It’s something. SOMETHING! It’s not a new player connected to Cubs, mind you, but it’s an escalation of the language used in the reporting, and I will very much take it.
Previously-discussed Cubs catching target Christian Vazquez is definitely still a target:
Now, is that just Nightengale having some fun with overlapping rumors he’s heard about recently, or is it a suggestion that these two transactions are actually getting teed up? I probably wouldn’t put as much stock in it if not for (1) recent reports from Ken Rosenthal that the Astros plan to engage Contreras at the Winter Meetings, (2) the previous report of Cubs interest in Vazquez, and (3) that whole Vazquez-followed-BN-recently-and-only-BN thing. (Maybe that last one is meaningless, and I swear I’m not trying to make it about us – I’m just saying that when a reported Cubs target follows one new account on Twitter amidst those rumors, and it’s a Chicago sports account, that seems at least worth mentioning.)
I will also admit that I’m already primed to WANT to believe the Cubs are serious about Vazquez, because I like the fit so much for where the Cubs are right now, and what they want to get out of the catcher position when paired with Yan Gomes (great defense, game-calling, game-planning, almost total focus on run-prevention).
In other words, in a world where the Cubs have decided they are a “pitching and defense” team, Vazquez could be among the best non-elite-free-agent-tier additions out there for the Cubs in free agency.
Vázquez, 32, spent the first-half of his season with the Red Sox, where he slashed .282/.327/.432 (110 wRC+) before being shipped to the Astros after Dusty Baker and Jim Crane nixed the Willson Contreras deal. Some serious overlap there, eh?
Vázquez struggled offensively down the stretch for the Astros, but that sample was barely over 100 PAs, and he has more good offensive production than bad over the last four years. He’s not Willson Contreras at the plate (nearly no one is), so get that out of your head, but he’s not a total zero offensively, and not just “for a catcher.”
He was also particularly strong against left-handed pitching in 2022 (130 wRC+), though Gomes has the same lefty/righty preference, so maybe you can’t quite perfectly optimize there.
Defensively, Vázquez rates out *extremely* well, ranking 5th in Defensive Runs Saved (11), 13th in framing (4.9), and 9th in overall defensive rating among all catchers (14.4).
Expand that filter for the duration of his career (2014-2022), and you’ll be even more impressed:
- DRS: 51 (3rd in MLB), behind only Martin Maldonado and Buster Posey
- FRM: 60.5 (4th in MLB), behind only Mike Zunino, Posey, and Yasmani Grandal
- DEF: 119.3 (4th in MLB), just ahead of Yadier Molina and behind only Zunino, Maldonado, Posey, and Grandal
And if numbers don’t really do it for you, consider that he was the type of catcher the Houston Astros though they could incorporate at mid-season, in the middle of a pennant race, to work alongside Martin Maldonado, who’s also known for his work behind the plate.
I’m a big fan.
Christian Vázquez comes in as the 46th best free agent according to FanGraphs, with a projected contract in the two-year, $16-$18M range. That’s an EASY decision if you ask me, and makes me suspect he might get even more.
Oh, also? Let me just slide this in here as a for-what-it’s-worth: