The Chicago Cubs’ backup catcher Victor Caratini is more valuable on this team than as a trade chip.
As the Chicago Cubs head into the offseason, a lot of the talk has been about who is staying and who is leaving the team. Most notably, Kris Bryant feels likely to leave by next year’s deadline at the latest, and it feels like much of the World Series core will leave at some point between now and the next offseason.
Yet, there’s the curious case of Victor Caratini and what his fate could be in the offseason. He had a fairly awful season at the plate where his OPS+ was at 80, which is down 25 points from last year. For what it’s worth, though, he hit .292/.433/.458 against lefties in 30 plate appearances, but that’s a tiny sample size in a small sample season. Furthermore, his expected numbers showed that he was about as bad as he should have been, and he was getting the barrel on the ball at the worst rate of his career, tied with 2018 at 3.5%.
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He does have his value for the Cubs, though. He’s acted as Yu Darvish’s personal catcher for this season while playing backup to fellow backstop Willson Contreras. Caratini also has an extra two years of control over Contreras, and it remains to be seen what he could do if he acted as the team’s main catcher. For that reason, I feel as if he is a lock to stay with the team for another year, at least.
Contreras could have a lot of trade value this coming offseason as the catching market lacks major free agency standouts outside of J.T. Realmuto. It’s possible that he’s traded to help fill some of the team’s many other holes, leaving Caratini to take over the starting job. It would give Caratini a chance to blossom and, should he continue to struggle over the next few years, the organization has solid catching depth behind him.
Even if Contreras isn’t traded (and hopefully he won’t be), Caratini hasn’t exactly built a ton of value on the trade market yet. Between the years of control he has left, his relationship with Darvish, and the potential he’s shown, Caratini is more valuable in a Cubs uniform than anywhere else. He still has room to grow, and as a switch-hitting catcher with positional versatility, he has a spot despite his struggles.
It’s hard to see a world in which Caratini departs the Cubs without ever hitting his stride. If 2019 was any indication, he clearly has the potential to develop as a solid offensive player for the team and one that can flex into several different roles. Right now, I doubt they would get a return for him that could beat the value he provides for the Cubs specifically.