Who needs Shohei Ohtani? The Cubs already signed their two way player, and his name is Chris Gimenez.
In case you missed it, the Cubs signed veteran back-up catcher Chris Gimenez to a Minor League deal last night, the actual reasons for which vary depending with whom you’re speaking. Some believe that the Cubs signed Gimenez because of his connection to Yu Darvish (they worked together in Texas and have stayed close). Some see it as an obvious move given the Cubs’ need behind Willson Contreras and Gimenez’s familiarity with Joe Maddon and Jim Hickey. And others say it was just a happy intersection of both of those reasons.
I, on the other hand, know it’s because the Cubs were salty about missing out on Ohtani, and want to prove that he’s not the only solid two-way player out there!
In 2017, Chris Gimenez was the first to play 5+ games at catcher and 5+ games at pitcher since the Phillies' Bill Harman in 1941
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) January 23, 2018
That’s right: in the tradition of fine Cubs catchers that came before him like David Ross, Miguel Montero, and John Baker, Gimenez isn’t just a backup catcher – he’s also a pitcher!
In the middle of last season, David Laurila (FanGraphs) took a closer look at Gimenez’s history of pitching, and came up with this gem of a fact, going beyond Christopher Kamka’s tweet: “Gimenez is the first player both to catch and pitch in at least six games, in the same season, since the late 1800s.” Laurila adds that, depending on your interpretation, you can argue that Gimenez is tied with Eddie Lack (1944) for the most pitching appearances in one season by a position player.
Although Gimenez has to think like a pitcher when he’s catching (that’s certainly part of the job), he says that there are also plenty of divergences between the two mindsets: “When I’m on the mound, it’s completely different, because I want guys to hit it,” he told Laurila. “Pitchers are usually pitching for no contact or weak contact, and I’m trying to throw it down the middle. They can try to hit it as far as they want. I know that hitting is extremely difficult. You can tell that from my career average.”
So he’s a strike-thrower! And he happily zinged himself! He’s got the chops to dance in the Cubs’ bullpen!
As for his particular pitching style, Gimenez doesn’t believe in that whole velocity thing, telling Laurila: “I’m trying to throw it as slow as possible …. And slower is better. You see guys throw 100 and get hit around all the time. You don’t see too many guys who throw 60 and get hit around.” To be fair, you don’t see many guys throw 60 MPH, period.
For what it’s worth, Gimenez said he could actually touch about 87 MPH on the radar gun, but that it hurts his arm – “I was pretty sure I needed both Tommy John and shoulder surgery,” he joked in a not-so-funny-way now that he’s a member of the Cubs.
In any case, here’s a video of him throwing in the mid-80s, inducing a weak grounder to the shortstop, a *swinging strikeout* on a changeup, and a shallow pop-fly (with bonus appearance from one impressed Yu Darvish):
You can read more about Gimenez’s pitching career at FanGraphs, but personally I’ve seen enough. Some say the Cubs signed this guy to get Darvish, I say they signed him instead of Darvish.