Cubs dip into free agency to sign veteran catcher
After a season that featured a revolving door at catcher, the Cubs took a major step toward stabilizing the position.
The Cubs announced an agreement with veteran catcher Yan Gomes on a two-year deal Wednesday afternoon.
Gomes, 34, has spent the last 10 seasons in the big leagues, playing for Cleveland, Washington, Oakland and Toronto. He has 882 career games under his belt with 117 homers and a .720 OPS. He also has solid bat-to-ball skills, with career-best 80.9% contact and 9.6% swinging strike rates in 2021.
The Brazilian native won the Silver Slugger Award in 2014 when he hit 21 homers and drove in 74 runs with Cleveland. He was also an All-Star in 2018.
Gomes is widely regarded as a quality defensive catcher, racking up 10.1 dWAR over his career (per Baseball Reference’s metric). He caught 19 runners attempting to steal last season, which tied for second-best in all of baseball. (Willson Contreras threw out 12 would-be basestealers.)
Gomes also has extensive postseason experience, winning a World Series ring with the Nationals in 2019 and making the playoffs five times total throughout his career.
In 2021, the Cubs utilized nine different catchers. Contreras took on the bulk of that role (116 games) but he spent some time on the IL with a knee injury and the spot behind him was in constant motion.
Robinson Chirinos (27 games), Austin Romine (21), Tony Wolters (8), P.J. Higgins (6), Jose Lobaton (5), Erick Castillo (4), Tyler Payne (1) and Taylor Gushue (1) all saw time at catcher.
At the very least, Gomes provides a true backup behind Contreras, who enters 2022 in the final year of his contract. It’s also valuable insurance in case of a Contreras injury or in the event Jed Hoyer’s front office opts to trade Contreras.
With the strong possibility that the National League will have the DH for 2022 and beyond under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Gomes’ arrival also provides manager David Ross with lineup flexibility. On days where Contreras is not catching, the Cubs could still keep his bat in the lineup at DH while also maintaining reliable production behind the plate.
That’s often how the Cubs laid out their lineup with the DH during the shortened season in 2020, as Contreras played 18 games at DH while Victor Caratini caught.
With all the injuries on the depth chart behind him, the Cubs were forced to play Contreras more often than they would have liked throughout 2021. Subsequently, they set out to make catching depth a priority this winter.
“The backup catcher is something that’s definitely important,” Ross said toward the end of the regular season. “Being able to help coach and see things from the bench in that role and being able to contribute and hold down the pitching staff to give Willson a day off is extremely important. You see how important rest is for that spot.
“…[To be] able to rest a guy the entire game and feel like you’ve got somebody that’s back there and under control of what’s going on and you don’t have to pinch-hit for that person late — that’s extremely important.”
Gomes joins Wade Miley — the 35-year-old starting pitcher claimed off waivers in November — as new veteran voices inside a clubhouse that is largely inexperienced.