Chicago Cubs: What’s in store for Victor Caratini’s 2018 season?

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CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 18: Victor Caratini #20 of the Chicago Cubs is greeted by his teammates after scoring against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning on August 18, 2017 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 18: Victor Caratini #20 of the Chicago Cubs is greeted by his teammates after scoring against the Toronto Blue Jays during the second inning on August 18, 2017 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /
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The Chicago Cubs have two options to back up Willson Contreras going into 2018. One of those being Victor Caratini, who might just be ready for the Show.

With the affinity Chicago Cubs fans have for the backup catcher role in recent years, who wouldn’t want to battle for the position? Victor Caritini will have to do just that if he hopes to find himself on the roster when the Cubs travel to Miami to take on the Marlins on Opening Day.

When the Cubs acquired Caritini in 2014, he was really just another name in the farm system that may or may not pan out in Chicago. But following a 2017 where Caritini spent time bouncing between the majors and minors, the question of whether or not he has a role moving forward needs answered.

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A rival teammate

The Cubs signed career backup catcher Chris Gimenez to a minor league deal this offseason. He played under Maddon briefly with the Tampa Bay Rays and his offensive numbers are—to be generous—not great. His 2017 batting average of .220 was his career-high in seasons where he had at least 150 plate appearances.

But what does give Gimenez a shout of hope is his familiarity with Yu Darvish. The two played together with the Texas Rangers in 2014. Gimenez was apparently helpful in recruiting Darvish.

If acquiring Gimenez was simply a means to acquiring Darvish, it would be reasonable to say that Gimenez has a roster spot reserved already.

The Cubs have carried three catchers on a roster recently

Once Wilson Contreras broke onto the big league scene in 2016, the Cubs carried three catchers. That season turned out fortuitously, so Joe Maddon may be willing to keep three at a time again.

However, Maddon has also been reluctant to allow his pitchers to throw an excessive amount of regular season innings. After aggressively having pitchers go as deep as they could in 2015, things clearly changed. Maddon followed in suit with the rest of the league and allowed bullpens to be more prevalent than before. A third catcher could cost a bullpen piece which the Cubs might not be willing to lose.

A valuable trade piece

Victor Caritini could be a part of someone’s future plan—just not the Cubs.  And if there’s a team out there that thinks Caritini could be their future starting catcher, that’s a valuable asset. But as we’ve learned all too well this offseason, perceived value doesn’t equate to market value.

And there are very few MLB teams on the cusp of competing that haven’t given up on their respective catching prospects yet. Since Caritini is already near MLB ready, a team that’s just now ready to tear it all down likely won’t have him in their cross hairs.

Still, Caritini being moved could mean another bullpen piece or perhaps a decent pitching prospect that the Cubs have far too few of.

Next: Chicago Cubs: Thinking back on potential of Ohtani-to-Cubs

Victor Caritini’s 2018 role remains unclear. He’ll spend spring training trying to earn a spot on the regular season roster, but if he fails, he may find himself moved from the organization before too long.

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