The Geovany Soto era finally came to an end as the Cubs traded him to the Texas Rangers for 24 year old Double A pitcher Jacob Brigham last Monday night.
The lasting impression I have of Soto is not the All-Star start in 2008, the general greatness of 2008, the struggles (’09, ’11, ’12), or the brief resurgence in 2010. What will be etched foremost in my mind is the 2-run home run he hit off of Doug Davis in Game 2 of the 2007 NLDS.
Remember the Cubs catching situation that year? It was a mess that included a declining (and eventually traded) Michael Barrett, Jason Kendall‘s Cub stop of his trip around the majors, Henry Blanco and the first appearance of Koyie Hill. Soto played 18 games towards the end of the year and provided a ton of hope (.389/.433/.667, 3 HR).
And then came that home run. I can still remember how energized I was by it. The Cubs had been shut down in Game 1 by Brandon Webb. When Soto found the seats in the second inning of Game 2 to put the Cubs up 2-0 it was the first bit of momentum they had all series. In typical Cub fashion, Ted Lilly gave up four runs in the bottom half of the inning, threw his glove, and the Diamondbacks didn’t look back.
As I think about it, that home run, and what followed that inning, sum up Soto’s career with the Cubs: a lot of hope (and very exciting hope at that) but in the end disappointment.
During 2008, I remember smugly thinking that the Cubs had a better catcher for the long haul than the Cardinals did with Yadier Molina (whoops). And though he couldn’t continue that success in 2009 the hope resurfaced in 2010. He walked a ridiculous amount that year (.393 OBP) and showed some power again (17 HR, .497 SLG). But in 2011 he regressed again, and that point, at least to me, the hope that he’d fulfill the expectations he’d created in 2008 disappeared.
But now he heads to Texas, and with how anemic his bat has looked this year I can’t be disappointed with Brigham as the return. At least the Cubs were able to pick up a “live arm” (Brigham supposedly can hit 97 mph) that might become bullpen fodder.
So where does Soto rank among catchers in Cub history? His 12.4 career WAR puts him 7th all-time (Gabby Hartnett is first with 55, but it drops off after that). On teams that seemed allergic to being patient and taking walks, Soto’s signature was that he did just that. His final walk rate with the Cubs was 11.6 percent, and this puts him first all-time. And though he was only a “full-time” Cub from 2008-2012 (he played 18 games in ’07, ’11 in ’06, and 1 in ’05), he caught the 12th most games (555) of any Cub catcher, ever.
For lack of a better term, an “interesting” career is over in Chicago. The Cubs will now turn to Steve Clevenger and Wellington Castillo the rest of the way, in the hopes that one will seize the job for next season.