It’s obvious the Cubs would like to upgrade their catching, but general manager Jed Hoyer won’t confirm or elaborate reports of the team’s interest in Russell Martin and other impact free agents.
“One of the challenges we have now is it seems like we’re literally linked to every single free agent,” Hoyer said Friday during a conference call. “Some of that is agent driven to try to connect us to everyone because they realize we have some payroll flexibility.
“We’ve said all along, if the right things line up, we can have an active offseason. We’re not going to force it. And certainly a lot of the reports we’ve read makes it seem like we’re going to have some kind of supercharged offseason. I think that’s probably overstated.’’
Martin’s .290 batting average, .402 on-base percentage, 39 percent success rate on nailing base stealers for the Pirates in 2014, along with his leadership qualities, stand out even more in a shallow market of free agent catches. But the Cubs are competing against the Pirates, Blue Jays and reportedly the Dodgers for Martin, who could command a contract of at least $15 million annually for four years.
Cubs incumbent Welington Castillo had his batting average dip 37 points to .237, although he did hit a career-high 13 home runs. Hoyer spoke in general terms when asked about upgrading at catcher.
“Obviously, we’re looking for any area that we can upgrade and feel like there potentially can be an upgrade,” Hoyer said. “We want veteran leadership, whether that’s one person or three or four. So if we can find that combination of attributes, that’s something that would be appealing.
“Wely (didn’t have) his best year last year. But he’s a very good major league catcher and showed in the second half of 2013 what he could do and showed some glimpses last year. He just never put it together the whole way. Certainly, we like Wely as a catcher and as a person and potential leader down the road.
Extra innings: Hoyer said the Cubs haven’t received any formal requests from other teams to interview any of their coaches. Their status could be resolved at the general managers’ meetings next week in Phoenix. … Outfielders Josh Vitters and Manny Ramirez and infielder Chris Valaika were three of 15 Cubs players who became minor league free agents. Vitters was the Cubs’ first pick in the 2007 draft.