Cubs: Christian Vazquez makes perfect sense as a catching target
By Jake Misener
With the Chicago Cubs clearing going in a different direction behind the plate moving forward, one focused more on game-calling and defense rather than the offense-first mindset we’ve seen in years past, it would be no surprise if someone like Christian Vazquez were on the team’s wish list this offseason.
If you’re unfamiliar with Vazquez, I wouldn’t necessarily blame you. Prior to getting traded to Houston this summer, he’d spent his entire career with the Red Sox. That means he’s played against the Cubs just five times total over the years, so it’s unlikely you saw him in a matchup against Chicago and, even if you did, it would be easy to forget.
The good news is, with the Cubs on the hunt for someone to pair up with Yan Gomes behind the plate in 2023, you’ll get a nice chance to see Vazquez, with his Astros taking on the Phillies this weekend as the World Series kicks off on Friday. Now, make no mistake: Martin Maldonado is still the guy for Houston, but Vazquez will likely get some work behind the dish, as well.
Cubs: Christian Vazquez wants to play regularly with his next team
Vazquez was the go-to guy in Boston for years, so the adjustment to playing second fiddle behind Maldonado has been a rough transition for the 32-year-old backstop. He’s not looking to be the backup guy like he’s been in Houston and, in Chicago, where Gomes turns 36 next summer, odds are he’d get the majority of reps in 2023.
"“[Playing less often] was hard and it’s still hard,” Vazquez told the Boston Globe recently. “But I’ll be a free agent after the postseason and I can choose where I want to go. Everybody knows that.”"
This year, Vazquez ranked in the 72nd percentile in terms of pop time to second base and in the 57th in framing. Obviously, that would be a marked improvement over Chicago’s outgoing catcher Willson Contreras, who was a touch better in pop time (79th percentile), but checked in at the 27th percentile in framing and -3.5 in Fangraphs’ FRM statistic.
The Cubs are very clearly hell-bent on building a homegrown pitching staff to anchor sustainable, long-term success. Knowing as much makes a play for someone like Vazquez make perfect sense. Jed Hoyer is planning on getting his offense elsewhere, while doing what he can to boost the team’s receivers behind the plate which should, at least in theory, help pitchers succeed and keep some runs off the board next season.