File this one under “OK, yeah, I can think of reasons, but mostly wut.”
First, there was the afternoon whispering from Robert Murray of The Athletic:
Would not be a shock to see Martin Maldonado on the move again before the deadline. Has only played in four games since being traded to the Cubs and Willson Contreras just returned from the Injured List.
— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) July 28, 2019
Writers tend not to say things like that unless they’ve heard something, and sure enough, Patrick Mooney writes this evening: “Martín Maldonado has been marketed in trade discussions, sources told The Athletic’s Robert Murray, with the Houston Astros emerging as a particular team of interest.”
To be sure, the Cubs could move Maldonado out and be in the same spot they would have been in if they’d never picked him up – he was here on an expedited pace in order to cover for the Willson Contreras injury, which he did. The Cubs have two very good catchers already, so Maldonado is expendable.
… except some 50% of the reason for picking up Maldonado extended beyond the one week Contreras missed. He’s a quality veteran, among the best receivers in the game, and could probably help the development of the two younger catchers ahead of him. Moreover, he’s an insurance policy against an injury to one of Contreras or Maldonado. Sure, the Cubs have Taylor Davis at Iowa, and he’s not terrible, but he’s not Maldonado. Why do you think the Astros – a playoff-bound team – would want to get him back?
I really can’t think of a great reason for the Cubs to trade Maldonado right now except for wanting to save the rest of his salary (about $850,000) in order to make other moves. The budget is apparently that stretched.
I suppose the one caveat there is if the Cubs were going to add multiple position pieces in the coming days, then they probably couldn’t carry three catchers on the bench. As it stands, if they added one more bat, they could option someone to AAA Iowa for the short term (everyone can come back up, at the latest, on September 1). All of Ian Happ, Victor Caratini, Robel Garcia, Albert Almora, and David Bote have options. Just sayin’.
We’ll see how things play out before judging too harshly, but when a report comes out that has this kind of tone and specificity, it’s a really good bet that something is going to happen. Don’t expect any return on Maldonado to be notable – DFA’d utility man Tony Kemp, perhaps?