Chicago Cubs add more catching depth in minor league move

(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
(Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images) /

There was no major surprise at the Chicago Cubs fan Convention Friday night involving Nicholas Castellanos, but the team made a few minor moves including adding some veteran catcher depth.

No, he did not get a chance to walk on stage at Cubs Convention, but veteran catcher Josh Phegley did agree to a minor league deal with the Chicago Cubs. The deal was reported by Chicago Tribune Cubs beat Mark Gonzales. This was announced shortly before the opening convention ceremonies.

Phegley is a familiar name among White Sox supporters in Chicago when he was their team’s 38th overall pick out of Indiana University in the 2009 draft. He played his first two pro seasons with the Sox before being involved in a trade with Oakland that brought former Cub Jeff Samardzija back to Chicago. Phegley would spend the next five seasons with the Athletics.

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Phegley, 31, will turn 32 in about a month and is coming off a season which he played in a career-high 106 games. In 2019 he slashed .239/.282/.411 with 12 homers, 44 RBI, 82 wRC+,.693 OPS and 0.3 fWAR. He was non-tendered by the A’s after the season ended.

What can be expected from a guy like Phegley?

This is obviously not a move that will overly excite people, but it is an okay move considering the kind of role he can play. On the MLB roster barring injury the two catchers to start the regular season will 99.9 percent likely be Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini. With the departure of Taylor Davis and prospect Miguel Amaya still very young, Phegley becomes an option to serve as that third catcher role that can come up if needed.

Phegley is no Babe Ruth at the plate with a career .227/.269/.383 slash in 376 games, but his MLB experience is nice to have if he needs to fill in for a few games behind the plate. Davis is a very good AAA ballplayer but it has not translated much to the Bigs and only got a chance to play in 20 MLB games despite being in the organization since 2011. Phegley is simply a more reliable third guy.

Behind the plate he has caught 2,812 innings and sports a career .993 fielding percentage and 33% caught stealing. Last year he had a career-worst -14 DRS but normally he has been decently reliable behind the plate. Not great, but not horrible. Hopefully if he does get some playing time with the Cubs he improves from last season.

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Prior to 2019, Phegley averaged 45 games a season in his first seven years and it is not expected of him to play 100+ games but simply be available depth.