After Another Rough Outing for Yu Darvish, Should the Cubs Consider Bringing Up Chris Gimenez?

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After Another Rough Outing for Yu Darvish, Should the Cubs Consider Bringing Up Chris Gimenez?

Chicago Cubs

After an excellent outing against the Brewers, in which he looked nasty as Yu Darvish typically looks, I was hopeful that the Cubs’ big offseason signing was settling in with his command. He’d even cut out the pause in his delivery, which could also help the command.

Alas, it wasn’t to be, at least for his subsequent start, yesterday against the Rockies. He was not sharp, and although there are no physical concerns right now with Darvish, something is clearly off with his command and his ability to throw the best version of his pitches, especially his slider. His slider velocity, by the way, was once again way up, and the horizontal movement on the pitch was the least it’s been in his entire career (second least? His last start before this one … ).

Velocity has not been a problem, so you won’t find an easy and obvious answer to his issues there. According to Brooks Baseball, Darvish’s four-seamer registered an average of 95.7 MPH yesterday, while topping out at 97.5 MPH. For reference, that’s faster than his highest single-season average of 94.88 back in 2016. As for topping out at 97.5 MPH, Darvish has done it before (he hit 98 MPH last year and 99.8 in 2016), but it’s still about the maximum you’ll see from him.

But even good velocity will get knocked around if batters can sit on it (because you can’t command your other pitches or because you’re missing your spots):

I don’t have an answer to these issues and questions, and I’m hopeful more information will present itself over time (and Darvish’s performance adjusts accordingly). This is not that post.

Instead, I point out the struggles on the year and the bad outing yesterday as a setup for what so many people are wondering.

Almost as soon as Darvish exited the game, the calls came: being up Chris Gimenez to be Darvish’s personal catcher! It was a totally reactionary call, but, in this particular instance, I’m not sure it’s a bad one.

As the season kicked off, I thought it was wholly reasonable for the Cubs to (1) allow Willson Contreras to be Darvish’s catcher because he’s the primary starter and you want his bat in there, and he handles velocity well; and (2) give Victor Caratini some big league exposure and give him a chance to cement himself as the backup. But I also thought it should be the kind of setup that was re-evaluated in about a month or two, given that Gimenez – himself a perfectly capable veteran backup – was available at AAA Iowa, and reportedly has one of those June 1 opt-outs if he’s not in the big leagues.

Now that we’ve crossed over into May, I think it would be reasonable to make a change. It would be too early to do it *SOLELY* to provide what may or may not be a useful crutch for Darvish, but when you also factor in that Caratini is seeing very little playing time and is not so valuable at the plate that he’s got to stay up (.268/.318/.341, 84 wRC+), I don’t see a ton of downside in optioning Caratini back to Iowa for the time being.

(Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Something is clearly off with Darvish, as his command has never really gotten locked into place, and his individual pitches are not sharp. No, Gimenez’s presence, alone, isn’t going to “fix” that issue, but it could help. Perhaps something in the way they’d communicate with each other would tease out incremental fixes over the course of a few weeks. Perhaps something in the way Gimenez calls the game for Darvish (because he knows him, can read body language, knows the pitches well, etc.) would help.

And then there’s also the framing.

I’m not saying that Darvish is struggling because he’s not getting fringe strike calls and is losing close calls (though he’s been on the negative side of extra calls so far), but you don’t have to be a scout to see that Contreras is still adjusting to receiving Darvish’s pitches. They come in hot. They move a ton. And when his command is as erratic as it is, receiving and presenting well is all the more difficult. Gimenez, perhaps, would be better suited right now to receive Darvish and put him in the best position to succeed. I have no doubt Contreras would get there eventually, but isn’t righting the Darvish ship as quickly as possible more important?

There’d be something lost with the bat in bringing up Gimenez, to be sure, but when you’re talking about a back-up catcher/personal catcher, that’s wholly beside the point. Most of Darvish’s outings this year simply haven’t given the Cubs a reasonable chance to win. That has to change. And if bringing up Gimenez could help at all, then it should be done. Sooner rather than later.

At a minimum, this is worthy of conversation.

Michael Cerami contributed to this post.

Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.