Chicago Cubs: Catcher David Ross will return to team in 2016


Ross will return for final year of his contract, not retiring

The Chicago Cubs elder statesman David Ross announced he would be returning to play in 2016 in an interview with Nick Carfado of the Boston Globe. You could hear the collective groan from Cubs Nation. Ross isn’t doing anything he was unexpected to do, though, although retirement had been discussed. No, he’s simply playing out the second year of the two-year, five million dollar deal he inked last December. So what does this mean for the Cubs?

Miguel Montero will slot in as the Cubs projected starter again, with Ross to be the primary backup. How about Kyle Schwarber? Well, after fast-tracking himself to the majors with his bat his catching progression was put on hold. Now after some sloppy fielding in the NLCS the trade rumors have begun to swirl that he’s nothing more than DH with no ability to play in the field.

This will be the time for Ross to show his worth to the Cubs. This offseason, the veteran backstop needs to put in as much time with Schwarber as he possibly can. The Cubs saw enough progression from to continue the work behind the plate–until he was called up to Chicago and never stop hitting. He’s not the best behind the plate yet, but he definitely wasn’t an outfielder–and especially not a major league outfielder. He, as well as Montero, need to work with Schwarber as much as possible and into the spring.

These are two veteran players that could have a place in coaching after their playing days (especially Ross). Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Joe Maddon need to let these two  guys grind through the winter with Schwarber, and when it’s time ask the simple question. Is he capable of being a major league catcher? Who better to tell them than two career catcher’s with 24 years of experience?

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Ross slashed just .176/.267/.252 in 182 plate appearances. Most of those with Jon Lester on the mound, another handful filling in for Montero when he was injured. While he was never labeled as Lester’s personal catcher, it’s clear that was his role. His familiarity with Lester and his issues holding runners may have been a big reason for that. His ability to throw out baserunners is right around the league average, so not a huge asset.

Many often complain that when he and Lester are together in the lineup (read, ALWAYS), it’s two sure outs. My question is, when did we start expecting the bottom of the order–normally the eight and nine guys, except with Maddon–to be the big run producers? Baseball has changed over the years, but I’m pretty sure we’re still expecting–and paying the guys at the top–to drive in runs.

His clubhouse presence is the main “compliment” you’ll hear. The players love him. Fans don’t see the point of having a player that can’t bat his weight in the clubhouse. Why not retire and just be a coach? Fact is, I can’t answer that. I’m not in the clubhouse, and neither are the fans. Cubs’ skipper Joe Maddon likes him and so do the players, and that’s enough for me.

Next: What position should Schwarber play in '16?