Cubs Sign Catcher Yan Gomes to 2-Year, $13 Million Deal

As first reported by Craig Mish of SportsGrid, the Cubs have reached an agreement with catcher Yan Gomes. The 34-year-old is being guaranteed $13 million over two years, which isn’t the kind of deal you’d expect for a backup backstop. In fact, this now becomes the biggest contract the Cubs have given to a position player since Jason Heyward.

Ken Rosenthal added that the deal has a $6 million option for a third year, along with $1 million in performance bonuses each year based on games started. Again, not the kind of deal you give to a guy who’s expected to ride the pine pony for 120 games.

Could this signal that the Cubs are planning to trade Willson Contreras? Michael Cerami of Bleacher Nation reported Monday that the two sides have not engaged in extension talks and it doesn’t appear as though the Cubs are intent on being big players in free agency. Sahadev Sharma wrote in October that the Cubs will “almost certainly” shop Contreras if they aren’t willing or able to extend him, so this may set the stage for a move.

On the other hand, we’ve heard Jed Hoyer talk about how Contreras needs to have a little more time off behind the plate in order to perform at his best.

“We did have that revolving door at catcher, felt like we could never keep anyone healthy,” Hoyer explained. “[David] Ross and I talked about it throughout the year. It was hard to not play Willson a lot, but he definitely got worn down. I think he’s an elite offensive player. But it’s hard to be an elite offensive player when your legs are gone.

“That’s something we have to really focus on this offseason, building a roster and setting it up to make sure that we can keep Willson as an elite offensive player.”

Maybe this is just an expensive insurance policy being taken out by a team that had to employ 39 different catchers last year and that just lost its top catching prospect for next season. Gomes has been a consistent producer has put up positive fWAR each of the last five seasons and eight of 10 overall, though his career 91 wRC+ includes just two seasons north of 100 over the last seven years. Contreras has never put up lower than 101 in his six seasons on the North Side.

Though Gomes may have been the best available catcher on the market, he’s a big step down from Contreras offensively and he’ll turn 35 in July. That said, he’s still a very capable fill-in if duties are being shared. With the universal DH almost guaranteed, this move would allow the Cubs to give Contreras frequent rest without removing his bat from the lineup.

The $13 million guarantee is 30% more than Gomes got on his last deal and I already mentioned how it stacks up against the Cubs’ last several years of contracts, but this was a clear position of need. As such, this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re actively looking to move Contreras. I would say, however, that it allows them to hedge their bets and remain nimble in the event that a big offer comes their way.

For what it’s worth, Contreas tweeted out a series of emojis showing a plane taking off and landing. So, yeah…

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