WIth a rumored budget crunch and a need for a quality backup catcher, the Chicago Cubs should turn to longtime veteran backstop A.J. Ellis.
There’s no question that the 163 game season took a toll on Chicago Cubs catcher Willson Contreras in 2018. We saw an All-Star first half turn into a season filled with career-lows in average, home runs, and RBI’s. With no established backup in Chicago, Contreras was out there in what seemed to be every game, giving his all like he always does.
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In 2019, he needs a solid backup option. Preferably a veteran in the final years of his career who can come in and give the young up-and-comer some much-needed rest, while still giving the Cubs productivity at the position. In an offseason with little money to spend, 37-year-old veteran A.J. Ellis could be just what the club is looking for.
A perfect fit for the Cubs?
At 37, Ellis has been the class of the catching position. He’s spent 11 years in the league, eight with the Dodgers, and one season with the Phillies, Marlins, and Padres. He currently ranks first among active catchers in fielding percentage at 99.7 percent, which would fit the Cubs (or any team with those numbers) defensively sound ball club perfectly. He has a career batting average of .237 and averages 11 home runs and 55 RBI per season. For a backup role, these numbers seem like the perfect compliment to what Contreras brings to the table.
Ellis has postseason experience too, and he has thrived in October, which would be huge for a team who seems to become ice cold when the playoffs hit. In four playoff series, Ellis is 19-for-52 (.365) with two home runs and five RBI. Sometimes the unlikely heroes step up in October, like David Ross in Game 7 going deep off Andrew Miller. Having a veteran in the clubhouse who has shown he can get it done in crunch time could pay some huge dividends for this team.
The real difference maker in all of this
Out of all the numbers, this next one is the most important. In his last four years, he has played an average of 61 games per season, which could fit the backup role perfectly. The Cubs would be getting a guy who isn’t looking for a ton of playing time but could come in and be productive in the games he does play.
His veteran presence could be something like a David Ross, who may not be an everyday player, but takes on a leadership role on this team, something Contreras could really benefit from as he continues to develop in his still-young career.
A.J. Ellis is a viable option for this team and someone the Chicago Cubs really should consider. In 2016, he had a salary of $4.5 million. As we hit 2019 and Ellis turns 38, the Cubs could sign him for much cheaper than that and fill a huge need behind the plate. There are so many positives in signing a player like Ellis, so let’s hope Theo entertains the idea.