Cubs can't stop raving about their new catching tandem
After a long, drawn out end to the Willson Contreras era, the Chicago Cubs have a new approach to the catcher position. Instead of handing a lengthy, high-dollar extension to a bat-first presence like Contreras, Chicago is set with co-starters in veterans Yan Gomes and Tucker Barnhart.
They might not make the sexiest solution on paper and they certainly lack the heart on your sleeve passion Contreras endeared himself to Cubs fans with. But what they are already bringing, even early on in Cactus League play, is a calm consistency behind the plate.
"They just have so much experience for a long time but catching good pitchers, winning teams, winning environments and they do all the little things that you would want guys to be able to do. The communication, the way they go about their business, the prep they do — even before bullpens. It’s impressive. "- Tommy Hottovy, via Marquee
In their reload this offseason, Jed Hoyer and Carter Hawkins placed a high level of focus on defense. That's evident not only in the addition of Barnhart, a two-time Gold Glover, but in the signings of Eric Hosmer, Dansby Swanson and Cody Bellinger - all of whom also have Gold Gloves in their trophy cases. A potential Cubs Opening Day lineup could features as many as six Gold Glovers this year.
Cubs hoping Tucker Barnhart, Yan Gomes help elevate young arms
Barnhart is looking for a bounceback after a disastrous year in Detroit, in which he mustered just a .554 OPS while grading out as subpar by most major metrics defensively. He's never been a juggernaut offensively, but last year was, by far, the worst showing of his 9-year big league career.
As for Gomes, he returns to the North Side on the second year of the contract he signed prior to the 2022 campaign. He played in 86 games for the Cubs and was largely used as a way to keep Contreras fresh. There's no doubt the team will be looking for even more from him in 2023.
"It’s because the way they see the game, the way they view pitching in general — it’s very similar to how Rossy views pitching and how I view pitching and organizationally how we would like to go about doing things. When you have people on the same page, it’s easy. "- Tommy Hottovy, via Marquee
A lot of things will have to break the Cubs' way if they want to sneak into an already-loaded National League postseason field. With young pitching poised to play a key role, having two experienced game-callers behind the plate could be one of the biggest difference-makers for the team this year.