On Thursday, the Chicago Cubs reportedly agreed to a contract with catcher Dioner Navarro, much to the chagrin of fans everywhere. It’s a puzzling signing, on a couple of different levels. Especially with the availability of a better catcher on the trade market.
I understand the reasoning behind signing Navarro. Welington Castillo is likely the unquestioned starter for the Cubs behind the dish heading into 2013. And Steve Clevenger will likely head back to the minor leagues, meaning the Cubs need a backup backstop. That doesn’t mean I like the signing.
If this was a deal where Navarro ends up in the minor leagues, then it’s a good signing. He can come up in an emergency situation, or to replace someone because of injury. However, given the Cubs’ limited depth behind the plate, he’s going to be the backup catcher for 2013. Unless the Cubs take a look at Jarrod Saltalamacchia, like they already should have.
The Boston Red Sox catcher has had his name float out there a couple of times so far in the offseason. With the club signing David Ross, already having Ryan Lavarnway, and potentially looking at Mike Napoli, Saltalamacchia could be expendable. If he is, in fact, available, the Chicago Cubs need to move in.
Salty is nowhere near the can’t-miss prospect that everyone thought he was when he came up through the Texas Rangers organization. But he’s still a capable backstop, and could actually start on quite a few teams. For the Cubs, he’d be useful in competition with Castillo.
One drawback for Saltalamacchia is his consistency at the plate. He hit just .222 last season and he strikes out a ton. However, he did hit 25 home runs for the Red Sox this season, so his bat could be a nice spark in the lineup, whether it’s as a starter or a backup. Saltalamacchia is still only 27.
He’s a far cry from where people that he would be, which was an All Star catcher, but he’s still a solid guy to have around. He made $2.5 million in arbitration last year, and his power numbers could help him to a slight increase from that. A combination of Welington Castillo and Jarrod Saltalamacchia at the plate would actually be a pretty good pairing.
In the event that Castillo wins the starting job and struggles mightily, the Cubs would have a guy like Salty to step in, rather than Dioner Navarro. If you’re not already convinced that looking into the availability of Saltalamacchia would be the right move for the Cubs, just imagine a battery of Jeff Samardzija and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.