BOCA RATON, Fla. – Even with all the moving pieces to this jigsaw-puzzle offseason, it doesn’t sound like the Cubs are ready to move Miguel Montero.
Trading Montero – who’s owed $28 million across the next two seasons – would be one way to help free up funds to sign one of the frontline pitchers the Cubs have been linked to during the general manager meetings at the Boca Raton Resort and Club.
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein started off this week in South Florida by ruling out the idea of signing two players to nine-figure contracts this winter, saying the Cubs would have to get creative just to put together one of those megadeals.
But trading Montero after an up-and-down season isn’t on the table at this point.
“I wouldn’t anticipate that,” Epstein said. “That’s not something we’ve talked about at all. He was a big part of helping our run prevention last year (with) his framing behind the plate (and) his pitch-calling. We set an all-time National League record for strikeouts. We were third in ERA. He was a big part of that. It’s not something that we’re looking to disrupt at all.”
Montero finished with 15 homers and 53 RBI after missing almost a month with a sprained left thumb and dealing with two different three-catcher rotations that cut into his playing time.
At the age of 32, it’s hard to expect Montero to be the same force he had been at times with the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he made two All-Star teams.
But the Cubs don’t have an obvious alternative with top catching prospect Willson Contreras – who won a Southern League batting title this year – expected to start next season at Triple-A Iowa and need more time to develop defensively.
The Cubs have David Ross around for one more season at $2.25 million. Jon Lester’s personal catcher is an energetic clubhouse leader with the potential to manage in the big leagues someday. But the Cubs can’t count on a .176 hitter to play every day, especially when Ross will be 39 years old next season.
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And the Cubs can’t afford to send Kyle Schwarber back to the minors to continue learning how to catch – or rely on him every day behind the plate in The Show – if they want to get back to the NL Championship Series and play deeper into October.
“He’s going to continue to grow at both positions,” Epstein said. “He’s excited to try to get better in the outfield and to continue his growth behind the plate. I think he’s at an age (22) where that’s still possible to develop in both areas. It’s not necessarily ideal, but it’s something that I think he’s capable of doing.”