The Cubs are making a sharp transition to their catcher position as Willson Contreras is preparing to sign elsewhere, while the team continues to focus on a defense-oriented backstop. We already saw the shift last offseason, when the Cubs signed Yan Gomes to a multi-year deal and now Jed Hoyer and company are showing strong interest in Christian Vázquez.
This is now the third time the Cubs have been connected to the Astros free agent catcher in the past couple weeks. However, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale is making it seem like things are getting more serious between Vázquez and the Cubs. In turn, the Astros are reportedly pursuing Contreras.
The first link between the Cubs and Vázquez came from The Athletic’s Patrick Mooney and Sahadev Sharma two weeks ago, when they reported that the front office was looking at the top of the catcher marker (besides Contreras) which also included interest in Nomar Narvaez. Jon Heyman also brought up Vázquez over the weekend, when he listed a handful of players that Cubs are considering in free agency including Michael Conforto. More on that here.
A big selling point the Cubs can present Vázquez is that they can certainly offer him plenty of playing time. The 32-year-old was traded by the Red Sox to the Astros in the summer and you would assume that he loved being on a World Series contender and eventually winning the Word Series with Houston. However, even before the postseason ended, Vázquez spoke to the Boston Globe and made it clear that where ever he was going to go next, playing time would be a priority.
Vázquez only started 24 of 58 games after he was traded to the Astros. He started 78 games for the Red Sox prior to the deal and in 2021, he started 119 games behind the plate. The Cubs currently have Gomes as their primary catcher, but he’s going to enter his age 36 season and in 2022 there were already signs of him regressing on offense and he dealt with injuries. Meanwhile, PJ Higgins couldn’t continue his hot start and Miguel Amaya is trying to overcome injuries of his own to get back into the catching picture for the Cubs.
Playing time behind the plate is more than available. Vázquez is not only a good defensive catcher, ranks high in framing, he’s also a solid hitter for a catcher at least. The transition to Houston wasn’t great, but Vázquez was having another good year at the plate for Boston in 2022. He slashed .282/.327/.432, with eight home runs in 294 at-bats. That was a great bounce back from 2021, when he had a .659 OPS, but that came after he posted an .800 OPS in 2019-20 combined.
Not only does acquiring Vázquez improve the team defensively, but the Cubs get better on offense too, especially when you consider that they’re losing Contreras’ numbers when he was starting at catcher.
At 32-years-old, I could definitely see Vázquez getting a three-year deal. Contract projections from Fangraphs and MLB Trade Rumors have the catcher getting a 2-3 year deal for about $9 million per year. Gomes is in the second year of his guaranteed contract with the Cubs, who owe him $6.5 million in 2023. The Cubs also have a team option on Gomes for 2024.
So, Christian Vázquez? I’d love it for the Cubs. Would you?
And for more offseason talk tune into to this week’s Pinwheels And Ivy Podcast.