Look, I’ve had just about enough of the hand wringing. No, Dioner Navarro isn’t going to play for the Cubs next season. In fact, he may even wind up starting somewhere. And no, this isn’t a huge loss for the Cubs, it doesn’t mean the Cubs don’t care about winning, and it doesn’t mean the front office doesn’t know what it’s doing. In fact, it’s a good indication that the front office knows exactly what it’s doing.
Dioner Navarro had a career year last season. He was far, far better with the Cubs than he’s ever been anywhere else. Here, see for yourself:
See? Before 2013, the last time Navarro even hit above .250 with more than 100 ABs was 2008. It’s not like hitting .300 is the norm for him. Chances are better than not that he’d regress quite a bit over the next few seasons.
Add to the equation that Navarro is a free-agent coming off the best season of his life. Do you think he’s going to want to sign for 1-year as a backup catcher? Probably not. In fact, here’s what Peter Gammons had to say about Navarro:
He came into the year with a .663 career OPS, which makes him a bit of a risk, but he should do quite well for himself in free agency. He’ll turn 30 years old in February.
Here’s what they had to say about Navarro over at Over the Monster, upon hearing that the Red Sox were in pursuit:
If Navarro is going to be paid at a level in any way commensurate with his 2013 performance, he’ll be more expensive than he’s worth. And even if he’s not, then you’ve got the problem that he’s just a mediocre player with the slight, unconvincing upside hinted at in 2013.
So, to recap, the Cubs were faced with overpaying a backup catcher who probably was never going to have another year as good as the one he just had. Backup catcher isn’t exactly a position you want to throw money at, know what I’m sayin’?
George Kottaras, on the other hand, looks (and costs) a lot more like a backup catcher. He walks plenty (last year his walk rate was 19. In 2012 with Milwaukee, it was 25!). He’s great defensively (he was Tim Wakefield’s pitcher for a while). He can frame a pitch (per @HangingSliders). He has a little pop. He can get on-base (his OBP in 2013 was .349). Oh, and he’s a lot cheaper than Dioner Navarro is going to be. A LOT cheaper. We don’t know yet how much the Cubs sent to KC to acquire him, but I guarantee it’ll be a drop in the bucket compared to what someone will pay to get Navarro.
As John Arguello from Cubs Den asked: What more do you really need in a backup? The answer is none. You need none more in a backup catcher.
The hilarity is that all the fans who are jumping up and down about the Cubs not being in on highly-priced free agents are the same people crying about losing Navarro. You can’t have both, kids. Bringing in higher-priced players means cutting the fat elsewhere (that was NOT a fat joke, Dioner!). There is absolutely no reason to overpay a backup catcher. None. Zero. Zilch.
Dioner was sweet and cute and roly poly and everyone loved him. He’s the kind of things people get attached to when they don’t have any championships to cling to. Hell. I saw less wailing from Cardinals fans over David Freese than I’ve seen over this teeny, tiny, little deal. So here’s my advice to Cubs fans: Stop looking at the players as someone you want to hang out with and start seeing them for the commodities they are. Buddies don’t bring championships, commodities do.