12:30pm: The Cubs announced that they have indeed signed Wolters to a one-year, Major League contract.
9:00am: Veteran catcher Tony Wolters, who recently opted out of a minor league contract with the Pirates, is now likely to sign with the Cubs, per MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (Twitter link). Bruce Levine of 670TheScore reported last night that the Cubs had interest in the longtime Rockies backstop.
Willson Contreras, of course, is the starting catcher for the Cubs and should be in line for a sizable workload this year. However, the Cubs traded backup Victor Caratini to the Padres alongside Yu Darvish earlier in the winter, and they’ve done little to address the position in the subsequent months. Wolters and fellow veteran Jonathan Lucroy were on the Cubs’ radar, per Levine, but it seems the Cubs will go with the younger and more well-regarded defender of that pairing.
Wolters, 28, has spent the past five seasons as the Rockies’ primary catcher despite a meager .238/.323/.319 career batting line (57 wRC+, 62 OPS+). He had a particularly rough year at the dish in 2020’s shortened schedule, batting just .230/.280/.270 in a limited sample of 109 plate appearances.
On the defensive side of the coin, however, Wolters is considerably more appealing. He went just 3-for-20 in thwarting stolen bases last year, but prior to the 2020 season he carried a lifetime 32.8 percent caught-stealing rate that is well above the league average (around 27 percent). Wolters’ framing marks have dipped since 2019, but he graded as one of the game’s better options in that regard for much of his early career. Beyond that, Baseball Prospectus has graded him as average overall in terms of blocking pitches (and quite a bit above average as recently as ’19).
The Rockies non-tendered Wolters rather than pay him a raise on last year’s $1.9MM salary. He still hasn’t reached five full years of big league service, so if Wolters is able to make the Cubs’ roster and stick through the season, he’d be controllable via arbitration through the 2022 campaign.