Although Dansby Swanson necessarily sucked up all the oxygen the last few days, the Chicago Cubs do still have other needs to address. Prominent among them? They need a catcher to pair with Yan Gomes behind the plate.
You know the drill here: the Cubs clearly made a decision long ago that they were willing to forgo offense behind the plate in service of finding catcher(s) who not only play great defense, but who make the whole of their focus “make the pitchers better.” It has been a little hard to evaluate options against that framework, since so much of the “make the pitchers better” stuff is completely opaque to outside analysis. Game-calling? In-game adjustments? Working with pitchers between starts? Game-planning? All that stuff is critical to a catcher optimizing his pitchers’ success, but all we’re ever going to have on it are anecdotes from pitchers and coaches, and “catcher ERA”-type statistics that are pretty darn noisy and often misleading.
So, then, I have tried not to pre-judge the targets TOO aggressively through this process, though it was clear from everything I read about him, plus his decent bat, plus the fact that the Cubs made him a sizable offer, that Christian Vazquez was the preferred option. But he chose the Twins over the Cubs, and that’s that.
Of the three, Michael hears that Barnhart may be the preference:
Barnhart’s public defensive metrics have, at times, been stellar so far in his career, and other times they’ve been ugly. Again, it’s all just tough to evaluate, but the commentary out there is that he is good at working with pitchers. So there’s that. And if he’s the Cubs’ next-preferred target, he must be very well regarded in that way, otherwise he wouldn’t be the preference.
As for Perez, he was definitely always regarded as this type of catcher, and actually has experience working with both Yan Gomes and Carter Hawkins from their days in Cleveland. The rub is that Perez had a serious hamstring injury in May, which required season-ending surgery. He has played a little bit of Winter Ball, and I’d imagine the Cubs are scouting him.
And as for Casali, he’s probably the best bat in the group (.223/.316/.392/92 wRC+ for his career), and his public defensive metrics look solid enough. I can’t say I know much about his soft factors beyond that, though.