Cubs Sign Catcher Tony Wolters, DFA Righty James Norwood
In a move that had been predicted Tuesday night, the Cubs announced Wednesday morning that they have signed catcher Tony Wolters to a one-year major league contract. This move comes as Austin Romine, signed in the offseason to serve as the backup to Willson Contreras, is down with a knee injury. In order to make room on the roster, right-handed pitcher James Norwood has been designated for assignment.
The 28-year-old Wolters owns a .238 career batting average with 48 doubles, nine triples, seven home runs, and 123 RBI in 391 major league games with Colorado from 2016-20. He has nearly identical splits against right- and left-handed pitchers, posting a 57 wRC+ against both. Of course, that’s still 43% below average.
Wolters recorded a 106-game errorless streak through August 18 of 2019, the second-longest errorless streak for a catcher in Rockies history behind Chris Iannetta (157 games from 2007-09). The new Cub became a free agent following the 2020 season and signed a minor league deal with the Pirates, but was released on March 29.
Fans shouldn’t expect much from a guy who’s posted negative fWAR in three of the last four seasons and who has ranked in or near triple digits in some defensive metrics the past two years, but this is a simple stopgap measure. Contreras will be getting the lion’s share of the reps and Romine should be back before too long, or at least that’s the hope.
The 27-year-old Norwood was 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 23 career relief appearances spanning the 2018-20 seasons for Chicago. He was selected by the Cubs in the seventh round of the 2014 draft and displayed promise with pretty good velo, but he wasn’t quite able to put it together. Another team might take a flyer on him, but there’s a decent chance he clears waivers.