Of the many areas the Chicago Cubs could upgrade this offseason, the backup catcher role was a clear priority.
The Cubs addressed the position Tuesday by reportedly agreeing to a two-year, $13 million deal with veteran catcher Yan Gomes.
Gomes, 34, played 103 games with the Washington Nationals and Oakland Athletics last season. He hit .252 with a .301 on-base percentage, .723 OPS and 98 OPS+.
President of baseball operations Jed Hoyer noted during his end-of-season news conference that the Cubs needed stability in the spot after using eight backup catchers in 2021.
Beyond that revolving door, the Cubs felt Willson Contreras got worn down from playing so much, though it was hard to keep him off the field with injuries and inconsistency behind him for most of the season. Contreras led big-league catchers in innings caught for most of the season.
“He’s an elite offensive player, but it’s hard to be an elite offensive player when your legs are gone,” Hoyer said in October. “So that’s something that we have to really focus on this offseason is building a roster and setting it up to make sure we can keep Willson as an elite offensive player.
“You play a guy too much and eventually the nicks and dings of catching and just the fatigue of your legs and things like that are going to reduce your impact. So that’s really important.”
Gomes predominantly has been in a platoon or backup role for most of his 10-year career, though he was an All-Star in 2018 with Cleveland. His addition doesn’t automatically mean the Cubs will trade Contreras, who is entering his final season before free agency, though it certainly is solid insurance.
The Cubs’ upper-level catching depth is weak with top catching prospect Miguel Amaya needing Tommy John surgery while other up-and-coming catchers are in the lower ranks of the farm system. And as Hoyer previously outlined, the Cubs needed a more proven and reliable backup catcher.
However, the Cubs showed at the 2021 trade deadline that none of their core players is untouchable in the final year before free agency. Should the Cubs ultimately decide to move Contreras rather than work out a long-term extension, Gomes’ experience gives them a catcher who can handle regular time behind the plate.
Cubs general manager Carter Hawkins is familiar with Gomes: Hawkins worked in Cleveland’s front office during Gomes’ six seasons (2013-18) with the organization.©2021 Chicago Tribune. Visit chicagotribune.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.