The Cubs have decided to designate veteran catcher Miguel Montero for assignment, according to ESPNChicago.com’s Jesse Rogers (via Twitter). Chicago is set to promote young receive Victor Caratini in his place, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney tweets.
Chicago is making the move the morning after Montero allowed the Nationals to run wild on the basepaths — and then blamed it on starter Jake Arrieta. While both surely have their share of the blame for the seven swiped bags, Montero’s public comments were clearly not taken well by the organization.
Star first baseman Anthony Rizzo didn’t mince words on the topic. This morning, in an interview on ESPN 1000 (Twitter link), he described the situation like this: “When you point fingers you’re a selfish player. We have another catcher that throws everyone out.”
With the Cubs trying to right the ship after a middling start to the year, the organization will now part with a player who was performing at a high level with the bat — despite the ongoing questions about his abilities behind the dish. Through 112 plate appearances, he carries a .286/.366/.439 batting line with four home runs.
As a left-handed-hitting backstop with a history of strong power production, Montero ought to draw interest. But he’s also earning a hefty $14MM salary in the final year of his deal, so the 33-year-old isn’t going to be claimed. Instead, it seems reasonable to expect he’ll either be traded (with the Cubs holding onto a big chunk of change) or allowed to test the open market.
Chicago will now sport a youthful and talented backstop pairing, with the 23-year-old Caratini joining 25-year-old Willson Contreras. The switch-hitting Caratini has enjoyed a breakout year thus far at Triple-A Iowa, slashing a robust .343/.384/.539 with eight home runs over 271 trips to the plate.
Though Caratini is certainly an interesting player who could hold down the reserve role the rest of the way, today’s move also opens at least some possibility that the Cubs will explore the trade market this summer (or look at an option such as current free agent Derek Norris). Even if a significant addition isn’t pursued, Chicago might look into adding another veteran. Perhaps it’s even possible that Kyle Schwarber could return to more regular duties behind the dish once he’s called back up, though undoubtedly the Cubs will also want to continue protecting his knee and allow him to focus on getting right at the plate.