Where’s the Beef? Welington Castillo Odd Man Out in Catcher Carousel

The Cubs haven’t exactly been in stealth mode when it comes to the topic of their situation behind the plate, going hard after Russell Martin and then trading for Miguel Montero. But the moves didn’t stop there.

After claiming former Theo Epstein draftee Ryan Lavarnway off waivers from the Dodgers (man, does this front office love to pick guys up for a second and third time), I tweeted that I thought it further rang a death knell for incumbent starter Welington Castillo.

Shortly after that, it was announced that the Cubs had agreed to terms with back-up backstop David Ross (man, does this front office love to pick up former Red Sox players) to basically be Jon Lester’s personal catcher.

Ross, one of the few players of late to escape the increasingly-powerful gravitational pull of the San Diego Padres, becomes the fifth catcher on the Cubs’ 40-man roster. And that’s not considering Kyle Schwarber and Victor Caratini, neither of whom must be added to that list yet.

I suppose it’s possible that the Cubs and Padres will usher in a new era of baseball in which a team with 4 catchers and 4 shortstops will square off against one with 8 outfielders. Where’s Charlie O when you need him?

I, for one, have taken issue with the way Beef’s given name flagrantly abuses what I believe to be the immutable laws of proper grammatical and syntactical justice, as set forth by the squiggly blue and red lines of spell-check.

It is my firm belief that he should have long ago traded for the silent “L” hanging uselessly from Montrezl Harrell’s moniker like one of Antonio Alfonseca’s postaxial polydactyly. But that’s neither here nor there, as I doubt that’s why Castillo’s on his way out.

If you’d have told me just a few years ago that the Cubs would be looking to move a young, cost-controlled catcher possessed of passable pop, I’d probably have laughed at you. But despite the dearth of offense in today’s game, defense is still a sought-after commodity.

Catchers need to be magicians behind the plate, using sleight of hand and misdirection to turn balls into strikes, thereby shortening innings and extending the lives of their charges on the mound. As such, no one’s going to be confusing Beef with David Blaine.

Montero, on the other hand, is viewed as a bit of a savant in this category, thus elevating his value beyond what has become a rather pedestrian offensive output. Think of him as the Vegas headliner of framing.

Even Ross, graybeard that is, can still make a fine living playing Atlantic City and the riverboat circuit. Given the youth movement, it might seem an odd move to get older an an integral position, but experience is key when it comes to the battery.

And with the aforementioned pair of prospects making their way through the system, the Cubs don’t really need to concern themselves with long-term plays behind the plate at this point.

Castillo, only 28 and still under club control for another three years, has enough raw talent to net decent value in return from a club in need of catching themselves. He was a decent player on a bad team, but now becomes a commodity as needs have shifted.

I’ll miss the occasional outbursts of “Well done, Beef!” but I suppose I can quickly grow accustomed to “Monter-OH!” and “Ross, like a boss!” I wish Wely well, but now I’m interested to see all this framing jazz in action.

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