Gimenez downplays role as lure for Darvish
Catcher lobbied Maddon for reunion during '16 WS, seeking opportunity to win job with Cubs
CHICAGO -- The last time catcher Chris Gimenez talked to free-agent pitcher Yu Darvish, the two playfully imagined being teammates on the Cubs.
"He was joking with me the other day about it," Gimenez said. "I said, 'I'll call Theo right now. What do you want me to tell him?' [Darvish] said, 'More years and more money.' I started laughing and said, 'All right, Bryce Harper.'"
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein most likely knows what Darvish wants -- and will find out Harper's demands next offseason when he becomes a free agent. One thing Gimenez wants to clarify is that the Cubs didn't sign him to a Minor League deal to lure Darvish. The catcher had actually talked to manager Joe Maddon about a possible reunion at the 2016 World Series.
• Rogers: Gimenez deal indicates Cubs serious about Yu
"The whole Darvish thing is getting completely blown out of proportion, which is why I feel like I need to make a joke out of it myself," Gimenez said Sunday night. "I have nothing to do with wherever he decides to go. I have been in contact with him quite a bit, and I may be trying to persuade him to come to us.
"But at the same time, I told him, 'You need to go to the best place for you,'" Gimenez said. "[I said] 'I didn't sign here because I thought you were going to sign there.' I find it funny that everybody says it's a precursor. Hey, maybe it is -- maybe he does want to come [to the Cubs] and is just making everybody sweat it out to the 11th hour. If that's the case, it's completely on him and has nothing to do with me."
Gimenez, 35, and Darvish were Rangers teammates in 2014-15, and in '14, Gimenez caught the right-hander 12 times. The Cubs are in need of another catcher, not bait. Willson Contreras is the Cubs' regular and Victor Caratini, who made his Major League debut last year, is the only backup on the roster.
Gimenez started lobbying with Maddon during the 2016 World Series. Gimenez was playing for the Indians at that time.
"I've always been a big fan of [Maddon's], and he's always followed my career since Tampa," said Gimenez, who played for the Rays in 2012-13. "I think it just kind of worked out where [the Cubs] might have a little bit of a need at that position and I was available. I called Joe this offseason and I told him, 'Hey, the Cubs are on my list.' He told us to go ahead and get in contact with [general manager Jed Hoyer] and Theo. I felt it was a really good match. If I couldn't go back to Minnesota, I definitely wanted to try to come [to the Cubs]."
Gimenez, who played for the Twins last season, his ninth in the big leagues, isn't looking for some place to live in Chicago yet.
"I told Theo when I talked to them, I'm not asking for any guarantees," Gimenez said. "I just want an opportunity to win a job. I'm not at a point in my career where I'm at Victor's age. I'm a little older. My numbers might not be flashy, but I feel there are a few things I do very well, and I think that's something they noticed."
Gimenez has used humor to deal with the Darvish connection. In an interview last week on MLB Network Radio, Gimenez said that if Darvish did sign with the Cubs, they'd probably install a statue of the catcher outside Wrigley Field. He's seen a boost in Twitter followers since signing earlier this month.
"I try to have fun with it," Gimenez said of social media. "It's part of our jobs as players. I know a lot of our guys might not agree with me on this but in my opinion, if you're going to have responsibility to have Twitter, you need to be responsible with it. If somebody's on there and not saying nice things, it would be easy to snap at them but that's not being a good role model, a good leader or good example for my kids. Thankfully, I have that going for me."
Gimenez also caught free-agent pitcher Alex Cobb when he was in Tampa Bay. He has a scouting report on the right-hander, too.
"[Cobb] knows how to pitch, he's got great stuff and he's got moxie -- that's the thing I like about him," Gimenez said. "He's a bulldog, he's not afraid of anybody. He can pitch himself out of a situation if he gets in one."
Either Darvish or Cobb would fit well in the Cubs' rotation. The Cubs' first workout for pitchers and catchers will be Feb. 14 in Mesa, Ariz. Gimenez is ready. He's been hitting and catching bullpens at the University of Nevada in Reno, where he lives.
As for Darvish, Gimenez will wait and see like everyone else.
"I hope he does sign with us," Gimenez said. "He's mysterious. I don't know what he's going to do."