Since catching is at top of mind today, what with Willson Contreras signing with the Cardinals, I thought it worth reiterating the options available to the Cubs.
Note that Contreras long ago became not-an-option for the Cubs, who have wanted to find a more glove-first catcher to team up with Yan Gomes, who is himself an excellent defensive catcher, working well with the pitchers and the run-prevention crew. That’s not a shot at Contreras, who does some defensive things very well. But he’s definitely, and rightly, considered bat-first. The Cubs are betting they can absorb the loss in offense in exchange for more value in other ways (at a cheaper price tag, too).
It has felt like Christian Vazquez is the Cubs’ preference, but he’s not the only option still under consideration (Mooney): “All along, the Cubs prepared for this eventuality, operating as if they needed to find a new catcher to pair with Yan Gomes. To name a few, the Cubs have met with Christian Vázquez, done background work on Omar Narváez and discussed Tucker Barnhart.”
Ultimately, the Cubs want another Yan Gomes to pair with Yan Gomes. They had the offensive catcher – one of the best in baseball – but they have long been interested in going full-on run-prevention. It’s a philosophical shift years in the making, and the Cubs are betting it will more than offset the loss of the offense.
To that end, I like hearing that the Cubs have met with Vazquez, who is among the best in the game on that side of things. Not only is he very good defensively, but according to those familiar with his game, he is also extremely well-regarded by his pitching staffs for his ability to call a game, to game-plan to maximize run prevention, to adjust as the game goes on, etc. I don’t have quite the same sense on Narvaez or Barnhart, but I presume that they are also considered very strong in that regard if the Cubs are looking at them as part of this shift.
Time will tell whether the Cubs are right with this strategy, and it’s gonna be square in our faces for the next several years, as Contreras plays for the Cardinals.