Potential Backup Catcher Option for Cubs Eliminated as Kurt Suzuki Signs with Nats
Though it’s not chief among their offseason needs, the Cubs would like to add a skilled catcher to back up Willson Contreras and perhaps even allow him to play the outfield more frequently. Victor Caratini is a switch-hitter who came around at the plate late in the season while acquitting himself pretty well as a backstop, but he doesn’t really excel in any one category.
The whole “jack of all trades, master of none” label may apply too well to Caratini for the Cubs to see him as an ideal option moving forward. And while his low cost and contractual control make him valuable for a team that is looking to limit spending, he could also be a nice trade chip for a team looking to replenish its farm. Hey, the Cubs are both of those teams.
So if the Cubs were able to find a reliable backup without having to commit a ton of cash, they might be able to move Caratini to meet other needs. Kurt Suzuki, who slashed .276/.341/.485 clip with 31 homers for the Braves over the past two seasons, seemed like a potential fit heading into the offseason. Alas, the Nationals were able to land him with a two-year, $10 million deal (agreement first reported by Mark Feinsand, terms by Ken Rosenthal).
Suzuki has logged starter’s innings throughout his career, but he just turned 35 and probably can’t be expected to catch 100+ games moving forward. As the numbers show, however, he’s no slouch at the plate and has actually gotten better with age. He’s also got nearly identical platoon splits, so there’s no worry about carrying him with another righty batter or using him on an everyday basis if need be.
Seeing what happened to Contreras as the season wore on and he logged the highest workload of his career, leading all catchers with 1,109.2 innings, doesn’t just have the Cubs in the market for a reliable fallback. As mentioned above, they may want to split the catching duties up a little more equitably to avoid the same “bonk” Contreras experienced in 2018 and help him get back to 2017-level production.
How much the Cubs are willing to pay for such a catcher, however, remains to be seen. That $5 million AAV for Suzuki is equal to what they shed by trading Drew Smyly to Texas. And more addition without subtraction further jeopardizes a pursuit of Bryce Harper that is already tenuous at best right now. Still, it makes a lot of sense for the Cubs to see what else is out there.