Cubs Sign Catcher Josh Phegley to Minors Deal

In a break from their endless stream of pitching acquisitions, the Cubs signed veteran catcher Josh Phegley to a minor league contract Friday. Phegley, 31 years old, started 90 games for the Athletics last season.

Phegley’s offensive numbers don’t particularly jump out at you, unless you’re gaga for a career .227 hitter with a 4.6% walk rate and 19.6% strikeout rate (.280 wOBA; 75 wRC+). Phegley’s exit velocity ranked in the bottom 3% of MLB last season and his expected wOBA similarily ranked near the bottom.

His defensive numbers, on the other hand, are a bit confusing. According to Baseball Savant’s catching metrics, 83% of catchers were more valuable framers last season. But in 2017, when Phegley qualified for enough innings behind the dish, his framing was better than 88% of the league. That is in addition to the new Cubs catcher’s impressive above league average “pop time.”

Outside of Victor Caratini, the Cubs’ catching depth appears limited, especially since notable pitch framer Taylor Davis just signed with the Baltimore Orioles. Phegley has a legitimate chance to see significant innings in 2020 if the Cubs end up trading one of their two top catchers before opening day. There’s also a 26th roster spot this year should the current Cubs catching duo need time off during the brutally long season.

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