Cubs

Cubs catcher Miguel Montero is going to do it his way

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Cubs catcher Miguel Montero is going to do it his way

DENVER — Miguel Montero is eventually going to rub some Cubs people the wrong way and say something to the Chicago media that he should probably just keep to himself.

But this is going to be fun to watch, a very opinionated catcher who absolutely loves to talk working with this pitching staff inside the Wrigley Field fishbowl.

“I’m a winner, man,” Montero said. “I hate to lose. And I hate to give up a hit. Even though it’s the pitcher’s ERA, it hurts me when they give up a run, because I take it personally.”

Montero sort of wore out his welcome with the Arizona Diamondbacks. He had been in that organization since 2001, signing as an amateur free agent out of Venezuela and developing into a two-time All-Star. He also needed a change of scenery, the chance to play for a contender, not a team just beginning the rebuild.

[MORE CUBS: Kris Bryant Watch can wait after Cubs complete dramatic comeback win]

Montero is not going to be shy here. He stood in front of his locker on Sunday morning inside Coors Field’s visiting clubhouse and used Randy Johnson as an example. He remembered one game in particular while catching the future Hall of Famer in 2008.

“It was one batter,” Montero recalled. “First at-bat, he gave up a double, hanging slider, (right) down the line. Second at-bat, the same slider, and it’s a line drive off his foot.

“So the manager and the trainer go out to the mound and he’s looking at me: ‘We got to quit throwing sliders to that guy.’ And I look at him and I say: ‘No, you got to quit hanging it.’”

Montero also probably dropped an F-bomb on The Big Unit.

“I turn around and I walk back to the plate and I’m like: ‘What did I do?’” Montero said. “Well, two things can happen: Either I get sent down (to the minors) or I don’t catch anymore, because I was his personal guy.

“(But) he appreciated it. The next year, he was with the Giants, and I faced him in spring training. He threw me a fastball in and broke my bat. The media asked him: ‘Hey, did you say hi to Miggy?’ (Johnson goes): ‘No, he was too busy picking up his broken bat.’”

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The Cubs took on the three years and $40 million left on Montero’s contract because they thought he could get through to their pitchers and bring an edge to the clubhouse.

“Some guys need a pat on the back, some guys need to be yelled at,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “And I’m one of the guys that likes to be yelled at. He recognizes things in situations that I need to do differently, and it’s great to have a voice like that behind the plate.”

Pitcher Jason Hammel made a fist while describing Montero’s personality.

“When he wants you to throw a certain pitch,” Hammel said, “he’s like really emphatic about (it): ‘No, this is what you want to throw.’ Even if you shake, he wouldn’t take no (for an answer).

“It almost gives you that confidence to throw that pitch, even if you don’t want to. He has a good way of almost getting a little extra out of you when you want to kind of go in a different direction.”

Manager Joe Maddon compared Montero to another quote machine: Yogi Berra.

“Look at some photographs, man,” Maddon said. “Left-handed hitter with surprising power, not very tall. He’s probably more animated verbally than even Yogi was, in a sense. Yogi had his own Yogi-isms, and I guess there’s Miggy-isms. He’s got his own method of communication. (But) he absolutely loves to play baseball. He comes to play every day. His agenda is to win.”

Cubs Talk Podcast: Is Kris Bryant the new Curt Flood?

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USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Is Kris Bryant the new Curt Flood?

This has been the offseason of Kris Bryant rumors and with his grievance still unresolved Cubs fans can only speculate what will happen to the MVP. Is Kris Bryant trying to change the system like Curt Flood did? Host David Kaplan is joined by ESPN Chicago's Jesse Rogers to discuss Bryant's future as a Cub, and the lackluster offseason the Cubs have had.

(1:50) - Why the Cubs have not made any moves so far

(3:32) - Is Kris Bryant the new Curt Flood?

(6:26) - Cubs need upgrades, specifically in the bullpen

(9:10) - Will the Cubs make a big move before the season starts?

(11:30) - Does Javy Baez get the big extension?

(14:45) - Will the Cubs get to 86 wins this year?

Listen to the full episode in the embedded player below:

Cubs Talk Podcast

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Cubs close to deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza, per report

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USA TODAY

Cubs close to deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza, per report

The Cubs have made a roster move.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the Cubs are reportedly close to a deal with free agent outfielder Steven Souza.

Souza, 30, missed the 2019 season after suffering a torn left ACL and LCL at the end of spring training. He also missed a chunk of 2018, playing 72 games while hitting the injured list on multiple occasions.

Souza had a career year with the Rays in 2017, slashing .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, 78 RBIs and a 121 wRC+. Those figures were career-bests for Souza, minus his batting average. He sported a walk rate (13.6 percent) above league average (8.5) that season, though his strikeout rate (29 percent) was worse than the MLB average (23).

The signing of Souza likely rules out a return of fan favorite outfielder Nicholas Castellanos. The Cubs have been linked to Castellanos throughout the offseason, but since they're looking to stay under MLB’s luxury tax threshold, re-signing Castellanos would require some financial maneuvering.

Souza has spent most of his career in right field (3,608 career innings) but has minimal experience playing center (33 1/3) and left (20). He’s above average in right (career 6 Defensive Runs Saved) and posted a career best 7 DRS in 2017.

The Cubs have a five-time Gold Glove right fielder in Jason Heyward, so Souza will see time at all three outfield spots. Heyward moved to center full-time last season after the Cubs acquired Castellanos and has played center at times throughout his career.

Assuming he stays healthy, Souza is a low-risk, high-reward move for the Cubs. He’ll add power to the middle of the order and add a proven bat to an outfield with some question marks. Albert Almora Jr. and Ian Happ have each struggled offensively at times since 2018. Souza offers another bat in case those two slump again.