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State of the Cubs

State of the Cubs: A simple approach to catching position entering 2024

8 months agoTony Andracki

The 2023 season is over and after narrowly missing out on the playoffs, the Cubs are staring down a pivotal winter. Before the stove starts heating up, we analyze the Cubs depth chart at each position and how Jed Hoyer’s front office might address the team’s needs.

First up: Catcher

DEPTH CHART

1. Yan Gomes
2. Miguel Amaya

ANALYSIS

2023 was a key transition year for the Cubs at the catcher position as they bid farewell to Willson Contreras and moved forward with a veteran and defensive-minded tandem in Gomes and Tucker Barnhart.

Barnhart came to Chicago with a pair of Gold Gloves in his repertoire but the Cubs parted ways with him in late August after the worst season of his career (-0.5 WAR, .202 AVG, .541 OPS).

Gomes, however, enjoyed a resurgent season at age 35, posting 1.7 WAR and notching the 2nd-most games of his career (116). He came up with a lot of big hits throughout the year and was a steadying presence on the field and in the clubhouse.

The Cubs weren’t necessarily counting on Amaya in 2023 after injuries have slowed the once-promising prospect’s career in the minors. But he was pressed into action in early May and after a brief stop in Triple-A, ended up back in the big leagues for good in early June.

“A year ago, I did not expect Amaya to be up that much during the course of the season and provide that much impact for us,” Jed Hoyer said earlier this month. “Credit to him — he’d been hurt so much — to get in great shape over the winter and frankly staying healthy.

“He was a top prospect before he had the Tommy John [surgery], the Lisfranc injury — he had serious injuries, but he’s come back from that and he’s going to be a really good major league player.”

Amaya flashed some power and on-base skills and impressed his teammates and coaches with his work behind the plate.

“Miggy’s been great behind the dish,” Dansby Swanson said over the summer. “I love the way he catches the ball.”

Amaya was often paired with Kyle Hendricks and learned a lot from the veteran right-hander. Though he didn’t receive a ton of playing time, it was a very valuable season for Amaya to soak up everything he could as the catcher of the future.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The Cubs still owe Barnhart $3.25 million for next season but they felt confident enough about the Gomes-Amaya tandem to roll with it over the final 6 weeks of 2023 and will enter 2024 in the same fashion.

“I really liked that pairing at the end of the year,” Hoyer said at his end-of-season press conference. “Yan had a phenomenal year for us behind the plate. I thought his number of big hits he got for us and big at-bats was remarkable. And then, the presence he provides with the pitchers in the clubhouse — I know that the coaching staff views him almost as a player-coach in the way that he is.

“He sees things as a veteran; he sees things because he’s really thoughtful that oftentimes players would miss and so he’s a favorite among the players. He’s a favorite on the coaching staff for a reason. And he’s been really good also working with Amaya, who I thought had a really good year.

“…So I think those two guys had a really good year and those are both guys we can bring forward.”

Amaya just concluded his rookie season and is under team control for at least a half-decade. Gomes has a $6 million team option for next season that comes with a $1 million buyout — meaning it is a $5 million decision for the Cubs that seems to be a simple call.

For depth beyond that duo, the Cubs re-acquired P.J. Higgins in the middle of the season on a minor deal and they also have 2019 draft pick Bryce Windham still in the system. Neither are on the 40-man roster and it would not be a shock to see the Cubs add some more catching depth over the winter.

BOTTOM LINE

Expect it to be a Gomes-Amaya pairing once again in 2024, though it’s possible the split could be closer to 50-50 than it was this past season. Especially down the stretch, the Cubs leaned heavily on Gomes but he is 36 and Amaya could be poised for a big year at age 25 as the catcher of the future.

This is one position group the Cubs don’t have to worry much about entering the offseason once they pick up Gomes’ option.

State of the Cubs series

Catcher
First Base
Second Base
Third Base
Shortstop
Left Field
Center Field
Right Field
Designated Hitter
Starting Rotation
Bullpen

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