Chicago Cubs Rumors: Willson Ramos is the answer as a backup catcher

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs are sitting in a tie for first place atop the National League Central standings with the Milwaukee Brewers, which means it’s getting close to trade/acquisition season, and the team doesn’t need to wait.

Chicago has multiple areas of need, but one that’s been a revolving door of sorts is the backup catcher spot. Wilson Ramos was recently designated for assignment by the Detroit Tigers, and he would be an instant upgrade over what the Cubs have at the position currently – if he’s healthy.

The backup catcher role has been occupied by Tony Wolters, PJ Higgins, and currently Jose Lobaton for the Cubs, although the latter has yet to appear in a game. Ramos brings veteran experience, a little bit of power, and decent defensive skills. The Cubs have done something like this in the past when they signed Jonathan Lucroy in 2019.

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One of the more attractive things about Ramos is his success against left-handers. In his career he’s slashed .300/.352/.470 for an .822 OPS. Willson Contreras also can’t play every game, and that’s been another issue for the Cubs is player burnout due to lack of depth. The team needs to jump on Ramos to not only give Contreras a reprieve, but to improve the depth as well.

So far Chicago has played 67 games, and Contreras has appeared in 60 of them. That’s a heavy workload for the most demanding position on the field. Contreras has been nagged by lingering injuries before, and it would be smart of the Cubs to get him some legitimate help behind the dish for the rest of the year. For context, Wolters started five games, and Higgins has also started just five games. That’s only ten games Contreras has had a rest from catching nine innings a night.

Chicago Cubs: Despite 2021, there is historical success from Wilson Ramos

Without Ramos, there aren’t many other good backup catcher options available, or at least of his caliber. He made his debut with the Twins, and he’s spent time with the Nationals, Rays, Phillies, Mets, and most recently the Tigers. He has a .271/.319/.432 career slash line with 134 home runs and a 102 wRC+. That’s more than sufficient for a backup catcher, and certainly a better option than what the Cubs have run out there previously.

Let’s face it, if a backup catcher isn’t even going to come in as a defensive replacement (Lobaton) then what’s the point of them even being on the roster in the first place? Ramos is throwing out 27 percent of attempted base stealers over his career. In 2021, it’s at 19 percent. Contreras, on the other hand, has thrown out 31 percent of runners in his career, and 24 percent in 2021.

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There is value in Ramos, and the Chicago Cubs should bring him aboard. It’s not often teams can have Willson and Wilson at catcher, and that alone is reason enough.