Victor Caratini Creating Good Problem with Big Bat
Victor Caratini stepped in for Jon Lester, who’d bee outstanding after allowing four early runs, and provided a bases-clearing pinch-hit double. Those runs would be all the Cubs needed, though they tacked on more in a 9-4 win over the Cardinals. The hit increased Caratini’s season slash line to .366/.480/.600, not bad for a backup catcher.
The ringing double came on Caratini’s 50th plate appearance this season, so performance can no longer be dismissed as a product of small sample size. Yes, Caratini is unlikely to fall off a bit from that slash over the remainder of the season. But at this point, he has proven he can hit major league pitching and hit it well. He also has four more years of team control. A switch-hitting catcher with an above-average bat and four years of contractual control remaining is a valuable commodity. Possibly too valuable to remain a backup.
Earlier this season, I would have suggested the Cubs leverage that value in trade to obtain an elite bullpen arm. Then they signed Craig Kimbrel, which leads to the current dilemma: Caratini is becoming too good to remain a bench player, but is backing up a likely All-Star. How do the Cubs get him more at-bats while still keeping Willson Contreras in the lineup as often as possible?
Perhaps Joe Maddon should consider playing Contreras in left field against left-handed pitching, thus getting Caratini extra at-bats and saving Wilco’s knees for late in the season. Or maybe it’s as simple as using Caratini more frequently against right-handed starters, or just having him catch more often during the heat of the summer or after extra-inning games.
What do y’all think? Is Caratini for real? And if so, what should the Cubs do with him moving forward?