Random Chicago Cubs Catching Target? How About Jonah Heim

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Random Chicago Cubs Catching Target? How About Jonah Heim

Chicago Cubs

Because there is still the matter of Willson Contreras’s Qualifying Offer to sort out, and because there is a, say, 5 to 10% chance that he accepts it, I am still resisting digging in TOO deeply on the catching market for the Cubs.

That said, I was poking around various catching metrics today on FanGraphs just out of curiosity and I gotta tell you, there was a player who jumped out at me as a possible Cubs target.

You may not be all that familiar with Jonah Heim, a long-time minor leaguer who bounced around from the Orioles organization to the Rays organization to the A’s organization and to the Rangers organization. That’s where he settled in as a back-up last year – it was a really bad Rangers team, so why would you have noticed their 26-year-old back-up catcher? – and then took on a near starting load this year as Mitch Garver dealt with injury issues.

Heim, a 27-year-old switch-hitter, posted a .227/.298/.399/99 wRC+ slash line last year, which is excellent for a catcher. He struck out under 20% of the time, showed good power, and although his results seem to be slightly better than his expected numbers, they aren’t outrageously out of whack.

More importantly, Heim’s defensive value was so strong that he wound up worth 2.8 WAR in limited duty. The guy rated out as a stud behind the plate (8 DRS), as he had the year before (6 DRS), and was the 4th best defensive catcher in baseball by DEF, trailing only J.T. Realmuto, Sean Murphy, and Cal Raleigh.

OK, but why would the Rangers consider trading a relatively young, defensive stud, passable-hitting catcher? Well, they might not! This is just me reviewing a guy’s situation and thinking about how he could fit with the Cubs. There is no affirmative rumor here that I’ve seen reported.

But if you were going to think about a team that might trade a guy like Heim, I think the Rangers are spot on. For one thing, they spent aggressively last year and will again this year in an effort to actually compete in 2023. With the recent firings, there’s almost certainly a fire being lit. So maybe the Rangers would be particularly compelled to trade from an area of depth to upgrade somewhere else? It’s debatable where the Cubs could best accommodate that approach (the Cubs have an overload of prospects, but maybe a guy like Adrian Sampson would be compelling to the Rangers?), but it’s certainly possible.

Moreover, the Rangers, as noted, have Mitch Garver back for 2023, and he’s supposed to be the starter behind the plate, though he does wind up taking a lot of DH starts. But he’s not the only rostered catcher who will factor into the 2023 equation for the Rangers. There’s also prospect Sam Huff, who is ready to go at the big league level, and might be a preferred option for the Rangers if they could otherwise get some value in trade for Heim.

All in all, something to think about. It’s hard to predict much with a new-ish front office taking over in Texas, but if the Cubs aren’t going to retain Willson Contreras, you can bet that they’ll want to add another catcher to the Yan Gomes-P.J. Higgins tandem. A switch-hitting stud defender sounds worth pursuing to me.

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.