I’m a bit drunk right now after the school party (the students were gone, just us insane teachers so nobody panic) but I did catch up on the Twitters and I know the Chicago Cubs appear to have a reasonable-ish deal with David Ross:
Sources: David Ross to #Cubs, two years, $5M.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 19, 2014
And I also know that the Cubs claimed Ryan Lavarnway for whatever reason:
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) December 19, 2014
— John Baker (@manbearwolf) December 19, 2014
CSN Chicago’s Patrick Mooney, among others, thinks that this pretty much spells the end of Beef Castle in Chicago. It does make sense because most teams only carry two catchers, and usually only American League clubs carry three. It further complicates things because prior to the Cubs’ claim, Lavarnway was already out of options, which means he’ll either need to make the team out of spring training or be exposed to waivers again (oh noes). It also doesn’t help that none of the four catchers (five if you include Rafael Lopez, who is also on the roster) plays anything other than catcher, so versatility becomes an issue. So it does unfortunately seem that Beef Castle is as good as traded.
There were literally dozens of reasons why we didn’t want to deal with a non-Beef starting catcher with the Cubs, as we figured such a move was extraneous, but obviously the front office is thinking differently with the acquisition of Miguel Montero and now the reported signing agreement with David Ross. It sounds like a lot of talk is regarding the superior framing ability of the new catchers relative to Castillo, and also the idea that Jon Lester prefers pitching to a familiar backstop.
Lester/Ross, 2013-14: 195 IP, 8.9 K/9, 2.77 ERA. Lester/Others, 2013-14: 238 IP, 7.8 K/9, 3.37 ERA. Not night & day.
— thecubreporter (@thecubreporter) December 19, 2014
There are a few points to take away from all this, with the caveat, once again, that I only very occasionally play catcher in recreational baseball and I am not part of the Cubs front office and concede that they’re much better equipped to do this than I am.
- The Cubs have decided, similarly to the Red Sox (it seems), that controlling the strike zone is very important. This only deals with the battery for now and we hope that the Cubs hitters figure out their end in due time, but there’s a definite trend going on.
- Pitchers are human, and despite the folks doing the analytics attempting to strip away the “noise” in their studies, the human factor does matter and it makes sense to get pitchers into a better comfort zone and that includes throwing to a catcher they are familiar with. So there’s a method to the madness of acquiring a catcher who will cost more than Beef in arbitration, though not really that much all told. He’s also going to be old as hell, but I’m guessing the front office took that into account anyway.
- Does it really make sense to carry three catchers in a quasi-platoon situation? Whether the third catch is Beef or Lavarnway (assuming David Ross is Jon Lester’s personal catcher), the hit in lineup versatility is pretty rough. Maybe the Cubs are hoping they can sneak Lavarnway through waivers and stash him for minor league depth. This doesn’t take into account the spot that needs to be cleared to allow Ross to officially sign, given that the roster is now full after Jason Motte‘s signing and the new claims.
- As a solid catcher who has shown that he can start (framing be damned), and who is on the right side of 30, AND who is under club control for the next three years, Welington Castillo is very valuable in trade.
Point number four is worth exploring, as teams are usually in need of good catching, particularly on the defensive end where a catcher really matters. Haggling aside, Beef’s numbers on defense seemed good on paper, and he was also excellent and blocking pitches and controlling the running game. Again, he is also young-ish and under club control, so it’s hard to imagine the Cubs not coming away with a significant return in trade. So there’s a plus.
I’m still disappointed that Beef wasn’t given a chance going forward, but the Cubs have some kind of a plan brewing and they’ve shown multiple times that they’re willing to blow things up to realize a goal, so I think we’ll just have to wait and see what the trade brings back.