The acquisition of the veteran backstop came in a time of need for the Chicago Cubs.
After a frustrating 6-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds at home Monday night, the Chicago Cubs made news when they made a deal with the Kansas City Royals to acquire veteran catcher Martin Maldonado. The Cubs would send pitcher Mike Montgomery to the Royals to complete the deal as reported by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal.
Unfortunately, this did not necessarily happen just as a depth move, but because Willson Contreras will be transported to the 10-day IL after straining a muscle in his foot which he sustained in Saturday’s game against the Pirates. Theo Epstein confirmed it in a presser Monday night as reported by 670 the Score. While the injury does not sound severe and mainly for precaution, not having Contreras’s bat in the lineup for a little is still not what Cubs fans want to see.
Maldonado was a popular name among Cubs fans in the offseason as a potential free-agent target to help backup Contreras behind the dish. The breakout year of Victor Caratini have had people looking at the catcher situation differently, but regardless Maldonado is now a Cub.
What does Martin Maldonado bring?
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Let us get one thing out of the way; Maldonado’s bat is not going to be a huge factor. In 74 games in Kansas City, he is slashing .227/.291/.366 slash with six homers and 17 RBIs.
He has a career slash of .220/.289/.352 in 686 games. However, he brings excellent defense and has been solid with framing over his career. A staff that sometimes struggles with command can use a guy like that. For what it is worth his career DRS at catcher (Defensive Runs Saved) is +75.
While Contreras is out, Caratini and Maldonado will likely get their share of playing time. Probably best to use Maldonado with guys like Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks while having the Yu Darvish-Caratini duo stick.
Time will tell how Joe Maddon decides to use him exactly. Even if the bat is not great (for what is it worth his 71 wRC+ is still better than Daniel Descalso‘s wRC+ of 50), his catching ability makes having him a positive.
The biggest question is what happens when Contreras returns? Virtually every year under Maddon the Cubs had three-catchers at one point, particularly in the second half. It would allow Contreras to be taken out for defensive replacement later in games to keep him fresh. Or some might wonder if Caratini will eventually be involved in a bigger deal with his value higher than ever though it might not be wise to trade away a valuable asset unless the return is worth it.
Saying goodbye to Montgomery
So comes the end of an era for Mike Montgomery. The 30-year-old lefty was having a very rough season which included a shoulder injury, an ERA of 5.67, 6.21 FIP and 1.78 WHIP in 20 appearances. Once again, he did not have a defined role and was used all over the place, which probably did not bode well for him.
Heading to Kansas City is probably the best thing for him. Montgomery can easily take the spot that belonged to Homer Bailey if the Royals wish to plug him in there. He always wanted to be a starter, and he was never a permanent one in Chicago. Being on a team that will probably lose 100-games, there will be no pressure, and it can help him find his groove again.
While Montgomery’s overall tenure as a Cub was full of ups and downs, nothing can take away the fact he was the man who recorded the World Series-winning final out in 2016. That alone cements him in franchise history forever. So a special thanks to him for that magical moment.
One can truly hope that Contreras does not have any setbacks during this IL stint. The good thing is that he sounded like he wanted to play Monday, but it is better to be safe than sorry.