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Cubs roster move: Tony Wolters signed as backup catcher, James Norwood DFA

The Cubs are going with a veteran to back up Willson Contreras.

Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

Austin Romine was signed to be the Cubs’ backup catcher this season. Romine hits pretty well, and his defense was at least as good as the traded Victor Caratini.

Unfortunately, Romine is dealing with a knee injury and hasn’t played since March 6. There had been some talk that longtime organizational catcher P.J. Higgins, who has played only 36 games above Double-A, would be promoted to back up Willson Contreras.

But Wednesday afternoon, the Cubs decided to go with a veteran, signing Tony Wolters to a one-year major-league contract, per a press release from the team. To make room on the 40-man roster for Wolters, righthanded pitcher James Norwood has been designated for assignment.

Wolters, who turns 29 in June (only a year older than Higgins), has played five big-league seasons, all for the Rockies. He was non-tendered by Colorado last December and was in Pirates camp as a non-roster invitee, but opted out earlier this week.

In 391 MLB games covering 1,232 plate appearances, Wolters has hit .238/.323/.319. He’s got good on-base skills (as shown by the career OBP) but not much power (only seven career homers despite having Coors Field as his home park). He’s excellent at throwing out baserunners, a career 31 percent caught-stealing percentage, but is in the bottom third of pitch framers, per Statcast.

With the Cubs having four off days in the season’s first three weeks, Wolters won’t need to be used much. He hits lefthanded, which is always a bonus for a catcher.

As for Norwood, he can throw 97+ on a consistent basis, but with not much movement on his fastball. He’s had 23 MLB relief appearances for the Cubs over the last three seasons with a 4.50 ERA and 1.864 WHIP. The Cubs would probably like to keep him for depth at Triple-A Iowa, so will be hoping that he clears waivers.

As always, we await further developments.


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