How important is the need to acquire a veteran backup catcher before the Trade Deadline? Both Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and manager Joe Maddon have described Willson Contreras as a "young veteran," having just won a World Series -- but do you think they'll make a move?
How important is the need to acquire a veteran backup catcher before the Trade Deadline? Both Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and manager Joe Maddon have described Willson Contreras as a "young veteran," having just won a World Series -- but do you think they'll make a move? Alex Avila seems to be the only name I'm hearing.
-- Evan J., Libertyville, Ill.
The Cubs could make a move, but it would be to acquire a more experienced catcher as a backup and not to replace Contreras. Both Epstein and Maddon have praised rookie Victor Caratini, who was promoted when Miguel Montero was designated for assignment, and the only thing he's lacking is experience. Contreras is the No. 1 catcher, and he's thrived in the cleanup spot, batting .333 there. He's also 9-for-22 (.409) with two homers, three doubles and seven RBIs since the All-Star break.
When asked if he was comfortable with having two young catchers on the roster, Maddon's response was: "If they're good, I'm OK with it."
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Avila, 30, is the only name I've heard in rumors, and MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported the Tigers and Cubs are "staying in contact" regarding a potential trade. Avila is making $2 million this season, and he was batting .286/.413/.508 in 69 games entering Thursday.
I know Maddon loves to have a speed guy to steal a base when the rosters expand. We have John Andreoli at Triple-A Iowa, and that's about it. Do you think we might target a speed guy at the Trade Deadline?
-- Tony S., Des Moines, Iowa
If a player is a smart baserunner, he doesn't necessarily have to be fast. I don't think a speedster is on the Cubs' wish list.
Maddon used defensive shifts a lot with Tampa Bay but doesn't do it as much with the Cubs. How does he explain the fact that the Cubs shift less than the MLB average?
-- Jason T., Herscher, Ill.
I talked to a couple of the Cubs' coaches about this. The Cubs rely heavily on the data compiled by the crew Maddon refers to as the "geeks." They take into account their pitcher and his tendencies, which will often influence who is starting in the infield that day. There's plenty of positioning and realigning going on throughout the game -- it just isn't the extreme shifting that some teams employ.
The Cubs may be below the MLB average this year in terms of defensive shifts, but last year, they were close to the average and seemed to do pretty well.
I understand and reluctantly accept that Kyle Schwarber, who is batting .143 since the All-Star break, is going to start every game against right-handed pitching. But why must the worst hitter in the Major Leagues continue to bat fifth for the defending World Series champs?
-- Jeff P., West Des Moines, Iowa
If Schwarber is batting eighth, teams won't pitch to him. Maddon likes having a left-right-left-right mix in the lineup, which also affects where Schwarber is inserted. His at-bats have been better. Be patient.
Any news on Brett Anderson? I feel like after his start to the season, his numbers in the Minors and the Jose Quintana deal, it's not looking too bright for him in Chicago.
-- Andrew H., Naperville, Ill.
The acquisition of Quintana -- plus the return of John Lackey and Kyle Hendricks from the disabled list -- means Anderson doesn't have to rush back. Anderson is on the 60-day disabled list with a lower back strain, and anyone who has had a back injury knows it takes time to heal. He's 1-2 with a 5.06 ERA in five games (four starts) at Double-A Tennessee, and he has given up 12 earned runs on 30 hits and six walks over 21 1/3 innings while striking out 11.
Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.