The Chicago Cubs are adding another back-up, back-up catcher, reportedly signing Luis Torrens to a minor league deal. That will give them at least five catching options between the big league roster (Yan Gomes and Tucker Barnhart), the 40-man roster (Miguel Amaya), and Triple-A catchers with big league experience (Torrens and Dom Nuñez).
Word of Torrens signing comes from the media head of the Navegantes del Magallanes team in Venezuela (where Torrens played this winter):
Torrens is fresh off hitting a whopping .387/.484/.600 in Venezuela, and has hit .240/.298/.388/93 wRC+ over the past three years in MLB. He generally projects to be about 5 to 10% below average in 2023, if in the big leagues, by the various projection systems. He’s a bat-first catcher for sure (he spent much of the last couple years DH’ing with the Mariners), but doesn’t hit quite enough to land a big league deal.
I maaaaaaybe had an idea a while ago that this was coming, which is why I wrote this:
I have heard the Cubs may be adding another catcher at Triple-A, which would make sense – gives you another depth option in addition to Dom Nuñez, and gives you some buffer for Miguel Amaya so the primary focus there can be development, with no unnecessary rushing if there’s an injury. It may be the case that the Cubs would want Amaya to get a big league taste at midseason if there were an injury ahead of him (he’s on the 40-man already), but you don’t want to be FORCED to do it. So, a couple quality minor league catchers is good for lots of reasons.
That’s what Torrens can be for the Cubs: additional protection against having to make decisions they don’t yet want to make.
And, like Dom Nuñez, Torrens doesn’t stink. So he’s a pretty nice extra option to have around in case there is an injury to Yan Gomes or Tucker Barnhart.
Torrens, 26, is out of minor league options, so the Mariners decided to move on after the season rather than tender him a contract in arbitration. You may remember him as a top Padres prospect who came up to the big leagues very young (21), and was later traded to the Mariners as part of the seven-player Austin Nola trade in 2020. It looked like he was finally breaking out in 2021, posting a 101 wRC+ (way above average for a catcher), but he fell way back in 2022, with the power evaporating and the strikeouts exploding.
On the plus side, Torrens can play some on the infield (outside of shortstop), so he gives you a little of the versatility that the Cubs lost when P.J. Higgins headed off to free agency. On the less plus side, Torrens has generally rated out as a relatively poor catcher on the defensive side.
All that said, a reserve catcher on a minor league deal? That’s about as good as it gets, and I’m really glad the Cubs get to take a crack at getting Torrens back on track.