1:35pm: The Nationals have signed veteran catcher Miguel Montero to a minor league deal and invited him to Major League Spring Training, tweets Chelsea Janes of the Washington Post. The Rep 1 Baseball client will compete with young Pedro Severino for a backup role in camp.
The 34-year-old Montero split the 2017 season between the Cubs and Blue Jays, hitting a combined .216/.310/.346 in 213 plate appearances. Of course, the nature of his departure from the Cubs organization was a larger story than his production at or behind the plate in 2017; following a late-June game when the Cubs’ opponent (coincidentally — the Nationals) ran amok on the basepaths, Montero publicly blasted starter Jake Arrieta for being slow to the plate and not giving him enough of a chance to throw out the opposing base thieves.
Unsurprisingly, the comments weren’t well received within the clubhouse or the front office, and Montero was designated for assignment the very next day despite the fact that he carried a strong .286/.366/.439 slash line at the time. Montero hooked on with the Blue Jays but floundered through 101 plate appearances, hitting just .138/.248/.241 through season’s end.
While he’s struggled at the plate in each of the past two seasons, Montero isn’t far removed from being a productive bat. In 2015 he served as Chicago’s primary backstop and hit .248/.345/.409 with 15 homers in 403 plate appearances, and his overall body of work from 2009-15 is solid: .265/.347/.421.
The Nats, of course, will hope his 2018 form more closely mirrors that solid seven-year run between the D-backs (where current Nats GM Mike Rizzo played a part in signing Montero) and the Cubs. Washington received a putrid year from 2016-17 offseason signee Matt Wieters, who batted just .225/.288/.344 with poor defensive ratings while earning $10.5MM in the first season of a two-year deal. Wieters had the opportunity to opt out of that deal and re-enter the free agent market, though he wisely forewent that option to remain in D.C. and earn another $10.5MM.
Montero and Severino will vie for at bats, as things currently stand, though the Nats could yet make a larger splash. Catcher has been a reported target for the team, and the Nats are said to have their eye on Marlins star J.T. Realmuto as a trade option. It’s possible that the Nats are kicking the tires on other trade targets as well, of course, and Jonathan Lucroy stands out as a prominent name that remains available on the open market.