Could the Cubs move on to their FIFTH back-up catcher this year? Well, a possible upgrade just became available, though an injury recovery kinda confounds the discussion.
The Detroit Tigers, having needed a 40-man roster spot and having seen a breakout from Eric Haase and solid work from Jake Rogers, decided to move on from veteran catcher Wilson Ramos, who’d just started a rehab assignment for a back injury. Ramos, 33, was designated for assignment, which means the Tigers can try to trade him or could put him on waivers (more likely), and a team could claim him and the remainder of his $2 million salary. I tend to think he’ll clear waivers, and become a free agent unless a team calls up the Tigers and offers a little something (like, maybe a slight bit of cash above the prorated minimum) in the coming days.
Would that team be the Cubs? Well, it really depends on how healthy Ramos is now, and that’s hard to say. He’s been out nearly a month with a back injury, and only just started a rehab assignment this weekend (playing one game on June 12 as the DH, and then not again over the next few days … so?). If Ramos has had some kind of setback and/or isn’t going to be healthy enough to contribute as a big league back-up for several more weeks or a month, then this whole conversation changes considerably. I’m not seeing any public updates yet on his status after that June 12 game.
For the sake of discussion, let’s say he’s healthy enough to go soon – I’m still thinking the Cubs would probably wait for him to clear waivers and just try to get him in free agency. They can offer him – again, if healthy! – an immediate back-up job on the big league roster, which not many teams will offer him at the moment. With Austin Romine the only catcher in the organization who is a threat to reclaim the back-up job over a healthy Ramos, there’s a calculation there on Ramos’s part, but Romine (wrist) is on the 60-day IL without any status update. I’m thinking the Cubs would look like a pretty good option to Ramos.
And, let’s be clear, a healthy Ramos is a pretty obvious upgrade over the Cubs’ back-up-back-ups (Lobaton, Wolters, Higgins). He’s not the guy he was in his prime, but even a .200/.267/.418 (86 wRC+, which is what he was pre-injury) hitter is a substantial upgrade in the back-up catcher spot. He still rates out as just fine defensively, so again, it all just comes down to the health.
I’ll be keeping my eye on this one. No, an upgrade at the back-up (back-up (back-up)) catcher spot isn’t a HUGE needle-mover, but it would be nice to have the best possible option in place there so that David Ross can be comfortably rest Willson Contreras.
The only real downside here is that I would absolutely, at times, mis-type Ramos’s first name as Willson.