The Rundown: Schwarber Cleared to Catch (But How Much?), Sean Rodriguez Out for Season, Travis Wood to KC Official

In what was more or less a perfunctory nod, we got word Wednesday that Kyle Schwarber had been cleared to resume catching duties. Okay, cool, but what does that mean for him in terms of getting behind the plate during the regular season?

Well, Joe Maddon and Theo Epstein both said it’d take War Bear a while to reaacclimate following his season-long hibernation. Which means easing back into the position with catcher-specific workouts maybe once or twice a week. That’s not only to limit any unnecessary stress on his reconstructed knee, but also to give him as much time as possible to hone his skills out in left. But it also limits his growth as a catcher.

To be sure, Schwarber’s long-term future isn’t going to amount to squat. Wait, no, that’s not it. What I meant was that he’s not going to be in a squat for a majority of his career, except perhaps in an ancillary role. I don’t care how much of a baseball rat you are, it’s very difficult to be a good major league catcher. It’s even harder when you’re only working on it a couple days a week. And it’s damn near impossible when Willson Contreras is ahead of you on the depth chart.

The immediate goal for Schwarber at this point is very simple: knock enough of the rust off to be a serviceable third/emergency backstop by opening day. Beyond that, it becomes a matter of buffing away enough of that pesky patina to be viable as an occasional starter or injury replacement.

Complicating matters for 2017 is Miguel Montero’s continued presence on the roster. Though diminished by age and injury, Miggy experienced something of an offensive rebirth late last season and could still serve as a nice platoon option for Contreras against particularly tough right-handed pitchers. That takes away some of War Bear’s opportunities, since he, like Montero, bats lefty.

Were he to be used on a semi-regular basis, say once every time through the lineup, Schwarber would get approximately 32 starts over the course of the season. But with the unlikelihood of him being ready to handle that duty right away, not to mention Montero hoarking some of his playing time, I think we can expect at least a 25 percent reduction in that number. That means 24 starts behind the plate, which I think is a reasonable total. Maybe even a little optimistic.

Of course, Schwarber’s total games played back there could be affected by injuries to either of the other catchers or even late-inning switches to get him a little work in blowout games. Enough to keep him happy and keep his bat in the lineup as often as possible.

Rodriguez likely to miss season

A very difficult offseason for Sean Rodriguez just got worse. As the result of a very serious car accident that left his wife and kids hospitalized and the driver of the other car — a stolen police cruiser — dead. Paramount in all this is the health of Rodriguez and his family, but I’d imagine being able to get out on the field would aid in the emotional healing.

Wood deal officially announced

The Royals have completed a deal with Travis Wood that will pay him $4 million this season and $6.5 million in 2018, with an $8 million mutual option for 2019 that has a $1.5 million buyout. The contract also has $1 million in both SP and RP incentives each year.

Sounds like the Royals also offered more than the Cubs were willing to match, but KC gives Wood a nice mix of guaranteed money, an opportunity to start, and a solid team. Not a bad trifecta.

More news and notes

  • Looks like the Kushner family is indeed the shadowy partner in the Marlins’ reported sale. This smells funny. Political affiliations aside, Charles Kushner has a checkered legal past and would likely not clear MLB’s vetting process. His sons might be able to, but that’s where the conflicts of interest arise.

  • If you’re into hip-hop and/or have an interest in supporting Cubs minor leaguers, you might want to check out Swilson. More formally known as John Williamson, the southpaw has a burgeoning rap career and recently dropped a new album, East Jefferson Boulevard. I bought EJB on iTunes during Cubs Convention based on a Twitter recommendation from John Baker and it’s become a staple in my workout playlist.
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