Chicago Cubs could hand the backup catcher job to Victor Caratini in 2018
By Jake Misener
Instead of using precious financial resources this winter, the Chicago Cubs may be better suited to let Victor Caratini back up Willson Contreras.
Coming off a successful, yet ultimately disappointing season, the Chicago Cubs expect their busiest offseason under president of baseball operations Theo Epstein. And with good reason.
The team lost 40 percent of its rotation, its All-Star closer, a key reliever and two backup catchers. In short, there are some questions that need answered before they’re ready to chase another title in 2018.
One of the questions you probably care less about? Who will back up Willson Contreras behind the dish come Opening Day. As great as Contreras was last season, he’ll need a blow. And, despite what you may think, Chicago already has the answer to this question in Victor Caratini.
According to MLB.com, Caratini ranks as the team’s sixth-best prospect. He not only provides depth behind the dish, but can also slot into corner outfield slots or even back up Anthony Rizzo at first from time-to-time.
Enough pop for a backup catcher
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He hit .342 with Triple-A Iowa last season with a .951 OPS in 83 games. With the big-league club, he put up more realistic numbers, slashing .254/.333/.356 with just one home run. Even if that’s all he does offensively (which seems highly unlikely), you wouldn’t expect much more from most backup catchers.
Sure, that comes out to an 80 OPS+. But with the Cubs offense, you don’t need a world-beater backing up Contreras. You need someone to give him a needed day off and keep the ship afloat. And, at some point, you have to give a guy a chance to show he can do that.
Defense, defense, defense
Last year, in limited action, Caratini threw out two of six would-be base stealers. That puts him just below the league average mark of 28 percent. At Iowa, he threw out 27 percent of runners and compiled a .990 fielding percentage.
Again, he keeps you afloat. He does more than that, really. Caratini can handle himself behind the dish – to the point it makes little sense to bring in a veteran guy. Yes. Willson Contreras has a lot to learn still. He’s got growing up to do. But giving him a chance to mentor someone like Caratini may push him down that road a bit faster, as well.
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With the other more pressing needs facing the Chicago Cubs this offseason, this is one that, essentially, should handle itself. The money – regardless of how little – would be better spent shoring up the bullpen or adding a back-end starter. It’s time to let Victor Caratini prove himself at the big-league level.