellis were a good fit for the Cubs, his opinion would be valued highly on the subject.
But the Cubs aren’t the only team in on Ellis, and they might not be a match in trade, if a local report in Miami is to be believed:
— Joe Frisaro (@JoeFrisaro) July 29, 2017
The only way the sides would not be a match for a back-up catcher is if the Marlins were placing a significant price tag on a guy with marginal value. These teams dealt with each other two years ago at the deadline on a low-value rental deal when the Cubs picked up Dan Haren, so I don’t know that it’s a matter of the Marlins being generally unreasonable – perhaps they simply believe they can wring more out of the Cubs if they let reports like Frisaro’s get out there.
In the end, a couple months of a veteran back-up catcher is important, as I said, but on the trade market, it is not worth a significant prospect.
The Cubs are going to pick up someone on this front, whether it’s Ellis or Rivera, or one of the other back-ups out there that we’ve not heard publicly identified.