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The Cubs signed catcher Yan Gomes. Does this mean Willson Contreras will be traded?

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The answer might not be the one you expect.

“Hang on just a sec here!”
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As we reported here yesterday (thanks again Ashley!), the Cubs have signed catcher Yan Gomes to a two-year deal worth a reported $13 million.

Right away, of course, that led to comments of “Welp, guess that means Willson Contreras is on the trade block.”

This tweet didn’t help matters:

You know what I think of that tweet, which got a tremendous amount of attention? One of two things.

  • Willson is just traveling somewhere, or
  • Willson is just messing with us.

Or both!

I’m guessing it’s both. Look at the timestamp on that tweet, it’s before anything about Gomes became public on Tuesday.

Right now, knowing only what we know and that MLB is heading for a lockout tonight, I’d say the answer to the question posed in the headline is “No.”

You remember Yan Gomes, probably — he played in four of the games of the 2016 World Series for Cleveland, as a backup to Roberto Perez, Cleveland’s primary catcher. (Didn’t do much — three games as a defensive replacement, one as a PH, 0-for-4, two strikeouts.)

Gomes also had some good years in Cleveland, particularly 2013 and 2014, when he posted north of 4 bWAR. But he also had a pretty good 2021 split between the Nationals and Athletics, a total of 2.5 bWAR in 103 games, and a lot of that is from his defense. He’s thrown out 33 percent of baserunners trying to steal over his career, and 30.6 percent last year, so he hasn’t really slowed down in that department. He ranked 38th of 59 catchers on Statcast’s pitch framing leaderboard for 2021 — right ahead of Willson at 39th, oddly enough.

The Cubs’ backup catchers in 2021 were a black hole of awfulness apart from Robinson Chirinos, who played reasonably well in 45 games. In all, the Cubs used a team-record nine catchers this past season, and the seven backups other than Chirinos (Austin Romine, Tony Wolters, P.J. Higgins, Jose Lobaton, Erick Castillo, Tyler Payne and Taylor Gushue) combined to hit .129/.211/.159 (17-for-132) with 43 strikeouts. Cubs pitchers almost (but not quite, .112 /.138/.125, although with the same number of RBI as those seven catchers, five) did better.

That’s awful, though as noted Chirinos was better (.227/.324/.454, 5 HR in 97 AB). So I’m guessing Jed Hoyer simply wanted to improve the position. Gomes is 34 and he’s basically a backup catcher now. I would guess he’d be expected to catch around 50 games, perhaps a bit more, and this could free up Contreras’ bat to be a designated hitter, presuming we get the universal DH, which seems likely.

Contreras made $6.65 million in 2021. MLB Trade Rumors projects him at $8.7 million in arbitration, and I think that’s probably about right. Contreras had a rough, injury-filled 2021 and still posted a 108 OPS+. I still think there’s room to sign Willson to an extension, have Gomes as his backup for two years and then work Miguel Amaya (or another one of the Cubs’ catching prospects) into that backup role.

If the Cubs add to this signing by bringing Marcus Stroman on board — and I would really like to see that happen — that’s certainly a much better looking starting rotation and catching tandem than they had in 2021.

Coming up at 10:30 a.m. CT, BCB’s Sara Sanchez will have a deeper dive into the numbers for both Gomes and Contreras.

Poll

The signing of Yan Gomes...

This poll is closed

  • 52%
    ... means Willson Contreras will definitely be traded
    (757 votes)
  • 25%
    ... means Willson Contreras MIGHT be traded, but there are still too many unknowns
    (372 votes)
  • 20%
    ... means Willson Contreras will NOT be traded and the Cubs will have a really good catching tandem
    (288 votes)
  • 1%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (17 votes)
1434 votes total Vote Now