Cubs Agree to One-Year, $1.5M Deal with C Austin Romine

Third-Highest Contract for Position Player Since 2017

The Cubs have been in the market for a backup catcher and had been eyeing Jason Castro before he signed with the Astros for $7 million over two years. Whether it was a matter of pivoting or just a coincidence of timing, the Cubs agreed Friday to a one-year deal with longtime Yankees backup Austin Romine.

The 32-year-old catcher was a second-round pick by the Yanks back in 2007 and spent 13 years in the organization before joining the Tigers for 2020. A career .239 hitter with 27 homers in 1,251 plate appearances, Romine’s 69 wRC+ is only nice in terms of online jokes. He’s accumulated a total of 0.2 fWAR over parts of nine seasons, so the defense isn’t necessarily making up for his production at the plate.

However, Romine was the fifth-rated catcher last season in terms of Baseball Prospectus’s catcher defensive adjustment (CDA) metric…among guys named Austin. I’m not sure if it’s a matter of that name lending itself to catchers, but Austin Nola (4.0), Austin Barnes (3.2), Austin Hedges (2.3), and Austin Allen (0.2) all bested Romine (-0.2) in that area. He was actually 68th overall.

That’s better than last season, when his -1.6 ranked 95th. Rather than badmouth him further, it’s best to put this in proper perspective by saying he’s a backup catcher who’s being brought in to provide a temporary stopgap at what should be a very low price. Unless, of course, the Cubs have another move up their sleeve.

The deal is pending a physical and we’ll have more as it becomes available.

Per Gordon Wittenmyer of NBC Sports Chicago, it’s a $1.5 million deal. That’s about 4.5 times cheaper over half the length Castro got, but it’s still the third-richest deal the Cubs have given a position player since 2017. Jon Jay got $9 million that season and Daniel Descalso signed for two years and $5 million prior to the 2019 campaign.

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