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Cubs free agent targets: Omar Narváez and Christian Vázquez

The Cubs are in the market for a catcher. Here are two guys who are free agents.

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Omar Narváez
Photo by John Fisher/Getty Images

Recently, I asked you whether you thought the Cubs should sign Tucker Barnhart as a complement to Yan Gomes behind the plate.

Results were about half-and-half on the poll in the article.

There are a couple of other free agent catchers who might fit the bill for the 2023 Cubs and, in fact, per Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma at The Athletic, the Cubs are discussing both of them:

The Cubs are expected to add a veteran catcher — names such as Christian Vázquez and Omar Narváez have been discussed internally — who will share the catching responsibilities with Yan Gomes next season.

So, let’s discuss these two.

Vázquez has been around longer than I thought. He debuted for the 2013 Red Sox, which means he was a teammate of David Ross (although he didn’t play in the postseason for Boston that year). When the deal that was reportedly almost complete for the Astros to acquire Willson Contreras fell through last summer, Houston turned to Vázquez to complement Martin Maldonado behind the plate, and they wound up winning the whole thing.

Vázquez had two really good offensive seasons for the Red Sox in 2019 and 2020, but apart from that has been essentially what you’d expect from a backup catcher. He threw out 27 percent of runners trying to steal against him this past season, about league average, and ranked 28th of 60 listed catchers on Statcast’s catcher pitch framing list for 2022.

He turned 32 in August, so there’s a caveat. The Cubs already have a catcher in his mid-30s (Gomes), so perhaps a somewhat younger guy might work.

There’s where Narváez comes in. He’s 30 (though turns 31 in February), and he ranked as one of the best pitch framers in MLB in 2022 — seventh in that 60-catcher ranking by Statcast. (Note: Of course, with the automatic ball/strike system coming soon, pitch framing is likely a thing of the past in future years — but not yet in 2023.)

After six years (2016-21) of being a reasonable, league-average hitting catcher (.351 OBP, .750 OPS), Narváez was flat-out terrible at the plate in 2022, posting just a .597 OPS. That could be accounted for by games he missed for covid (seven in June) and a quad strain (14 games missed in August). Sounds like he wasn’t 100 percent for a fair portion of the year.

Also, Narváez hits lefthanded, which would provide a complement to the righthanded-hitting Gomes (Vázquez also hits right handed).

Fangraphs says both of these catchers could be had for two years, $16 million. Vázquez might rate that, as he made $7 million in 2022, but Narváez, coming off a bad year in which he made $5 million, might be available for somewhat less.

So, what I’d do: Offer Narváez a two-year deal for $12 million with a third-year team option at $7 million with a $1 million buyout.

What say you?

Poll

For a catching complement to Yan Gomes, the Cubs should...

  • 42%
    ... sign Omar Narváez to a deal like the one proposed in the article
    (148 votes)
  • 4%
    ... sign Omar Narváez, but it will cost more than that in years or dollars or both
    (17 votes)
  • 18%
    ... sign Christian Vázquez to a deal like the one in the Fangraphs article
    (63 votes)
  • 28%
    ... sign neither of these catchers
    (100 votes)
  • 5%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (18 votes)
346 votes total Vote Now