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MLB trade rumors: The Cubs’ search for a veteran backup catcher

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The Cubs have been connected to several possible catching acquisitions.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s a quick summary, via various tweets, of veteran catchers the Cubs might be interested in acquiring before the non-waiver trading deadline Monday.

Alex Avila is the best-hitting catcher of that group, and also has a reputation as a good defensive player. He’s thrown out 10 of 32 runners trying to steal this year (31 percent). He’s hitting .276/.398/.481 with 11 home runs in 214 at-bats, so he would provide a strong offensive complement to Willson Contreras. Avila is 30 years old.

A.J. Ellis, on the other hand, really can’t hit much at all. This year he’s at .232/.300/.341 in a very small sample size of just 91 plate appearances with the Marlins. That’s actually an improvement on his 2016 season, in which he hit 216/.301/.298 combined between the Dodgers and Phillies — and you might recall how upset Clayton Kershaw was when he found out Ellis had been traded. Seven runners have tried to steal off Ellis this year and he’s caught three of them, a small-sample-size 43 percent. Two years ago Ellis led the major leagues with a 45 percent caught-stealing rate, 18 of 40.

Ellis is also familiar to Cubs catching coach Mike Borzello, who worked with Ellis with the Dodgers in a similar capacity from 2007-11. Ellis is 36 years old.

Rene Rivera hits about like Ellis does. This year: .232/.277/.374, six home runs in 155 at-bats. He’s also good at throwing out runners: 11 of 29, 38 percent. Rivera, who has played for the Padres, Mariners, Twins and Rays in addition to his current spot with the Mets, will turn 34 on deadline day, July 31.

All three of these catchers will be free agents at the end of 2017. That would probably work out well; while the Cubs are looking around because Victor Caratini doesn’t seem quite ready at this time, Caratini should be ready to back up Contreras full-time in 2018.

Ellis would probably be the best choice if you don’t want to give up much. He wouldn’t likely be re-signed by the Marlins for 2018, and he has significant postseason experience (17 games with the Dodgers from 2013-15 in which he hit .365/.450/.615 with two home runs in 52 at-bats).

Avila’s likely your guy if you want a lefthanded hitter to complement Contreras, plus he’s having one of the best offensive seasons of his career.

Rivera has a reputation as a strong defender, though he probably won’t hit much.

Who would you choose?

Poll

Which backup catcher should the Cubs trade for?

This poll is closed

  • 48%
    Alex Avila
    (336 votes)
  • 39%
    A.J. Ellis
    (275 votes)
  • 6%
    Rene Rivera
    (44 votes)
  • 5%
    Someone else (leave in comments)
    (40 votes)
695 votes total Vote Now