The Cubs traded from a position of strength to shore up an area of weakness ahead of Wednesday's MLB Trade Deadline.
Just 16 days after acquiring Martin Maldonado in a trade, the Cubs dealt the veteran catcher to the Houston Astros in return for utilityman Tony Kemp.
Kemp — a left-handed hitter that throws right-handed — can play both second base and outfield and is generally considered a solid fielder at both positions.
The 27-year-old has been a solid hitter over the last couple years, posting a .249/.334/.402 slash line (.736 OPS) in 163 games while hitting mostly toward the bottom of the lineup with the Astros with a few starts at leadoff sprinkled in.
It's worth noting Kemp is out of options (which is why the Astros designated him for assignment last week), so the Cubs would not be able to send him to and from Triple-A Iowa freely. However, he could be a valuable piece for the team filling in at either second base or the outfield and maybe even seeing a bit of time at leadoff.
One of Kemp's best assets is his amazing contact ability, which would be a huge addition to the swing-and-miss prone Cubs:
Kemp has a...— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 31, 2019
89.3 contact% in zone
The 2019 Cubs have a...
73.3 contact% (15th NL)
83 contact% in zone (14th)
12.4 swinging-strike% (15th)
He is also the shortest listed Cubs player since 1972, as NBC Sports Chicago's stat guru Chris Kamka points out:
— Christopher Kamka (@ckamka) July 31, 2019
This move helps bolster the Cubs' position player group, as they won't necessarily have to rely on David Bote and Robel Garcia at second base on a regular basis anymore.
Garcia got out to a fantastic start with the Cubs after being called up earlier this month but has since fallen on tough times (3-for-24 with 12 strikeouts over his last 6 games). He has been leading off the last three games, but appears out of place there with a low walk rate and high strikeout potential.
Bote has struggled as well lately, hitting just .200 with a .578 OPS over the last month of action and he's committed 12 errors this season between second and third base.
The Maldonado aspect of this deal is interesting, in that the Cubs now have a bit of a dearth on the catching depth chart.
Willson Contreras is a two-time All-Star starter at catcher and Victor Caratini is a more-than-serviceable backup, but if either guy is injured, the next guy on the depth chart is Taylor Davis, who has very little experience at the big-league level. With no August trade deadline this year for the first time, the Cubs liked Maldonado's experience and defense behind the plate in addition to the depth he added over the final couple months of the season.
"Teams need to keep depth in mind a little bit more, that you have to anticipate where you might be vulnerable to an injury and try to build that depth up in advance — preemptively, really — knowing that there's no escape valve in August. So you gotta really do all your work this month as much as possible and really take a hard look at your organizational depth."
Kemp is a solid addition, but the Cubs as currently constructed are one injury away from a potentially scary catching situation in the middle of a tight divisional race.