The Cubs Have Reportedly Discussed Free Agent Catchers Christian Vazquez and Omar Narvaez

A majority of our early offseason consideration has been wolfed up by the Cubs’ want so as to add influence beginning pitching and the need so as to add one of many huge 4 free agent shortstops — that is most likely not altering anytime quickly. But after yesterday’s deadline, the Chicago Cubs are formally with out catcher Willson Contreras for the primary time since 2015, and that must be addressed.

Fortunately, the Cubs aren’t ranging from scratch: the presence of Yan Gomes and PJ Higgins offers a helpful mixture of veteran expertise and positional flexibility behind the plate. There is actual worth there, and if the Cubs entered the season with simply these two guys, they’d most likely be … all proper. It would not be an quick catastrophe HOWEVA, Gomes, 35, is an offensive legal responsibility that is not getting any youthful, and Higgins might be greatest seen as a depth piece, stashed in Triple-A Iowa, for the inevitable wet day. Concerningly, there’s just about no depth behind these two, so an harm to at least one, particularly Gomes, might go away the Cubs in a horrible place.*

*Miguel Amaya could ultimately turn out to be an element, however with a lot missed developmental time (which works double for a younger catcher), you simply can’t rely on him enjoying a big position for the Cubs in 2023.

And bear in mind, the Cubs have gotten a TON of worth out of their catchers during the last eight seasons (sixth in WAR, third in wRC+), and I’m certain they’d want to maintain that up, even when focusing extra on the defensive and game-planning/calling facet of issues.

Recently, we mentioned a variety of high-quality commerce targets accessible this winter, from the A’s Sean Murphy to the Blue Jays trio of younger backstops (Danny Jansen, Gabriel Moreno, Alejandro Kirk). But there’s additionally free company. And whereas a reunion with Contreras, the highest free agent catcher, appears extremely unlikely, there are two different high quality, two-way catchers within the tier simply beneath him. And each had been simply related to the Chicago Cubs.

Take it away, Sahadev Sharma and Patrick Mooney of The Athletic:

The Cubs are anticipated so as to add a veteran catcher — names akin to Christian Vázquez and Omar Narváez have been mentioned internally — who will share the catching tasks with Yan Gomes subsequent season.

There’s really a variety of data there, regardless of being a small snippet of an extended piece.

The means I see it, (1) the Cubs are anticipated so as to add a catcher this offseason, (2) that catcher is more likely to be a “veteran” who can share tasks with Gomes (which makes a commerce for a solo starter like Murphy or the youthful Blue Jays guys much less possible), and (3) the Cubs are discussing each Christian Vázquez and Omar Narváez internally.

Of the full listing of free agent catchers accessible this offseason, I’d argue that these two are essentially the most enticing choices behind Contreras, maybe in a secondary tier of their very own with everybody else falling beneath them.

Christian Vazquez

Vázquez, 32, spent the primary half of his season with the Red Sox, the place he slashed .282/.327/.432 (110 wRC+) earlier than being shipped to the Astros after Dusty Baker and Jim Crane nixed the Willson Contreras deal. Some severe overlap there, huh?

Vázquez struggled offensively down the stretch for the Astros, however that pattern was barely over 100 PAs, and he has extra good offensive manufacturing than dangerous during the last 4 years. He’s not Willson Contreras on the plate (practically nobody is), so get that out of your head, however he is not a complete zero offensively, and not simply “for a catcher.”

He was additionally notably sturdy towards left-handed pitching in 2022 (130 wRC+), though Gomes has the identical lefty/righty desire, so possibly you possibly can’t fairly completely optimize there.

Defensively, Vázquez charges out *extraordinarily* properly, rating fifth in Defensive Runs Saved (11), thirteenth in framing (4.9), and ninth in total defensive score amongst all catchers (14.4).

Expand that filter at some stage in his profession (2014-2022), and you will be much more impressed:

  • DRS: 51 (third in MLB), behind solely Martin Maldonado and Buster Posey
  • FRM: 60.5 (4th in MLB), behind solely Mike Zunino, Posey, and Yasmani Grandal
  • DEF: 119.3 (4th in MLB), simply forward of Yadier Molina and behind solely Zunino, Maldonado, Posey, and Grandal

And if numbers do not actually do it for you, take into account that he was the kind of catcher the Houston Astros although they may incorporate at mid-season, in the course of a pennant race, to work alongside Martin Maldonado, who’s additionally recognized for his work behind the plate.

I’m an enormous fan.

Christian Vázquez is available in because the forty sixth greatest free agent in line with FanGraphs, with a projected contract within the two-year, $16-$18M vary. That’s an EASY resolution when you ask me, and makes me suspect he would possibly get much more.

But we all know he is not the one choice.

Omar Narváez

Narváez is a extremely fascinating play. For some time, earlier than the Brewers, he was thought-about an offensive-first catcher, and for good cause. In 2017 (101 wRC+, 3.6 DEF), 2018 (121 wRC+, -5.2 DEF), and 2019 (120 wRC+, -8.5 DEF), that is precisely what he was. A plus on the plate, a adverse behind it. But throughout his first 12 months in Milwaukee, he made large strides defensively, seemingly on the expense of his offensive manufacturing.

Just examine this out whole defensive change:

Defensive Runs Saved, FRM

2017: -7 DRS, -1.8 FRM
2018: -14 DRS, -10.0 FRM
2019: -18 DRS, -10.4 FRM

***Joins Milwaukee***

2020: +2 DRS, +3.9 FRM
2021: +3 DRS, +8.8 FRM
2022: +1 DRS, +7.5 FRM

I imply wow. That is wild. But once more, no matter focus(?) or time(?) that enchancment required, appears to have sapped his offensive means: 2020 (60 wRC+), 2021 (100 wRC+), 2022 (71 wRC+).

But there is a huge BUT. Narváez is a left-handed hitter, who has dealt with righties (106 wRC+) quite a bit higher than lefties all through his profession. So no less than offensively, you would possibly envision a extra apparent platoon with Gomes. The query is whether or not you consider the modifications he made with the Brewers can/will carry ahead. Because if they do not, and his offensive manufacturing continues to dive, then what are we actually left with?

Omar Narváez is available in as FanGraphs forty fifth greatest free agent this offseason, one spot forward of Vázquez, with a projected contract of two years and $14-16M. So these are successfully two VERY shut choices.

Personally, I believe Vázquez is the higher play, however I can very a lot see the angle on Narváez (Brett: particularly since we do not have a fantastic sense for a way good every man is on the “gentle elements” of being a workforce’s catcher, and a part of the entire run-prevention equipment). And in the end, both man can be simply nice with Gomes behind the plate. I’m very comfortable to see the Cubs are taking this severely and capturing for the 2 greatest free agent catching choices moreover Willson Contreras.

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