George Kottaras, losing Dioner, and Juan Uribe thoughts


George Kottaras is not a sexy signing. He's not Jarrod Saltalamacchia and he's not Brian McCann. If we take this at surface value Kottaras is a .214 hitting part time catcher with a good defensive reputation. Seems a bit like Damian Miller.

But he's not just that.

Kottaras has a damn good eye. Last year in 126 PAs Kottaras hit .180 but was on base at a .349 clip. His 19.0 BB% would have led all of baseball if he qualified. He does not have very good bat to ball skills but he has an idea of how to work the strike zone.

Kottaras is a lefty who is much better against righties than he is against same side pitching. I'm a big fan of positional platoons when the situation is right. When it comes to the Cubs catching situation I don't think it would be beneficial to hit Kottaras against righties all the time because, well, most of the league throws with their right hand and Welington Castillo is still a better option than Kottaras is in that match up (over his career Beef has hit .256/.326/.392 against righties).

As it stands I think the obvious answer here is the right one. Kottaras will be a back up catcher who has a plan at the plate and can more than hold his own behind the plate. I can get with that.

A quick note on Dioner

Heading into play on May 29 Dioner Navarro was hitting .200/.254/.382 in 59 PAs. He was carrying a 4-11 B-KK ratio and was, well, playing like an older backup catcher who has a lot of miles on his legs.

Then he hit 3 homeruns against the White Sox.

After that game he posted a .319/.384/.467 line with an 18-25 BB-K ratio in 203 PAs. Neither sample, the one before May 29 or after, is a good enough size to judge Dioner Navarro on. We have 1093 PAs of .236/.294/.364 baseball from 2009-2012 we can use instead. Dioner is one of those guys that's easy for fans to root for. He doesn't look like a professional athlete which makes him relatable. I get it, I liked his aesthetic too. He also had that one shining moment against the hated cross town rivals and a good run of baseball afterwards.

I still think it was responsible of the Cubs to not overpay Dioner for 203 good PAs and forget about the 1093 PA sample.


Juan Uribe never looked like a shortstop. Usually shortstops are skinny guys with skinny legs and no paunch. They don't usually look like this. He's had an interesting and fruitful career as well. Year to year he's been a bit of a statistical roller coaster but the man was the starting shortstop for 2 world championship teams, which is something I never thought he'd do.

John put out some thoughts on Uribe, saying that he would be a good fit for a young Cubs team in need of an elder statesman who can also provide positive production on the field. I come from a statistical upbringing but over time I've learned to appreciate and embrace certain aspects of the game that we can't yet (and perhaps never will) quantify. Veteran leadership is much maligned, especially when it comes to guys like Michael Young. It's effects are probably over-hyped by some sportswriters but...I think it exists. I agree with the notion that Uribe can be a Castro whisperer

Adding Uribe would create an interesting dilemma with Mike Olt looking to earn the 3B job out of Spring Training and Kris Bryant waiting in the wings. The Cubs are also heavy on corner outfielders and light on center fielders. Uribe kind of seems like excess at this point.

Uribe is heading down a path that ends at 1B for a few years. Hopefully the Cubs have that position locked up. 3B is still an open discussion but I do think the Cubs want Olt to win the job coming out of Spring Training. I have to think Uribe is going to want consistent playing time with any team he signs.

Depending on the dollars I don't think this would be a bad signing necessarily but I do think it would say a lot about what the Cubs think about Mike Olt and it might also hint at where Kris Bryant starts out defensively.


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  • He might be a good mentor for Castro

  • How many years is Castro going to need a babysitter? Maybe we should wonder if we want him to be a mentor for Baez, Soler, Almora and Alcantara.

  • In reply to Bucky:

    Uribe is a good ballplayer. It's not just about babysitting.

    And some people mature faster than others. Maybe you would do well if you had to leave home at age 16 and go to a country where you didn't speak the language, and then play baseball well enough to make the majors two months after your 20th birthday, but not everyone can handle all that coming at them that fast.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That's true but a lot of 17, 18 and 19 year olds have had to handle being shipped off to get shot at, through the decades, so it's all relative.

  • In reply to Bucky:

    Apparently for a long time,I say trade em', keep Olt in the minors at 25 so they can hire a babysitter for Castro, no thanks.

  • In reply to peoria cubfan:

    I agree. Either Olt is ready now or never will be.

  • In reply to Bucky:

    Good point. Plus. I am pulling hard for Olt at 3B and Bryant moving up quickly, like Evan Longoria. It is time for more guys to take the next step to the majors. Vitters is another that needs to prove he is ready for the majors as an extra corner outfielder. If Olt and Vitters come through! that would be huge.

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    Isn't Uribe looking for a multiyear commitment though? A 1-year stopgap makes sense for us IF we think Olt isn't going to make it, but much more than a year may not make sense. Though I suppose you can always trade Uribe if Baez and/or Bryant break through.

    The long-term answer at 3B is currently in our system. It could be Baez or Bryant, or even Olt or Villanueva, but the answer is in our system today. Problem is we can't really head into 2014 with Luis ValMurphy as our 3B solution. It worked last year, but I wouldn't bet on a repeat of that production, particularly from Murphy.

  • As long as Uribe is on a 1 year contract I have no problem with bringing him in. The team could use some vet leadership in general. Not just for Castro's sake either. I know people would call him a babysitter, or complain that shouldn't the coaches be teaching Castro things, not other players. But sometimes it is easier to develop a trusting relationship with a colleague rather than a superior. Guys like Uribe can be helpful to the other 24 guys on the roster. He has probably seen and done about as much as anyone in baseball. He has been a top prospect, a bust, a resurrection, a loser, a WS champ.

    Kotteras was a solid pickup given our need for backup catcher and OBP in general. I don't worry about his poor throwing, hopefully he is only out there about 40 games. Navarro had a career year, and it was fun to watch, but the Cubs are not in a position to start paying backups a lot of money. We need to improve our starting players first. This was a smart allocation of resources.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Like signing of George! lefty bat! part time guy.

  • If Castro needs a babysitter so bad that we need to sign a Uribe type then I package Him with Shark to Az to nab Bradley Skaggs Hoiberg, Trahan and thier young SS name escapes me . That is is realistic trade . That said I hope and a caustiously optimistic Castro rebounds.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I think people are looking at this the wrong way. Uribe is a good player who can also help young players develop.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    In a perfect world everyone matures at age 16 and there is no work to be done to develop the character of young adults. However, since the frontal lobe of a male doesn't fully develop until age 25 it is really not shocking to see a young man still need a mentor to help him adjust to life as an adult and more specifically as a ball player. We are not talking about a player who is a cancer here. We are talking about a young man who has yet to display the ability to stay focused and self motivated at the level which we have come to expect from superstars such as Jeter (who had an abundance of veteran leadership around him when he came up). I for one am all for bringing in some veteran players to help in the maturation of our young players both in Chicago and on their way. I am not sure Uribe is the choice, unless he is willing to take a one year make good contract under the pretense that he may be traded at the deadline if Olt is ready to take over. I think this deal is a great idea, I just wonder if Uribe would accept the role outlined, in order to make this deal happen.

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    In reply to Jordan Dutcher:

    To your point, Uribe doesn't have much to "make good" for. He was a 5 WAR guy last season and would have led the Cubs in OBP among qualifiers last year, while playing well above-average D at 3rd.

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    In reply to Matt McNear:

    He had a career year, yes, but to GM's they need a better sample size than that. So yes he must show he IS that guy over more than a season. So yes he does need to make good. The question is will he be willing to accept that role and risk a down year for one high salary year with the cubs and hurt his chances of getting a longer term contract where he makes less per year but more long term? I think the answer is, no. He will likely play for a contender who is willing to pay him a little less for a lot longer than one year... 3 year deal seems likely to me.

  • In reply to Jordan Dutcher:

    Castro needed some tough love and didn't get it. Plus tinkering with a guy during the season is never a good idea, especially if it gets in his head. There were times Castro was completely lost and I think the managing had something to do with it. Renteria looks like he will run the show in a positive way, but a lack of focus will get you on the bench.

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    In reply to Roe Skidmore:

    I agree Renteria seems to be a good move. I have always thought tough love is the best approach because that worked best with me. However, I am not a professional athlete and have been humbled many times by aw 30. I think there is a reason Phil Jackson, Jim Lleyland, Joe Torre, Terry Francona and other finesse coaches are so successful. We are a very different society (for better or worse) today than we were fifty years ago. We need a coach like Renteria who will hold guys accountable but also understand that he is dealing with egos of extraordinary proportions.

    On a side note... It is funny to me that we told Tiger Woods that he was a god since he was 4years old and then were some how surprised when he turned out to be a narcissist.

  • new contributor...same old jarrod saltalamacchia references. Welington Castillo is a far better defensive catcher and he will end up being a better hitter. Yes he is slower and sorry, but he bats RH. This blog pushed a lot harder for Salty than John Farrell did in the WS and it was getting old. Can we agree to not mention his name ever again? Why dont you guys mention replacements for Anthony Rizzo in EVERY post? Because Welington was a far better player and actually progressed over the course of last season...

  • In reply to ChiTownD:

    It remains a possibility simply because the Cubs have to reallocate assets so that they fit together better. It has nothing to do with how they feel about Castillo, who is a good young player who continues to improve.

    But if you can make a change that can eventually improve the team as a whole, then you have to consider it.

  • In reply to ChiTownD:

    To clarify, I was mentioning Saltalamacchia as a contrast to George Kottaras, not as a replacement for Welington Castillo. This was used to frame the larger point that while Kottaras isn't a sexy "name" signing he is still one that has good value as a backup.

  • In reply to ChiTownD:

    OK, Vogelbach gets shot to compete at 1B if Rizzo struggles again...

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    "Why dont you guys mention replacements for Anthony Rizzo in EVERY post?" "but he bats RH"

    You answered your own question.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    i was being facetious...we have like 4 positions up for grabs(CF, LF, 3B, 2B), maybe those players can be LH. I personally believe we have the C position locked up for a long time

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    In reply to ChiTownD:

    Long term, there are issues with our left-handedness. And, since everything that's being down now is with an eye to the long term, people speculate that Castillo might be traded.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think if we want a LH bat then Granderson is looking better all the time. Doesn't matter to me if our 3-4 hitters are both LH for 4 months.

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    In reply to TheMightyGin:

    I don't see us giving up a draft pick for a player over 30 this off-season. We'll get there, hopefully sooner rather than later, but not yet.

  • In reply to ChiTownD:

    I think all 3 outfield spots are covered with Sweeney, Schierholz, and Lake with BB as 4th outfielder. Maybe Vitters will be 5th. If Olt secures 3B, then only question mark is 2B.

  • This past season was a bad season for the Cubs for many reasons. We didn't have many bright spots at the major league level. The few bright spots we had came at the catching position. You could argue Navarro had the best season on the Cubs. He is going to be 30 soon. Kottaras is already 30. Why didn't we try to sign Dioner to a extension? Or if we knew we were not going to sign him why didn't we trade him last season? Didn't he have any value then? We should have tried to sign Dioner. What type of deal did Dioner want?

    This signing is pointless and makes the team worse. I thought signing guys should be with the mentality to improve your club. I know a few people have commented that he has a good eye. He is a back-up catcher, I don't want my back-up catcher to be known for having a good eye. He struck out 42 times in 100 at bats, but did walk 24 times. He must never swing the bat. I would rather over pay just a little bit for a guy who might be coming into his own, then pay face value for a bad player.

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    In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    WTNY, Navarro is hoping his solid 2013 will earn him a starting gig next year, something that wasn't likely to happen here.

    Personally, I think Navarro is the front runner for the 2014 Jeff Keppinger award. You know, career back up goes nuts and puts up numbers way better than his career history would suggest (Like Keppinger in 2012), than gets a nice fat free agent deal and predictably falls back to mediocrity.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    What is the deal?
    Even if Navarro is only mediocrity still better then kottaras.

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    Why would Navarro want to come back when Castillo is the clear starter. He can get starter's money somewhere else. Kottaras is a good backup. You don't' want to spend too much for a backup catcher. Not how you want to use what little payroll space they have right now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Why didn't we trade when he had value?

  • Sad that we missed out on a Salty Beef combination. That was an opportunity on the table. Kottaras has had a positive WAR for four years now, so he should be a good backup, as long as his defense is solid.
    I don't know anything about Uribe but we did have a surprisingly productive platoon going at third base last season. Can't we just roll with that for another year?

  • In reply to baseballet:

    Haha, a missed marketing opportunity ;)

    Defense is solid, he'll get on base and he'll hit for some power.

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    In reply to baseballet:

    I would be willing to bet a Saltalamacchia/Castillo platoon was never a possibility. If they were going to sign Salty, they would have traded Beef. There is no logic behind making the better defensive, younger catcher the short side of a platoon. Especially when he hit righties significantly better than he hit lefties.

  • It's still likely Olt's vision problem takes him out of the picture.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    At the very least, I think you can't count on him. I think you need some kind of insurance at 3B. Maybe that's Valbuena and Murphy or some other platoon partner or maybe you bring in someone new at 3B. Whatever the case, I think most of us would like to see Olt take the job and run, but that's not something the Cubs should be depending on when he has yet to conquer AAA.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree with you John. Olt has not dominated AAA yet. He did OK the last couple weeks of last year but that is not 500 ABs. I would not be surprised if he spent a couple months in AAA to get the cobwebs out and confidence up. I would like to see him in June. But if he rakes in ST, then I would not be too upset if he started the year in the majors.

  • In reply to John57:

    Olt to AAA for couple months, Villanueva to AA for couple months, Bryant to A+ for couple months, and Murphy/Valbuena to third for a couple months wouldn't hurt. I still pass on Uribe.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Which means Candelario has to go back to Kane County for a couple of months... so now you are setting back 3 other prospects (at least) development schedule through no fault of their own.

    I don't like that at all.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    All depends on Olt being ready for Wrigley.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    I just think of Olt as more of a lottery ticket right now, if he busts out in Spring Training and has to go to AAA-Iowa then he should move to the OF as Villanueva is better defensively and might have just as much power. I'm definitely not into setting the whole system back at 3rd base because Olt didn't hack it in ST...especially since we just traded for him late last year and he wasn't the centerpiece of the deal.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Makes sense!

  • My thing on the whole mentoring, this will be his 5th year in the league. For all intense purposes he is a veteran player. He knows what is excepted of him and should be the one young should be going to. I mentioned something in the early that at 23 I was being shot at in Iraq. Someone said You had a mentor right to show you the ropes? Yes but by the time I was in for 3 years I was a Corporal and was the one people were looking towards for leadership. I don't see players going that with Castro.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    would Castro /Shark net Bradley/ Skaggs , Hilberg, Trahan , Owings? and would that be a good deal for both teams Kevin?

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Sorry to jump in but the D-backs have two solid options at SS. They're not looking there and not going to give up one of them plus that kind of pitching. Not even if you woke Towers up at 3 in the morning after a night of heavy drinking.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    We get you don't like castro, every castro subject you want to scream loud as you can on how castro is not that good. And you even go on and compare your life to his.

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    In reply to scarter:

    The Castro fights are only going to get worse. If Baez plays gold glove defense at third (Jim Calis's prediction, not mine) and hits 25+ home runs a year, while Castro is still struggling at short, it's going to make the Bears quarterback controversies look like a minor spot of bother over tea.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    And I probably should say that I understand he would not be a gold glove shortstop.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I can say that about every player in the league, if that happens ok I get it but the problem I have is not giving the kid a chance to bounce back. People who don't like him in the first place couldn't wait for him to struggle.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I think as long as Castro's range factor exceeds Baez's, then any casual fan who is only looking at error totals should be mocked.

    Plus, if you are looking for fielders who would provide upgrades based on their bat, the better place to put Baez would be 2B IMO.

  • In reply to scarter:

    I didnt say he wasnt good. I have a major issue about his maturity level.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    Thank you for your service! Did you not have sergeants that you answered to? Just because a guy looks up to or gets direction from someone with more experience, that doesn't mean he's weak. It also doesn't mean he can't be helpful to those with less experience than him. Surely, as a corporal you weren't the highest ranking enlisted man in the Middle East.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    My point is he is now going into his 5th on the MLB roster. He is half way to being HOF eligible he is a veteran. He should still need a mentor outside of the Coaching staff.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Everyone team needs leadership, Its not just castro or rizzo but some veterans need that leader in the locker room. Leaders on the team don,t just look after the young guys but also make sure the veterans do things the right way.

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    In reply to KGallo:

    My point is every team that has a guy with 5 years experience also has one with 6-10 years experience, and to suggest that'his not beneficial is ridiculous! To suggest that 5 years of experience means he can ONLY benefit or learn from coaches is outright dumb.

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    In reply to Matt McNear:

    I apologize. Suggesting an opinion that is different from mine is dumb is very immature. I vehemently disagree, but shouldn't have gone there.

  • In reply to Matt McNear:

    My point has always been that his maturity is an issue.

  • Maybe we should trade Castro to Afghanistan.

  • What do you think about assigning Kottaras to catch one of the starters (for example, Edwin Jackson) everytime. This could provide consistent rest for Castillo, and perhaps allow both of the catchers a little more time to get to know the starting pitchers that they are catching better?

  • In reply to Greg Menke:

    honestly if Samardzija signs an extension I would advocate for Kottaras to become Shark's personal caddy.

  • In reply to Greg Menke:

    I don't think so. Renteria is going to have to pick his spots with Kottaras in terms of when he plays him.

    Mainly RH pitchers and also teams that don't have great speed and base stealing ability. It could turn into a track meet with Kottaras, he has a terrible arm (from what I've read), career 18% throwing runners out.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Exactly... The best way to demoralize your SP is if he starts thinking a walk or a 1B is a double, etc...

  • At this point I think it is time for Castro to find himself from the inside out. I don't feel that coddling or tough love is what he wants or is what is needed. Treat him like everybody else and he will be what he is going to be. Just like all young players Starlin will show us what that will be. This is his year to do that and there are indications that the Cubs will be pleased with the results.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Good post! He'll be fine.

  • I was a bit disappointed that we didn't trade Dioner last July when we might have received something for him. His trading stock was never going to be any higher than it was then and in August.

  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:


  • In reply to Tinker Evers Chance:

    I'm assuming the Cubs didn't trade Navarro last year because the corresponding offers were viewed as lacking meaningful value for the asset being traded. Trading him for an absolute non-prospect made no sense except to the party on the receiving end of a potential Navarro deal.

  • John I just want to offer that Mauricio is a really nice addition as a writer to this site. It is a breath of fresh air to read columns written by people who actually know how to write and not find those posts littered with spelling, grammatical, and syntax errors.

  • In reply to JB88:

    Spelling, grammar and syntax mastery have to do with early training and being visually oriented. I know a number of great writers who can't spell.

  • In reply to wastrel:

    and I'm an extremely visual person.

  • In reply to JB88:

    That Oxford comma is really unnecessary.

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    LOL :)

  • In reply to JB88:


  • In reply to JB88:

    Thanks, I think. I'm not sure to whom you are referring in past posts. I appreciate good writers though I don't know that I'd necessarily equate that with people who write with impeccable grammar. That's more of an editorial skill. Not uncommon to find great creative writers who make grammatical errors.

  • Kottaras had a neat reputation in KC last season, which was "best pinch hitter for a late in the game bases loaded situation." He had at least one bags loaded game winning walk off last season. Unfortunately if we only carry two catchers his pinch hitting utility will be restricted. But wow, the on base skills and great ABs were fun to watch last year!

  • In reply to kansasblackhawk:

    Thanks that is good to know. A good pinch hitter is never a bad thing to have.

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    I had to sign in just to say I like Mauricio's first two articles. Welcome to the site!

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    Can we please acknowledge that saying Castro would benefit from some veteran leadership is quite a bit different than saying he needs a babysitter? Christ, what a leap! I'm not saying we need Uribe, but name a team that has won big without veteran leadership...

  • The FO's philosophy is that the "Cubs Way" system being implemented in the minors, along with the character players they are drafting with their high picks, will solve the leadership issue in the future. In the meantime, they have committed to a new coaching staff to provide guidance, leadership and instruction. Hoyer recently spoke about brining veteran leadership in, so that is on their agenda. However, as you look at available options in free agency, there is a huge difference in talent and cost between character/clubhouse/chemistry guys like Uribe and actual everyday players like Ellsbury.

  • Since everyone equates Castro's problems to Dale Sveum, maybe we should have hired the guy under which he performed the best, Mike Quade.

    I second the notion that if Salty is brought in, I will be deeply saddened. We are not at the point where we need to worry about LH/RH balance because we aren't to the point where we are vying for a playoff spot. Would be a step back at C if this move was made, especially since there is nothing coming up from the minors at this point.

  • This is a question out of curiosity...I have no bias.
    Why are Cubs Den writers proposing Juan Uribe as a veteran infield option rather than Rafael Furcal? Is the thinking that Uribe would contribute more in the role? Or would Furcal be too expensive and too many years?
    Watching their body language over the years, for some reason, I think Furcal would be a better veteran mentor to the young Dominicans than Uribe. But I don't know either guy, so I have little to base that observation.

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    In reply to Rosemary:

    Just my guess, but I would think Uribe would be more expensive. He's coming off a career year and is younger. Furcal is coming off TJ surgery, didn't play last year, and is going to be 36(?) I believe. I think Furcal may be the "value-signing" version of Uribe.

  • In reply to Rosemary:

    We've mentioned Furcal too but haven't written a whole article on him. Uribe is the better player right now, but maybe Furcal fits better since he can play SS and 2B. Furcal is definitely well regarded as far as being a leader/having a good attitude.

  • Even though he was a part time player, last year was likely Navarro's career year.

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    I'd like to see Uribe's bat in the lineup, and the mentoring possibilities sound promising too. Could the Cubs approach him with a promise of ABs at either 3B or 2B (or both)? If Olt grabs 3B and runs with it this spring, fantastic. Uribe shifts over to 2B & adds a major league bat to the lineup. A defensive downgrade from Barney, but it looks like Uribe started 17 errorless games at 2B as recently as 2011 (with 9 errors in almost 1700 innings at 2B for his career). If Olt isn't quite ready at 3B, Uribe steps in and solidifies the position until one of our prospects wrestles it away from him.

  • In reply to Keith Erickson:


  • Navarro played the game like a man. Sorry to lose him. How I'll always remember him:

  • The Cubs will not have a Thanksgiving Dioner?

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:

    lol, you probably waited all year to use that one.

  • In reply to Aquinas wired:


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