Chicago Cubs: Jose Lobaton signing doesn’t fit at all

Chicago Cubs/Jose Lobaton (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
Chicago Cubs/Jose Lobaton (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images) /

MLB teams are well into summer camps and are making their final touches to their respective 60-man player pools. The Chicago Cubs added a player this week that doesn’t fit.

Jose Lobaton has been a journeyman catcher in the Major Leagues, serving as a backup catcher for the San Diego Padres, the Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals, and New York Mets. In 2019, he jumped between the Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Dodgers minor league systems. Lobaton is not much of a hitter, like most backup catchers, slashing .215/.293/.319 over his career.

He signed with the Cubs on Wednesday, and it is unknown whether he will report to summer camp or the Cubs’ alternate training site in South Bend.

The Cubs already have a full roster full of catchers, with Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini serving as the main backstops, and Josh Phegley also in the mix. Top prospect Miguel Amaya is in the 60-player pool, but there is no way he catches anybody in 2020, barring a severe emergency. If Amaya is catching at the big league level this season, the Cubs have big problems.

What makes the signing odd is the Cubs’ depth not only at catcher but even just around the diamond. He has never played anywhere else besides catcher, and there are already three plausible options back there. Could Lobaton fill in at first base for Anthony Rizzo with his lingering back injury? Perhaps, but there are better internal options for that.

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Contreras is a prime candidate to fill in at first after Caratini’s mini-breakout in 2019 and Phegley being an experienced MLB catcher. Kris Bryant has played first base, Ian Happ, too. Is Lobaton just insurance and a spot on the 60-man roster for the season? It’s possible.

The free-agent options leading up to the season are not the best, so teams have to pick their options, and Lobaton accepted. At the very least, Lobaton has the veteran experience to help some younger guys, especially during a season like this. All of the Cubs are veteran players at this point, but more experience never hurts.

Manager David Ross and Lobaton have a lot of similarities. They were both backup catchers who played for multiple teams, they both played on a majority of winning teams, and both were very good defensively. Could this be the start of a transition into a coaching career for Lobaton? Who knows, but Ross is a great guy to help him if he chooses that role.

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Lobaton will have a hard time carving out a role with the Cubs depth, and who knows what that role would even be. Backup catchers don’t get a lot of playing time to begin with, and it will be even less in a 60-game season.