Cubs solid at catcher with Gomes, Amaya

When Yan Gomes signed a two-year, $13 million contract with the Cubs before the 2022 season, he was viewed as a pricey backup to starting catcher Willson Contreras.

Look at him now.

With Contreras trying to settle with St. Louis after a bumpy debut season last year, Gomes is still growing strong.

In 2023, the veteran catcher drove in 63 runs — his highest total since 2014 — while hitting .267/.315/.408 with 10 home runs.

Gomes also ranked second among National League catchers with a 29.4% caught stealing rate (25-for-85).

“Yan had a phenomenal year for us behind the plate,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said. “I thought the number of big hits he got for us in big at-bats was remarkable, and then just the presence he provides with the pitchers in the clubhouse.”

Given his age (36) and the wear-and-tear that comes with catching in the major leagues, a $1 million buyout over a $6 million club option for the 2024 season seemed like the likely play when Gomes initially signed with the Cubs.

That script was flipped by Gomes' continued value on the field and in the clubhouse.

“I know that the coaching staff views him almost as a player-coach in the way that he is,” Hoyer said. “He’s a favorite on the coaching staff for a reason. He sees things as a veteran, he sees things because he’s really thoughtful and he’s a favorite among the players.”

Gomes, who has also played for the Blue Jays, Guardians, Nationals and Athletics over his 12-year career, is going to slow down at some point.

Then again, he played in 116 games for the Cubs last season, the most since a career-high 135 in 2014.

When Gomes does need a break, the Cubs have a solid young backup in Miguel Amaya.

After spending seven seasons in the minor leagues, Amaya made his major-league debut last May and hit .214/.329/.359 with 5 home runs and 18 RBI in 53 games for the Cubs.

Defensively, Amaya made a quick impact working with the Cubs' pitching staff.

“I was very surprised how prepared he is,” right-hander Hayden Wesneski said. “It's incredible.”

The Cubs entered last season with a pair of veteran catchers — Gomes and Tucker Barnhart. Signed to a two-year, $6.5 million contract before the season, Barnhart struggled at the plate and was released in August after hitting .202/.285/.257 and striking out 42 times in 123 plate appearances.

The roster move fully opened the door for Amaya and he teamed with Gomes to solidify the key position.

“I really liked that pairing at the end of the year,” Hoyer said.

Gomes and Amaya are the only two catchers on the 40-man roster. For insurance, veterans Jorge Alfaro and Joe Hudson are with the Cubs in spring training as non-roster invites.

Pablo Aliendo, a 22-year-old prospect, is also in camp after spending last season at Class AA Tennessee and hitting .231/.332/.458 with 16 home runs and 61 RBI in 91 games.

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