Over the past couple weeks, I’ve grown relatively fond of the idea of the Chicago Cubs adding Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero in trade. There were some earlier rumors about the two teams possibly engaging on a deal, but that’s been quiet for a little while.
But it sounds like those talks are very much alive. Jon Morosi and Ken Rosenthal report that the Cubs and Diamondbacks are talking about a deal involving Montero. Recently, Patrick Mooney wrote that he expected Montero’s name to pop up this week at the Winter Meetings, so there’s probably a lot of smoke here.
It was unclear, in the immediate aftermath of the Cubs’ failed pursuit of Russell Martin, whether the team would continue going after starting-caliber catchers, or if that pursuit was solely about Martin, specifically. But, increasingly, it seems like the Cubs do want to add a catcher like Montero, which would give them a starting option with impeccable skills behind the plate, and the option of pairing him with Welington Castillo, or adding a back-up catcher separately (David Ross?) and shopping Castillo.
Although Montero is not Martin, there’s a pretty great fit here. He bats lefty with a healthy platoon split, which could make pairing him with someone like Castillo or Ross ideal. He’s one of the best receivers in the game, consistently rating as among the best pitch framers. He’s good defensively, and he takes walks without striking out a ton.
To the downside, there’s the three-year, $40 million contract and the aging-catcher-decline thing. The latter is inevitable, but his defensive and receiving skills are likely to hold up well enough over the next three years. The contract isn’t ideal, but that also could mean the price the Cubs would pay in trade could be very small.
We’ll have to watch this closely, because there’s a lot here that makes sense.
Aside: the Diamondbacks and Dodgers reportedly recently engaged in talks about an Andre Ethier, Montero swap, but ownership may have squashed the deal (or may not have). To the extent the deal didn’t work out, maybe they couldn’t quite figure out the money, what with the Diamondbacks presumably want to save money, not take on a huge contract in return. Perhaps that bodes well, again, for the Cubs’ chances here to get Montero for a limited return (beyond taking on the contract).
UPDATE: Ken Rosenthal says that it would be pitching prospects going to the Diamondbacks, but, before you freak about losing from a position of weakness, Jeff Passan says the return would not be significant. The Cubs have several interesting arms at the lower levels that might interest the Diamondbacks – but wouldn’t break the system to part with.
UPDATE 2 (8:50pm CT): I’m thinking through the Cubs’ lower level pitching prospects who could be a fit here (decent prospects, but not back-breakers), assuming the Cubs take on all of Montero’s contract. It seems to me that guys like Jen-Ho Tseng and Duane Underwood are too good, but maybe guys like Jefferson Mejia, Jonathan Martinez, or Daury Torrez are more the range that makes sense. Or maybe guys with bullpen upside, but who are closer to the majors.
UPDATE 3 (8:53pm CT): Bruce Levine and Steve Gilbert are also hearing that the trade is being discussed, so there’s your Chicago and Arizona reports to confirm Rosenthal and Morosi. This is more than just exploratory.
UPDATE 4 (9:15pm CT): Supporting my guess about the character of what the Cubs would be giving up here, Patrick Mooney says it wouldn’t be guys on the 40-man or guys close to big-league ready (because, as Mooney confirms, Cubs would be taking on the full contract). I’m thinking it would be two younger pitching prospects. Good ones, not great ones. Maybe a guy that’s mostly projection and another guy who’s got reliever upside. There. I’ve lodged my guess.
UPDATE 5 (9:23pm CT): Knowing that he was just non-tendered last week, this would be a new contestant for the saddest tweet of the week if I didn’t think it was also just damn cool of him:
— John Baker (@manbearwolf) December 9, 2014
UPDATE 6 (10:37pm CT): Nick Piecoro says the rumors here have legs, and if it goes forward, the D-backs would be getting two A-ball pitchers. Meanwhile, Miguel Montero wonders what’s up:
Any of you know where do I'm going to ?
— Miguel Montero (@miggymont26) December 9, 2014