I’ve been an advocate for the Cubs signing a veteran backup to Willson Contreras, and late Monday, they did exactly that:
Free-agent catcher Chris Gimenez is signing with the Cubs, source tells SB Nation.— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) January 23, 2018
There’s been no confirmation from the Cubs as of yet.
Here’s why this might be a clue:
In 2014, Chris Gimenez made 26 starts at Catcher for the Rangers.— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) January 23, 2018
Yu Darvish was the starting pitcher in 12 of the 26 games.
I don’t think the Cubs are in the business of signing a personal catcher for Yu Darvish, but here’s someone who’s familiar with him, at least from four years ago in Texas. Gimenez was also with the Rangers in 2015, but Darvish missed that entire season with Tommy John surgery.
Chris Gimenez is a lifetime .218/.309/.345 hitter with 22 home runs in 810 at-bats. Last year he hit .220/.350/.382 with seven home runs in 186 at-bats for the Twins. You can see he has on-base skills, at the very least. Those figures in 2017 were worth 0.7 bWAR, decent enough for a backup. He’s a righthanded hitter, so he’ll be a pure backup to Contreras, not any sort of platoon partner. He’s played a handful of games at first base and in the outfield, so in an emergency he could probably play there. Also, this:
Darvish stuff aside, Gimenez has a 112 wRC+ & .344 OBP vs. LHP since the start of 2015.— Luis M. (@lcm1986) January 23, 2018
Could carve a niche like Rene Rivera did with the Cubs late in 2017 ... except I don’t expect him to use #Despacito as his walk up song. https://t.co/yN3VZxhYuf
Further, Gimenez also played for Joe Maddon (and Jim Hickey) with the Rays in 2012 and 2013, so there’s some familiarity with the coaching staff.
Gimenez threw out 13 of 43 baserunners trying to steal last year, 30 percent, a decent figure. Careerwise he’s thrown out 25 percent. In an effort to get this posted, I didn’t check into his pitch-framing skills.
Seems like a reasonable signing for a backup, depending on the price. It means Victor Caratini will start the year at Triple-A Iowa. This signing also means the 40-man roster is full, so if the Cubs do sign Darvish (or any other starter), someone on the 40-man will have to be run through waivers.
UPDATE to above paragraph: This is apparently a minor-league deal with a NRI to spring training, so it wouldn’t cost a 40-man roster spot.
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