Miguel Montero Rumors

Central Notes: Cubs, Castro, Diaz, Sierra, Williams, Tigers

The Cubs will soon deal with a roster crunch, writes Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald. The returns of catcher Miguel Montero and infielder Tommy La Stella from the disabled list will force additional moves. Montero joined the lineup today. No transaction was necessary because David Ross was temporarily moved to the bereavement list. LaStella could return to the team tomorrow or Tuesday.

As GM Jed Hoyer pointed out, a deep roster meshes with manager Joe Maddon’s disposition. The young players on the roster are showing some signs of fatigue in their first major league season. Additional depth along with Maddon’s penchant for tinkering should keep everybody fresher. As for who might go, Chicago has already said that prospect Kyle Schwarber will remain with the team. It’s just my guess, but I suspect Jonathan Herrera and Matt Szczur will wind up holding the short straws.

Here’s more from the Central divisions:

  • The Cubs have removed Starlin Castro from the starting lineup with Addison Russell sliding over to shortstop. If Castro is asked to play another position, he would request to speak with front office personnel, tweets Bruce Levine of 670thescore.com. Per Levine, Maddon prefers to have one shortstop rather than a rotation. With La Stella returning soon and Schwarber getting pushed to the outfield by the return of Montero, Castro may see limited playing time in the weeks ahead.
  • The Twins have been scouting Cuban talent, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN. Yesterday, representatives of the club attended a showcase in the Dominican Republic. Outfielder Yusniel Diaz was the headliner per Wolfson. The 18-year-old was viewed as the probable Rookie of the Year in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, but he defected immediately after the season. He is subject to international spending limits. The Twins will also watch pitcher Yasiel Sierra today. Sierra, 23, will be exempt from the international bonus pool once he’s declared a free agent.
  • Brewers pitching prospect Taylor Williams will have Tommy John surgery, tweets Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He’ll likely miss the entire 2016 season. Williams, a 2013 fourth round pick, entered the year as the 11th ranked prospect in the Brewers system per FanGraphs’ Kiley McDaniel. Over the last two seasons, he has a 3.09 ERA with 9.2 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 174 innings split between the lower minors. He did not appear this year.
  • The Tigers have shuffled their front office titles following the promotion Al Avila to GM, tweets Jason Beck of MLB.com. David Chadd is now the new Assistant GM, and Scott Bream will now serve as VP of Player Personnel.

Central Notes: Cueto, Tigers, Pirates, Indians, Garza, Cubs

At least one executive of a club with interest in Reds starter Johnny Cueto saw significant concern in his latest outing, Jayson Stark of ESPN.com reports on Twitter. Though he only allowed four hits and two runs, Cueto walked six and lasted just four innings, marking his second consecutive start of five innings or less. He also generated a season-low three groundball outs. Given Cueto’s status as one of the premium rental trade pieces on the market, and some pre-existing injury questions, his next appearance could be one to watch.

Here’s more from the game’s central divisions:

  • We heard yesterday that the Tigers were gearing up to sell, but Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports writes on Twitter that multiple GMs tell him they have yet to be informed that Detroit will sell. Per Rosenthal, it’s still up in the air whether the Tigers will move quality veteran assets such as David Price and Yoenis Cespedes.
  • The Pirates are not only looking at possible shortstop acquisitions but continue to seek an addition at first base, Stark tweets. Pedro Alvarez has provided only average offensive production while struggling mightily with the glove. Of course, the first base trade market is not exactly overflowing with obvious upgrade candidates.
  • Indians GM Chris Antonetti says his team plans to be an “opportunistic” and “open-minded” participant on the trade market, as Paul Hoynes of the Plain Dealer reports. One thing the team likely won’t do, however, is deal from its array of quality, controllable starting pitchers. “We are not motivated at all to do that,” said Antonetti.
  • The Brewers will welcome back righty Matt Garza from the DL tonight, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports. That means he ought to have two starts to show his health and regain some trade value, though Garza’s big contract makes him a viable August trade piece as well (since he’d very likely clear waivers).
  • The Cubs got promising news on the injury front, as Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago reports (Twitter links). Backstop Miguel Montero has only a sprained left thumb, rather than something more serious, though he is still set to rest for two weeks before being evaluated again. And minor league infielder Javier Baez may appear in game action this week. That makes the high-upside prospect a more viable trade piece if the Cubs decide to pursue a significant upgrade.

Miguel Montero Out Up To 6 Weeks; Schwarber Recalled

Cubs catcher Miguel Montero will hit the DL with a thumb injury that he suffered on Saturday, MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo reports. Highly-regarded youngster Kyle Schwarber will return to the big leagues to take his place.

The injury could keep Montero out for up to six weeks, according to the report. Presumably, more will be known after a visit to a hand specialist tomorrow, as Bruce Miles of the Daily Herald notes on Twitter.

It is not expected that Schwarber will see regular duty behind the dish, according to MLB.com’s Carrie Muskat (via Twitter). Muskat adds that David Ross and Taylor Teagarden will also remain on the active roster (at least once Ross returns from injury).

Presumably, though, Schwarber will have plenty of opportunity to find at bats, especially after slashing .364/.391/.591 in a brief-but-exciting 23-plate appearance debut earlier in the year. He might conceivably see time in the outfield and as a bench bat in addition to spending some innings behind the dish. All said, it is somewhat difficult to imagine that Schwarber will only function as one of the team’s last bench pieces, as it’s widely believed that he needs significant seasoning defensively.

As Mayo explains, the length of Montero’s potential absence could mean that the much-hyped young slugger ends up staying with the big league club for the rest of the season, given that rosters will expand in September. Remaining on the roster the rest of the way would allow Schwarber to rack up as much as 86 days of service on the year (including the six days he’s already been in the big leagues). That could well complicate any effort to hold him back at the start of next year (or otherwise play with his service accumulation) to stave off Super Two status or extend team control.

Dodgers Notes: Haren, Shields, Santana, Peavy

There has been much speculation about Dan Haren‘s role in the impending six-player trade between the Dodgers and Marlins, as Haren has openly said that he’d rather retire than pitch anywhere but for one of the two Los Angeles teams.  Angels GM Jerry Dipoto shot down speculation that the Marlins could flip Haren to his team, telling reporters (including Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register) that his team wasn’t trading for Haren.

As we wait for either of today’s two blockbuster Dodgers trades to be finalized, here’s some more news from Chavez Ravine…

  • There are rumors around the Winter Meetings that the Dodgers are making these big moves to position themselves to sign James Shields, ESPN Los Angeles’ Mark Saxon reports (Twitter link).
  • The rumored Andre Ethier-for-Miguel Montero swap with the Diamondbacks fell apart because of how much money the Dodgers would have had to pay, Saxon reports (via Twitter).  Arizona ended up dealing Montero to the Cubs yesterday.
  • Also from Saxon, the Dodgers haven’t made any inquiries about Ervin Santana.
  • The Dodgers have been talking to other free agent pitchers, however, including Jake Peavy, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal tweets.
  • Rumors of a Matt Kemp deal to the Padres “has legs,” a source tells Jon Heyman of CBS Sports.  The two sides have made some progress but nothing is official yet.  Yasmani Grandal would be the main piece coming back from San Diego and Heyman hears the Dodgers have also asked for pitchers Joe Ross and Zach Eflin (though Heyman isn’t sure if both would be included if the deal happened.)

Cubs Acquire Miguel Montero

Catcher Miguel Montero is officially headed from the Diamondbacks to the Cubs. Young pitchers Zack Godley and Jeferson Mejia make up the return to Arizona in the deal.

While final details remain unknown, reports have consistently indicated that Chicago will take on most or all of the remaining financial commitments to Montero. The sides were said to be in talks yesterday.

MLB: Los Angeles Dodgers at Arizona DiamondbacksMontero, a left-handed hitter, has three years and $40MM left on his deal. The 31-year-old has had two down years after establishing himself as one of the best-hitting backstops in the game. Last year, he slashed .243/.329/.370 with 13 home runs in 560 plate appearances.

But Montero still hits righties quite well and could make up half of a high-quality platoon in Chicago with incumbent Welington Castillo. (Unless, that is, Castillo is dealt elsewhere, in which case Montero will presumably be paired with a different right-handed bat.) Montero rated as an excellent pitch framer (per StatCorner) and strong overall defender (via Baseball Prospectus) last year.

Godley is a 24-year-old righty who has yet to move past the High-A level in Chicago’s system. Working at Daytona last year, he put up a 3.57 ERA in 40 1/3 frames with 11.6 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9.

Mejia, 20, reached Rookie ball last year after being inked by the Cubs on July 2 of 2013. As Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote at the time, the 6’7 prospect had been adding weight and fastball velocity at the time of his signing. He ultimately went for a $850K bonus. Mejia features a low-90s heater with a good change and decent curve. That fastball velo may still be trending up, per MLB.com, which ranked him 17th among Cubs prospects. Working mostly as a reliever, he threw to a 2.48 ERA with 10.1 K/9 against 3.8 BB/9 in 40 innings last year.

As MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes notes on Twitter, Arizona would leave itself without much behind the dish were it to deal away Montero. The free agent market for backstops is rather thin, of course, with Geovany Soto among the most appealing options. Players such as Dioner Navarro may be had via trade, though prying loose a more permanent solution may be difficult.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported on Twitter that the deal was in its final stages of completion. Bruce Levine of 670TheScore.com (via Twitter) reported that the deal was done. And Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic (on Twitter) and Levine (Twitter link) reported the other pieces in the deal.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Cubs, D’Backs Discussing Miguel Montero

11:31pm: A source tells Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com (via Twitter) that a deal isn’t close to fruition.

10:30pm: If the deal happens, Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic (on Twitter) hears it’ll “likely” be for two Single-A pitchers.

8:46pm: The return for Montero wouldn’t be big, reports Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (two tweets). The DBacks would receive low level prospects with the Cubs assuming most or all of Montero’s $40MM contract. Rosenthal hears Arizona would receive pitching prospects (via Twitter).

8:28pm: The Cubs and Diamondbacks are discussing a trade that would send Miguel Montero to Chicago, sources tell Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (on Twitter).  The two teams are expected to talk again tonight, Rosenthal tweets.  The Cubs and Diamondbacks have been engaged for weeks and a deal appears to be getting closer. There is no word yet as to what the Cubs have on offer.

Montero, 31, has three years and $40MM remaining on his current contract. The left-handed backstop struggles against same-handed pitching, including a .198/.252/.311 line in 115 plate appearances last season. He was considerably better against right-handers, with a .256/.348/.386 slash.

He started strong last season. His performance dwindled as the season wore on, leading some (including me) to speculate that he tired. In Chicago, Montero could form a potent platoon with Cubs incumbent Welington Castillo, who hits very well against southpaws – .301/.350/.505 last year. The presence of Castillo could also help to keep Montero fresh.

As a catcher, Montero draws strong grades on his pitch framing. Per StatCorner, he accrued the most framing value of any catcher last season. He caught 29% of base runners in 2014 which is solid but slightly below his career average.

Interestingly, the Cubs recently hired former Diamondbacks coach Henry Blanco. He mentored Montero last season and could be a factor in the Cubs interest. Buster Olney of ESPN was the first to deduce the connection (via Twitter).

NL West Rumors: Montero, Greinke, Ross

The Giants have fallen short on a few free agent targets this offseason, but they’re not worried, reports Henry Schulman in a series of tweets. Per Schulman, the Giants don’t feel a need to “win” bidding wars. They’ll stick to their dollar figure, which could affect their pursuit of Jon Lester. The club clearly wasn’t comfortable topping the $68MM offer to Yasmany Tomas or $44MM offer to Nick Markakis. In the case of another free agent they missed out on – Pablo Sandoval – the Giants reportedly made a comparable offer to the Red Sox.

  • Sources tell Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (on Twitter) that the D’Backs would need to be “overwhelmed” to move Mark Trumbo.  Still, the Mariners are among the teams that are monitoring the situation.
  • Earlier today, Diamondbacks Chief Baseball Officer Tony La Russa said that contrary to reports, there was no agreed upon deal with the Dodgers that would have sent Miguel Montero to L.A.  When asked if a Montero-to-the-Dodgers deal could still happen, La Russa said, “The conversations are not what they were before. I think it’s less likely,” according to Nick Piecoro of The Arizona Republic (via Twitter).  However, La Russa added that ownership has not deemed Montero untouchable (link).
  • Dodgers president Andrew Friedman says that he’ll let the year play out before addressing Zack Greinke‘s opt out clause, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times (on Twitter).  From the sound of it, the Dodgers don’t have extension talks with the pitcher on their agenda for this winter.
  • Friedman said he would have zero hesitation in trading players within the division, tweets Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com.
  • Friedman went on to say (link) that he has not visited any free agents this winter.
  • Corey Brock of MLB.com (via Twitter) doesn’t think that there’s much to the speculation that the Rangers will make a run at Padres pitcher Andrew Cashner.  Texas reportedly has more interest in Tyson Ross.

West Rumors: Trumbo, Montero, Cabrera

Even though Diamondbacks GM Dave Stewart said last week that he will not trade Mark Trumbo, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter) hears that he is still in play for Arizona.  There was once talk of a three-way deal involving Trumbo that fell through but he remains available. A look at the AL and NL West..

  • Tony La Russa said the the Diamondbacks had talks with the Dodgers about Miguel Montero but they never had a deal in place, according to Steve Gilbert of MLB.com (via Twitter).
  • The Mariners are pondering a wide range of possibilities for an outfield bat, including trades, and they’re not locked in on Melky Cabrera at this point, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter).  Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reported earlier today that the M’s are the favorites for the outfielder.
  • Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson has switched agents and joined Excel Sports Management, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).
  • Despite being connected to him, the Astros did not seriously pursue Jason Hammel, according to Evan Drellich of the Houston Chronicle (via Twitter). They did make an inquiry, however.  Hammel ultimately returned to the Cubs on a two-year pact.

Quick Hits: Upton, Robertson, Headley, Ethier, Mets Shortstop

Justin Upton might be the best hitter on the market, but that’s not the only reason teams want him, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports. With one year and $14.5MM remaining on his contract, Upton is a financial steal. If a team acquires him this offseason, they’ll also be looking at a free draft pick when he declines their qualifying offer. He’s in his physical prime at 27 years old, and he’s a former number one overall pick. Heyman lists the Royals, Tigers, Mariners, Orioles, and Padres as possible destinations. We can expect the Braves to receive a notable player in return – after all, they netted Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins for Jason Heyward and Jordan Walden.

  • The Yankees would like to re-sign Chase Headley and David Robertson, reports Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. However, New York refuses to go overboard, which may let other clubs swoop in on the pair of free agents. Headley is said to have a four-year, $65MM offer on the table, and the Giants are reportedly “getting aggressive.” It’s unknown at this time if San Francisco is the team that offered the $65MM deal. The Yankees aren’t expected to value Headley that highly. Meanwhile, the Blue Jays supposedly “love” Robertson, and the Astros are in on him too. After New York signed Andrew Miller last week, there is less urgency to sign another relief ace.
  • A proposed swap of Andre Ethier and Miguel Montero fell through, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The Diamondbacks would have received Ethier and catcher Tim Federowicz for Montero and lower level prospects. The Dodgers would have also kicked in money to help balance the extra $16MM guaranteed to Ethier over the next three seasons. Rosenthal lists a couple reasons the deal may have fallen through. DBacks owner Ken Kendrick is a fan of Montero, and Arizona may be hesitant to trade with their former GM Josh Byrnes on the other side of the negotiations (Byrnes is now the Dodgers Sr. VP of Baseball Operations).
  • Shortstop tops the Mets wish list at the winter meetings, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post. While club officials keep saying they’re comfortable with Wilmer Flores, an upgrade would be welcomed. Unfortunately for the Mets, there aren’t many options available. The Mariners have a couple shortstops, but they have talked about using Brad Miller in the outfield. Other trade targets like Alexei Ramirez, Starlin Castro, and Troy Tulowitzki strike me as unlikely to move. As we know, the free agent market is bleak. Many clubs prefer Asdrubal Cabrera and Jed Lowrie at second base. The next best options, Stephen Drew and Everth Cabrera, have a lot to prove before a team trusts them as a starter.

Quick Hits: Upton, Montero, Rays, Hunter, Pirates

MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince names the ten players most likely to be traded this offseason and the Braves’ Justin Upton tops the list. Castrovince feels the Braves could obtain a similar, if not better, return than they received for Jason Heyward because Upton’s powerful bat has tremendous value.

Here are the latest notes from around baseball:

  • Miguel Montero placed tenth on Castrovince’s list and Buster Olney of ESPN.com (on Twitter) wonders if the hiring of Henry Blanco will create traction for the Cubs‘ interest in the Diamondbacks’ catcher, who was a Blanco pupil in 2014. The D’Backs have reportedly spoken with the Cubs, Dodgers, and White Sox about Montero.
  • With Jose Molina gone, the Rays are working to add a backup to Ryan Hanigan, either via trade or signing. They’d like a catcher with more experience than Curt Casali and, preferably, options, writes Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times.
  • More from Topkin who reports, in addition to an expected trade of Matt Joyce and/or David DeJesus, the Rays may be looking to deal from depth in reserve infielders and relievers. He identifies Logan Forsythe and Sean Rodriguez as infield trade possibilities and Brandon Gomes as a bullpen arm who could be moved.
  • It may not be “sexy,” but the Red Sox‘s pursuit of Pablo Sandoval makes perfect sense, writes Scott Lauber of the Boston Herald. The Red Sox appear to be one of the finalists for Sandoval, alongside the Padres and incumbent Giants.
  • Torii Hunter told Charley Walters of the Pioneer Press he favors the Twins among the teams with which he is considering signing. “(Twins General Manager) Terry Ryan and I have talked several times, and there’s definitely a common interest there, for sure,” the veteran said. Ten teams reportedly have interest in Hunter.
  • The Pirates could re-allocate the resources set aside for Russell Martin to pursue rotation and bullpen help, a first baseman, and/or sign some of their young core to extensions, according to Travis Sawchik of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.