Catching surplus could fuel Cubs deal
August, 2, 2011
By Bruce Levine | ESPNChicago.com
Jerry Lai/US PresswireGeovany Soto has not lived up to the standard he set as a rookie of the year winner.The Chicago Cubs can now make waiver deals with the conventional trading deadline having passed.
It seems that the Cubs have traded out of weakness in some areas over the past five or six years and have overpaid to get good players like Juan Pierre and Matt Garza.
Knowing the team is not in a pennant race and does not have to make trades would seem to make this the perfect time for Cubs GM Jim Hendry to get younger and better in some key positions.
They need to fortify their pitching on both the major and minor league levels. The one strength they can trade from is their catching corps.
The Cubs have two solid veteran catchers in Geovany Soto and Koyie Hill, with young catchers Wellington Castillo and Steve Clevenger coming on strong in the minor leagues.
Soto, 28, is still a young catcher himself and he alone could bring you two top pitching prospects. After Soto's breakout season in 2008 when he won the National league rookie of he Year award, he averaged 14 homers and 50 RBIs in 2009-10. His 2011 numbers of nine homers and 29 RBIs have him on a similar pace this season.
For a catcher, these are not bad numbers, however they pale in comparison to his 2008 season with 23 homers and 86 RBIs.
Soto has thrown out 28 of 81 (28.4 percent) runners attempting to steal. That's not a horrible number for a catcher, however when you consider he's working with two younger middle infielders still finding their way covering second base on steals.
Hill's a solid pro who never will be more than a .220 hitter, but he could help out any of the contenders looking for a great defensive catcher who calls a solid game behind the plate.
Castillo has 15 homers and 35 RBIs while hitting .315 at Triple-A Iowa. He has a .301 lifetime average in the minors.
Some people question Castillo's catching ability. He caught just four games last season in the majors and was second-guessed for calling for a Justin Berg slider that ended up being a game-ending home run off the bat of San Francisco's Pat Burrell last August. He didn't catch another game for three weeks.
Both Castillo and Clevenger have strong throwing arms.
Clevenger in 17 games at Iowa is hitting .410. He hit .278 at Double-A before his callup. The 25-year-old receiver has a .305 lifetime batting average.
Some baseball people do caution teams when they consider trading starting catchers. Last November the Dodgers non-tendered catcher Russell Martin after a couple down seasons offensively. Martin also had a nasty hip injury he was recovering from. The Yankees signed Martin to a free-agent contact and he was their hottest hitter in April and May before his average dropped significantly the last two months. His 10 home runs and 40 RBIs in 82 games are excellent power numbers from the catching position.
The Pirates, Giants and Braves need catching help and it's known that at least the Pirates contacted the Cubs at one point about Soto.