The Cubs are fortunate to have a starting catcher who is raking right now, who plays good defense, and who may have slightly improved his pitch-framing this offseason. For the most part, that will cover over the loss of their back-up catcher, Victor Caratini, for at least a month with a broken hamate bone.
But even with Willson Contreras on fire and with Taylor Davis a serviceable short-term back-up, it would be criminal for the Cubs not to explore any other options that are available. (For example, Red Sox catcher Blake Swihart, who was recently designated for assignment.)
The Cubs front office is smarter than that, and GM Jed Hoyer confirmed today to The Score that the Cubs are indeed at least looking around.
“We’ve certainly been looking,” Hoyer said today on the Mully & Haugh Show. “There’s no question. Catching is just a position where you’re going to have injuries. Like pitching, you know you have to have depth. We like Taylor Davis a lot. He’s a guy who has really worked his way, grinded his way through the minor-league system. He’s a really good framer, a good offensive player. We’re totally comfortable hang him up at the big leagues. But we know we need depth. We’re comfortable with Taylor and we love the way Willson is playing right now. That said, we don’t want to run Willson into the ground.”
The Cubs have been fortunate with off-days and a snow-out that they have yet to start anyone but Contreras since Caratini’s injury, but soon, he’s going to need some rest.
The realities are these:
- Without a move locked up, the Cubs cannot say anything firm because it would impliedly be a knock on Davis, and could also hurt their bargaining position. It’s not as if they’re going to say, “Yes, we’re negotiating with the Red Sox about Swihart right now.”
- The Cubs cannot run Willson Contreras into the ground, and if they don’t have enough confidence in Davis to be a capable once or twice-a-week starter, then they really need to make a move ASAP.
- Even if the Cubs do have confidence in Davis in the near-term, the Cubs cannot assume that Victor Caratini will definitely be back on the early end of his four to six-week prognosis, and that’s a lot of time to be in limbo.
- The Cubs cannot assume that Caratini will be fantastic when he returns, or that they would never thereafter wish they’d brought in another depth catching option.
- The Cubs cannot assume Contreras will definitely not get injured tomorrow or the next day or whenever.
Taken together, that to me looks like an organization that is pretty desperate for quality catching depth if it becomes available, as Swihart has. Because of the nature of waivers and other teams’ interest, it’s not a lock that the Cubs would get Swihart even if they try aggressively to do so. But I sure hope they’re trying.
In any case, the Cubs did even try to land Martin Maldonado late in the offseason, but he preferred more regular playing time with the Royals. So depth was on the front office’s mind even before Caratini’s injury. Yes, they’re looking. Whether it’s Swihart or someone else, they’re looking.