In a move that wouldn’t raise eyebrows under normal circumstances, it was announced Monday evening that the Cubs had signed Chris Gimenez, a 35-year-old journeyman catcher, to a minor league contract. The slow market and connections with another Cubs target imbued the deal with more than a little low-key sexiness.
Minor-league deal for Gimenez. He’s tight with Yu Darvish. https://t.co/k1nDJ1yV7m
— Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) January 23, 2018
Gimenez’s connection to Darvish was immediately pegged as a potential precursor to a Darvish move, or at least as a lure for the Japanese ace.
In 2014, Chris Gimenez made 26 starts at Catcher for the Rangers.
Yu Darvish was the starting pitcher in 12 of the 26 games.
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) January 23, 2018
Gimenez’s career numbers are what you would expect for a career backup catcher: .218 batting average, .293 wOBA, and 1.4 career WAR. Nearly 86 percent of those incremental wins — 1.2 WAR — came last season alone, when he put up a .326 wOBA helped get the Twins into the postseason.
Now here’s where this conversation gets really fun. Gimenez’s 2017 stat line was eerily similar to what David Ross posted in 2016. Like, completely uncanny.
The two catchers finished with exactly the same wRC+ and wOBA marks and had borderline identical walk and strikeout rates. But the similarities between the catchers’ respective seasons don’t end with what they did at the plate. Their numbers behind the dish were almost mirror images.
Gimenez finished 14th of 51 total catchers in CSAA (0.007, top 27 percent in MLB). Ross finished 14th of 46 total catchers in CSAA (0.011; top 30 percent in MLB). Too weird.
Of course, Gimenez replicating his 2017 season is unlikely because of his unpredictable past. There’s also the small matter of making the team, which his minor-league deal does not guarantee. But the Cubs have shown that they value defense-first catchers and Gimenez could provide them with more value in that limited backup role behind Willson Contreras than what Victor Caratini offers.
Regardless, it’s fun and a little weird to see just how similar Gimenez is/was to a former aging Cubs catcher. And just like Ross, Gimenez might’ve been signed in part to create a little more appeal for an pitcher.