Cubs sign veteran catcher Curt Casali
Sam Greene - USA Today Sports

Cubs sign veteran catcher Curt Casali

by - Senior Writer -

It took less than one day for the Cubs overall depth to be tested as Ace left-hander Justin Steele is likely heading to the IL with a hamstring injury. That means that Craig Counsell will have to make some tough decisions heading into his next start, as Drew Smyly and Hayden Wesneski appear to be the top options for the time being.

Apart from that, the Cubs are one of those teams that will never shy away from adding depth throughout their organization, and they continued that trend with an early Friday Morning signing. After letting Jorge Alfaro go, the Cubs needed more catching depth at the AAA level behind Joe Hudson, so Jed Hoyer swooped in and added Curt Casali on a Minor League Deal, as he will now be heading to Iowa.

A long-time major leaguer, the 35-year-old Casali has filled both a bench role and starting role for quite some time but has been a backup for the better part of the past 10 seasons. His most recent stint was with the Cincinnati Reds in 2023, but that was a dreadful campaign, which is the main reason why he was out of a job for so long.

This offseason, Casali inked a minor league deal with the Miami Marlins, but after struggling to get anything done in Spring Training, they ultimately elected to release him, making him a free agent again. The Cubs felt the need to add him to an organization with plenty of catching depth, but not much in AAA, which is where he will be heading this weekend.

When you look at his career numbers, Casali's best days came in 2015-2022, when he played a valuable role no matter where he landed and was one of the best backup catchers in the game. Although the .227/.319/.404/95 wRC+ may not seem great, but it was good enough for the Reds to give him a 3.5-million-dollar contract last season. That deal was for one year, so his struggles cost the Reds next to nothing, making it an easy decision for them to release him.

Although minor league signings aren't that important this early in the season, they are important, which is why the Cubs do a great job of keeping tabs on players throughout the year. The biggest question with this signing is the 2023 season itself, as some are wondering if that was the beginning of Casali's end, and more of that will be to come.

Part of his struggles last season were a series of injuries, especially his shoulder. Had he been healthy, there is a good chance he would have produced at a better level, so the Cubs are keeping that in mind with this pick-up. Coming off the season he had, you care less about what he can do behind the plate and more about his physical condition and what he can bring to this organization offensively and defensively.

With all his experience, you can generally expect him to be solid at the soft factors – adapting quickly to new staff, calling a good game, working well with the pitchers, and coaching staff on run prevention. That is something the Cubs front office has prioritized the past several seasons and is the main reason why Yan Gomes was added to the mix a few seasons ago and then signed his extension. Casali is less skilled than Gomes at this point, but he offers some of the same traits as Gomes, which will be useful at the AAA level.

Another bonus with this pickup is that Casali is going to a team that doesn't have a high-level prospect at catcher, so any game he starts won't be taking developmental time away from someone else. He will also play a vital role in helping some of the Cubs young starters get more comfortable with pitch selection as several of them could be called on earlier than predicted this season.

A lot of people expect Alfaro to stick with the Cubs, especially when you look at how hit this Spring. However, it was Hudson who chose to stay with the organization as he is the only real veteran prescence in the Iowa catching room. Bryce Windham was the other option at AAA, but he doesn't appear ready to make that jump and will most likely be slotted in AA where he will back up Moises Ballesteros.

Either way, this deal makes sense for both the short-term and long term outlook for the Iowa season as it wouldn't be shocking to see this team carry three catchers in Iowa.

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