Chicago Cubs: Backup catcher roulette continues with Robinson Chirinos

(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)
(Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs had a less than ideal month of June. After a successful May, the club went into a tailspin that continues to this day, losers of their last 10 games. This marks the longest losing streak to plague the North Siders since their 12-game losing streak back in 2012 – the height of the rebuild. During this span, they fell from being tied for first place in the National League Central to being in third, sitting and 8 1/2 games out of first entering play Tuesday.

Many contributing factors have gone into the team’s free fall. Their starting pitching woes have been more than evident all season, and the offense has been desolate, just to name a couple of the issues facing the team. Another factor that is talked about less but has contributed to the Cubs’ lack of success is their lack of a semi-decent backup catcher.

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After letting their former backup catcher Victor Caratini go along with Yu Darvish to the San Diego Padres, the Cubs scrambled to find a replacement. Going into this season, the Cubs signed Austin Romine to fill this backstop role. However, when he fell victim to injury, the Cubs also went through Tony Wolters, P. J.  Higgins, Jose Lobaton and Taylor Gushue in less than the first half of the season.

Like Romine, Higgins and Lobaton also faced injuries. Wolters is currently with the Triple-A Iowa Cubs, and nothing has indicated a return to the bigs. Keeping this in mind and looking at Taylor Gushue, the Chicago Cubs really needed a backup catcher.

That is where Robinson Chirinos comes in. On Monday, the Yankees released Chirinos, who was playing in their minor league system. Then, the Cubs swooped in and signed the veteran and designated Taylor Gushue for assignment in a corresponding move.

Chicago Cubs sign their sixth backup catcher this season in Robinson Chirinos

By signing Chirinos to a major-league deal, the longtime backstop will be reuniting with the Cubs. The 37-year old was previously a Cubs prospect signed out of Venezuela in 2000 at age 16. After being traded to Tampa Bay, he made his big league debut in 2011 with the Rays. Then, he spent six years, the majority of his career, with the Texas Rangers. In 2019, he briefly played with the Houston Astros and the New York Mets. Notably, he was a key piece for both Texas-based clubs.

But, come 2020, Chirinos looked to have lost a step. While he raked with the Yankees at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes Barre, he struck out a ton and ended up being released. Like I said, Chirinos is 37 years old, and there is no guarantee he will be anywhere near the backstop he was in the past. Yet, compared to the merry-go-round of second-string backstops the Cubs have had this season, he seems like an option that is worthy of a chance, if nothing else.

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The question remains: did this move come too late for it being able to make a difference this season? While a backup catcher isn’t the most significant piece of the puzzle, it will be good for Contreras to get more rest here and there, and that could potentially impact his performance in the second half. Only time will tell, but hopefully, Chirinos comes to be a pleasant surprise and can be one of the few bright spots the Chicago Cubs currently have.