Over the Hill

At the tail end of an earlier post, I argued that the Cubs could improve themselves by shedding players who weren’t productive. I didn’t have Tyler Colvin in mind, but in hindsight he does fit that bill. I also didn’t have Koyie Hill in mind, but again, I’m happy he won’t be back with the Cubs next year. The overpriced outfielder that I did have in mind is still on the team, but a lot can still happen over the next two or three months.

A backup catcher is hard to really get excited about. A starting catcher is an essential thing to have (Yadier Molina and Mike Napoli proved that point in the most recent World Series), but at the same time, catching isn’t the same as the infield or outfield positions. A catcher can go 130 to 140 games a year, perhaps, but you won’t find one that goes all 162 games during a season. Which is why having a good backup is important.

Geovanny Soto–even coming off a down year last season–is a serviceable catcher at the big league level. I’d rather see him hit .280 (as he did in 2010) as opposed to .228 (as he did last year), but there’s more to the position than just offensive numbers. I’m not thrilled with him, like I was back in 2008 when he was named NL Rookie of the Year, but he can fill the position over the next year or two. And, at 28 years of age, he could be said to be coming into his prime, at least as far as Theo Epstein’s definition of the term (between 27 and 32 years old).

The same cannot be said for Koyie Hill. As Soto’s backup for the past 4 years, he has been at negative numbers in all of the WAR (wins against replacement) and RAR (runs against replacement) categories there are. Simply put, he’s been a drag on the team. And, at 32 years of age, his salary keeps going up, while his production is likely to keep falling. So by refusing to offer a contract for the upcoming season, the Cubs have decided to cut him loose. And that’s a move that needed to be made.

The Cubs have a young catcher named Welington Castillo waiting in the wings to be their backup catcher. He’s just 24, and has only a couple of games at the big league level so far. But he’ll have a chance to prove himself next year, and hopefully he can rise to the occasion in a way that Koyie Hill never did.

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