Joe Maddon had earlier said that Chicago Cubs catcher Miguel Montero would return to the team from his disabled list stint “very soon,” and sure enough, that very soon is today.
The Cubs have activated Montero from the disabled list after he recovered from back soreness that started bothering him just about three weeks ago. In his absence, Tim Federowicz has served ably, but Montero is unquestionably the superior catcher and offensive threat. So the Cubs just got better today by getting Montero back.
But Federowicz isn’t going anywhere. At least not just yet.
That’s because, to open a spot on the 25-man roster for Montero, the Cubs have designated outfielder Ryan Kalish for assignment. Already a success story in even making it back to the big leagues, Kalish was out of options and the only way to remove him from the 25-man roster was via the DFA. The Cubs will now have 10 days to waive, trade, or release Kalish, who has the right to choose free agency if the Cubs outright him back to AAA Iowa (it’s entirely possible that he’d stay with the Cubs, though, and could soon wind back up at Iowa).
So why are the Cubs going with three catchers, none of whom can play multiple positions, and despite an already short bench? Well, I can think of a few reasons. The first is almost just an aside: given the extreme versatility of the Cubs’ position players already, they can manage a shorter bench better than most teams, and three catchers does give some unique flexibility with respect to using one of the three as a pinch hitter (so it’s not entirely a sunk bench spot).
The other two reasons are probably the big ones. First, like Kalish, Federowicz does not have minor league options left, and cannot be sent to Iowa unless he agrees to it. It’s possible that, now that he’s shown he’s healthy (he had a knee injury last year), another club would be willing to sign him to a big league deal if he became a free agent. So, the Cubs are in a sticky spot with respect to Federowicz right now – keep him on the 25-man roster, or risk losing him altogether. And, with Kyle Schwarber out, with Montero already dealing with back issues, and with David Ross at age 39, keeping Federowicz in the system sure seems like a good idea.
The second-second reason is that Matt Szczur (hamstring) is eligible to come off of the disabled list in four days. When he’s ready to come back, he’ll be back with the big league club, I have little doubt. So, then, by sending Kalish out now instead of Federowicz, the Cubs at least bought themselves four more days with Federowicz, knowing that another outfielder is coming soon.