UPDATE 7/31/12: Soto was traded to the Rangers for Double-A starter Jake Brigham, who doesn’t appear to be much of a prospect.

Original post 7/24/12

Geovany Soto, C, Cubs

We’re on record saying that Russell Martin will improve, but the fact that Chris Stewart has an established pedigree of sucking goat balls means the Yankees need to play Martin 4 out of every 5 games. RussMart already had some health issues, and we know what happened when he was Torre-ized in LA and got worn out. His defense the past few weeks has been uncharacteristically awful, and might be an indication that history is repeating itself. Wouldn’t it be nice to have him fresh come playoff time, when you’d like him to be catching every day?

That’s where Soto comes in. He’s 29 years old and is a career .252/.341/.445 (104 wRC+, .341 wOBA) hitter. His basic catcher defense (passed balls, wild pitches, controlling the running game, fielding) is consistently above-average. Having said this, why would Chicago be open to trading him?

Well, like Martin, he’s having a terrible season. The former NL Rookie of the Year is hitting .189/.273/.341 (.272 wOBA). Remarkably, even that hitting line would be an upgrade over Chris Stewart.

Also like Martin, he’s suffering from an anemic BABIP (.197), despite maintaining a line drive rate (21.4%) higher than his career average (20.5%). His career BABIP is .294, so there’s plenty of room for improvement. Plus, he’s an upgrade over Stewart in BB rate (9.3%) and ISO (.152).

Bottom line, this is a catcher who’s not yet 30 and has shown in the past that he can hit at an above-average rate, even though he’s been really bad this year — and it’s worth repeating, Soto’s bad > Stewart’s bad.

What’s more is that Soto comes cheap, which fits the Yankees’ new mantra. He’s making $4.3 mil this year, and is arbitration eligible next year. He’s not a bad insurance plan for the Yankees to have in their back pocket heading into next season.

The Cubs are not anywhere near prime time, so Soto’s likely not in Theo Epstein’s long-term plan. They have ready replacements in prospects Steve Clevenger and Willington Castillo.

If the Yankees could acquire Soto for a couple C-level prospects, we’d do that deal. If Boy Wonder wants anything more than that, we walk away.

Soto and Martin could provide a synergistic boost to each other’s numbers by each letting the other rest more. And the Yankees would be in a much stronger position behind the plate come playoff time.

*For reference, here are Soto’s career numbers

Year Age Tm Lg G PA HR RBI BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+
2005 22 CHC NL 1 1 0 0 0 0 .000 .000 .000 .000 -100
2006 23 CHC NL 11 26 0 2 0 5 .200 .231 .240 .471 20
2007 24 CHC NL 18 60 3 8 5 14 .389 .433 .667 1.100 174
2008 25 CHC NL 141 563 23 86 62 121 .285 .364 .504 .868 119
2009 26 CHC NL 102 389 11 47 50 77 .218 .321 .381 .702 80
2010 27 CHC NL 105 387 17 53 62 83 .280 .393 .497 .890 135
2011 28 CHC NL 125 474 17 54 45 124 .228 .310 .411 .721 97
2012 29 CHC NL 48 183 6 13 17 33 .189 .273 .341 .615 68
8 Yrs 551 2083 77 263 241 457 .252 .341 .445 .786 105
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 7/24/2012.