Cubs sign veteran catcher Christian Bethancourt
Robert Edwards - USA Today Sports

Cubs sign veteran catcher Christian Bethancourt

by - Senior Writer -

As we inch closer to the MLB Trade Deadline, all eyes will shift to the Chicago Cubs as they decide whether to be buyers or sellers. Given how their current season has unfolded and where this team is in the standings, selling makes a ton of sense, but can this front office afford to go through that again if they want to keep their jobs?

At this point, most fans are in favor of this team making some changes, but a complete sell-off is not something this fan base can get behind. If the Cubs are going to make some moves, upgrading the catcher position should be near the top of their list, as that has hampered this team all season.

From Yan Gomes, Miguel Amaya, and now Tomas Nido not only struggling to hit but failing to throw runners out on the bases, the Cubs' catching room has been one of the worst in baseball since the start of the season. It has gotten so bad that Gomes was released, and now it appears that Amaya is going to start losing starts, as veterans Justin Steele and Jameson Taillon have raved about how Nido works with them behind the dish.

Knowing Moises Ballesteros is on the way, the Cubs may look for a short-term solution, even if that doesn't come from the trade market. One name to keep an eye on is Christian Bethancourt, who has just agreed to a Minor League deal with the Cubs and is expected to land in AAA Iowa. With Amaya playing like nothing more than a Minor League option at best, Bethancourt not only offers the Cubs a perfect Emergency catcher option, but is also a capable backup who has plenty of experience.

The 32-year-old Bethancourt hasn't been what you would call an all-star catcher, but he has had some good years in the past, including his 2022 season, when he hit .252/.283/.409/100 wRC+. He also played terrific defense behind the dish, which is something the Cubs are lacking from their catchers more than just the lack of offense itself.

Following his solid 2022 showing, Bethancourt took a step back in 2023 before falling off a cliff in 2024 due to limited playing time. That alone forced the Marlins' hand, and they released him in May, and he has been out of action since. Given a second chance to do something with the Cubs, he could be a name to watch in the coming weeks, especially if he plays well enough in Iowa to garner some attention.

Given the offensive production that Ballesteros has shown this season, many Cubs fans would like to see him get an opportunity at some point this season. However, he has played more DH than Catcher, so he is very raw at the Catcher position. He is starting to get more time behind the dish with AAA Iowa, but unless he can handle starting at least four days a week behind the dish, seeing him in 2024 doesn't seem like a realistic option.

That is where Bethancourt comes into play. He may not be an everyday catcher, but he could start three or four days a week to, at the very least, offer the Cubs some flexibility. If Amaya had Minor League Options left, it seems very unlikely that he would even be on this team, but with no options remaining, the Cubs are stuck with him in hopes that he figures things out soon.

With guys like Bryce Windham and Caleb Knight in AAA, along with Ballesteros, this team's catching options are slim. So, adding a guy like Bethancourt is a win-win for both sides. It gives him another chance and gives the Cubs a reliable option to consider over the second half of the season.

With this move, look for one of two things to happen as the corresponding move. First, Knight hasn't seen a ton of action in AAA, so don't be shocked to see him move back to AA, where he can get more playing time. Second, you could see Iowa continue to use Windham as a utility guy, which has been working out in their favor for the past few months.

For the record, I think the Cubs still need to add Bethancourt to cover innings in the minors with the expectation that Ballesteros will come up. Instead, this was an available veteran presence with plenty of big-league experience, which is an immediate upgrade at the MLB level should something happen to Nido or Amaya.

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