When the Chicago Cubs signed Jon Lester in December of 2014, it was not only the start of a new era for the Cubs, it was also a message to the rest of baseball, that the Cubs are coming.
Along with Jon Lester, came David Ross, his catcher during his Boston days. Ross has caught Lester for most of his starts for the Chicago Cubs so far. Now that Ross is retired, how will the Cubs handle Lester’s starts behind the plate for the next four years?
Willson Contreras, the Cubs top prospect, came up this year and caught about 60% of the games so far during his time in the big leagues. Contreras has an absolute rifle back there, he’s good defensively, but the one knock on him was his receiving skill, which is more improved. Given Lester’s throwing issues, Contreras would make sense back there, due to his quick throw time and accuracy. However, the Cubs still have Miguel Montero, who is the veteran and the mentor to Contreras. He is the better game caller and pitch framer, so if the Cubs want a few extra strikes during the course of a start, Montero is the guy.
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Realistically, Maddon will probably split the starts up between Contreras and Montero based on who is the better matchup that day against the opposing pitcher. The days of a “personal catcher” for Jon Lester are over. However, towards the end of the season last year, Jake Arrieta had Miguel Montero as his personal catcher. That duo may still work in 2017.
Overall, with the rest of the pitching staff, look for Contreras to get a majority of the starts behind the plate. Montero could catch Arrieta and a few rest days for Contreras here and there. Let us not forget Kyle Schwarber, who will be back in 2017, and could also catch a few games as well, maybe the get-away day games.
There is also an alternate route the Cubs could take to handle Lester. That would be to trade Montero for another backup catcher, but this is not likely. Montero is owed a reasonable $14 million. Plus, he will produce enough than most backup catchers will for most teams.