CHICAGO -- The trade that sent Yu Darvish to the Padres last month not only removed an ace arm from the top of the Cubs' rotation, but it was also a package deal that included his personal catcher.
By including Victor Caratini in the trade, Chicago created a vacancy behind All-Star starting catcher Willson Contreras. The Cubs have addressed their No. 2 catching role with a one-year contract with free agent Austin Romine, the club announced Saturday. The deal is for $1.5 million, sources told MLB.com.
While Contreras -- under contractual control through 2022 -- has found himself in trade rumors this offseason, he remains a crucial piece of Chicago's core. The Cubs also have a highly touted prospect in Miguel Amaya (No. 8 catching prospect in baseball, per MLB Pipeline's latest list), but president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer noted that Amaya still has development to go.
"We have one of the top handful of catchers in baseball on our roster," Hoyer said of Contreras last month. "So I feel great about our catching. Amaya, I don't see him as an option, certainly to start the season."
That is where Romine comes in.
Last year with the Tigers, the 32-year-old Romine hit .238/.259/.323 with two homers and 17 RBIs in 37 games. It is worth noting that Romine was hitting .291 (.726 OPS) through August, but a foul ball to his right knee led to some lingering issues. In his final 15 games in September, Romine hit .157 (8-for-51) with a .362 OPS.
Romine hit .281/.310/.439 in 72 games in 2019 with the Yankees, and he turned in a .262/.302/.428 slash with a 95 OPS+ in 149 games across '18-19 in New York. For his career, Romine has hit .239 with a .639 OPS in parts of nine years with the Yanks and Tigers.
Defensively, Romine had minus-4 defensive runs saved and minus-3.1 framing runs in 2020. That followed a subpar showing in '19 (minus-1 DRS and minus-0.9 FRM) and an above-average performance in '18 (five DRS and 4.8 FRM). Romine has stopped would-be basestealers at a 23 percent clip for his career.