Though he had played coy about it at first, it’s been an open secret that Chris Gimenez has been recruiting Yu Darvish to Chicago ever since he signed a minor league deal with the Cubs last month. The two are good friends from their time with the Rangers and Darvish has mentioned privately that Gimenez is his favorite catcher.
The 35-year-old catcher acquitted himself pretty well in Minnesota last season and he’s expected to compete for a backup role similar to the one previously held by David Ross, so the Cubs didn’t sign him to just to entice Darvish. But it’d be foolish to discount the addition as a serious value prop for a pitcher who’s weighing multiple $100 million-plus offers as things come down to the wire.
Initial speculation on the strategic implications of the Cubs landing Gimenez gained more traction when he told MLB Network Radio that he and Darvish had talked 10 or 12 times in the week following his new deal. While Gimenez was careful to say that he wasn’t really recruiting his old pal, his words were fraught with all kinds of inherent winking and nodding.
Gimenez changed his tune just a bit when he joined 670 The Score’s Mully and Hanley Thursday afternoon, even adding that Darvish isn’t the only free agent pitcher he’s been talking to.
“My wife and I were joking that I’m the precursor to Darvish or even (Alex) Cobb signing,” Gimenez quipped. “That would be tremendous if either one of those guys decided to come on board. I can’t say I haven’t been trying to work on either of them, just because I am pretty good friends with both of them. But I really have nothing to do with it in the long run.
“I haven’t talked to [Darvish] in a long time, but you try to just [say], ‘Hey, man, the Cubs are in a pretty good spot. You come in here, we definitely are gonna go to the World Series.’ You kind of try to fudge it a little bit. Not that we won’t, and I definitely think that if either one of those guys decided to come here, it would definitely improve our chances.
“I think the front office is really pushing hard to get one or more of those guys. We’ll see where it ends up.”
Gimenez confirmed that he’d spoken with Darvish about the Twins earlier in the offseason, advising him on the city and coaching staff, among other things. Of course, that advice changed a little bit in light of subsequent events.
“I was very honest with him,” Gimenez said. “I told him I thought [Minnesota] would be a great spot for him. I think Chicago would be a better one. And I think that’s kind of my job as a friend, to kind of lean those guys in the direction where I might feel they have the best opportunity to be successful, because that’s kind of the ultimate goal.
“He’s going to make the best decision for him. I wish he would make it already, because I think that could help a lot of things going down here down the line, the trickle-down effect. But I give him credit to sticking to his guns.”
I’d encourage you to listen to the whole interview below to hear more from Gimenez, including how he ended up choosing the Cubs and what he envisions his role to be this season. As for the latter, he’s neither asked for nor has he been given any guarantees, though he said he believes the best spot for him is in Chicago. He also gushed about Jim Hickey’s personality and approach coaching while offering high praise for Willson Contreras and the Cubs coaching staff.
Based only on the limited exposure I’ve had to Gimenez through these recent interviews, he seems like a really good dude and someone who would be a solid presence in the clubhouse. And if that means bringing a stud pitcher along with him, all the better.