State of the Cubs: Where roster stands at catcher in 2022 and beyond
With the lockout over and Spring Training kicking into gear, the focus shifts to the Cubs’ roster. Jed Hoyer, Carter Hawkins and the rest of the front office still have some holes to fill before the first regular season game on April 7.
We break down the organizational depth chart at each position post-lockout and what to expect in 2022 and beyond.
First up: Catcher
1. Willson Contreras
2. Yan Gomes
3. P.J. Higgins
4. John Hicks
5. Miguel Amaya
To say Contreras was the workhorse for the Cubs in 2021 might be a bit of an understatement.
The team cycled through nine different catchers last season as injuries hit the position group hard. Contreras was without a steady backup until Robinson Chirinos joined the team in early July.
Contreras started 82.1% of the Cubs’ games through July 31 and appeared off the bench in 7 more contests throughout that stretch. Of the team’s 106 games through the end of July, Contreras only missed 12 of those.
That’s a huge workload for a catcher with all the wear and tear the position takes.
In an effort to remedy the situation, the Cubs signed the veteran Gomes to a 2-year deal in December just before the lockout. The Cubs also hold a team option on Gomes for 2024.
The 34-year-old backstop has 10 years and nearly 900 MLB games under his belt. He has spent much of that time as his team’s primary catcher, including 2019 with the World Champion Washington Nationals.
Gomes has a career .720 OPS, made the American League All-Star team in 2018 and won a Silver Slugger in 2014.
With the DH set to come to the National League this season, the Cubs could opt to slot Contreras in that spot occasionally and have Gomes suit up behind the plate. That keeps Contreras’ bat in the lineup while giving him a partial day off and the Cubs pitching staff would still have a veteran receiver in Gomes.
If the Cubs need depth beyond Contreras or Gomes, Higgins could be the next man up. The 28-year-old has turned heads in the organization as he climbed through the farm system over the past few years and got his first chance in the big leagues last year before a forearm/elbow injury shut him down.
The Cubs also signed Hicks to a minor-league deal in February as valuable insurance. Hicks has played 264 MLB games with the Mariners, Tigers and Rangers over the last few seasons.
Contreras is entering the final year of his deal and will become a free agent after 2022. His future will be one of the biggest question marks surrounding the team this season.
Amaya has been one of the Cubs’ top prospects for the last couple years and spent 2021 in Double-A. But he only appeared in 23 games due to injury and ultimately had Tommy John surgery in late November. It’s unknown how much he’ll even be able to catch in 2022.
If the Cubs are able to work out an extension with Contreras, that obviously settles the position for years. If not, Gomes could serve as the starter or a bridge to Amaya in 2023.
Contreras is still in the prime of his career (he turns 30 in May) and is in the conversation as one of the best all-around catchers in the game today. Gomes’ addition provides depth and the Cubs hope much-needed stability.