With Austin Romine nursing a sore knee and P.J. Higgins not part of the 40-man roster, the Cubs are in the market for a backup catcher to get them through at least the first few days of the season. As 670 The Score’s Bruce Levine tweeted Tuesday evening, that market includes former Rockie Tony Wolters and old friend Jonathan Lucroy, who was just released from his minor league deal by the White Sox.
Chicago Cubs have interest in catchers Tony Wolters and Jonathan Lucroy.Wolters more likely to be signed as a left handed bat compliment to starter Willson Contreras.
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) March 31, 2021
Levine adds that Wolters is more likely because his left-handed bat better complements Willson Contreras, but there are likely more procedural aspects at play. While it’s true Wolters is a lefty batter, his career 57 wRC+ and .282 wOBA come from identical splits. So not only is there zero platoon advantage, you’re looking at losing 55 and 61 points from Contreras’s performance against righties in those respective categories.
Even if Wolters was the best defensive catcher in baseball, the limited time he’ll spend on the field mitigates any improvement he’d represent over another backup. Thing is, he ranked 96th in MLB with a -2.8 catcher defensive adjustment score last season and 111th with a -6.4 in 2019. For the sake of reference, Contreras ranked ninth with a 2.9 CDA in 2020 while Victor Caratini was 28th with a 0.8 CDA.
Again, though, that probably doesn’t factor much given the nature of the situation. The Cubs are really just looking for a warm body to occupy a temporary roster spot before being cast aside again, which is probably not something Lucroy is down with. Even given his diminished skillset and advanced age, the near certainty that he’ll be DFA’d as soon as Romine is ready can’t be very appealing.
Then again, you never know what can happen in this game and even what looks on the surface like a dead-end opportunity could yield a bigger role. The 34-year-old Lucroy was once MLB’s premier offensive catcher and he looked good at the plate in spring training, hitting .333 with five walks in 18 at-bats for the Sox. Meanwhile, Wolters was unable to catch on with the Pirates after hitting .194 with six strikeouts in 31 at-bats with the Pirates.
It’s at least a little concerning that the Cubs might be eyeing a guy who the two least-competitive organizations in the NL couldn’t find room for, right? But that also may mean the 28-year-old Wolters is a little more keen on catching on wherever he can. It also means the Cubs will have no qualms about parting ways with him the moment Romine is good to go.
Personally, I’d rather see them opt for Higgins, who has the versatility to play several infield spots in addition to catching. The issue there is that, while he would require a 40-man spot just the same as either of the more seasoned vets mentioned, the Cubs almost certainly don’t want to have to designate him to remove him from the roster if they end up needing that spot again.
We should get some more news on this front soon because Opening Day is around the corner and the Cubs probably don’t want to lean on Javy Báez as the backup. How fun would that be, though?