The premiere catcher on baseball’s free agent market was snatched up by the Toronto Blue Jays Sunday, when Russell Martin penned a five-year, $82 million deal with the club.
Other backstop free agents on the market include A.J. Pierzynski, Nick Hundley and Ryan Doumit — names far less enticing than Martin, who hit .290 with a .402 on-base percentage last year, adding value to his previously established reputation as one of baseball’s best defenders behind the plate.
Teams which held interest in Martin aren’t likely to be satisfied by settling for one of those options, creating a context for a trade. And one of those teams looks to be the Chicago Cubs.
The Cubs’ starting catcher last season, Welington Castillo, currently sits in contractual flux with the team, which must decide whether or not to tender him a contract by Dec. 2. Castillo’s .237 batting average last season doesn’t pair well with his behind-the-plate work. According to BaseballProspectus.com, in 2014, Castillo ranked 95th out of baseball’s 100 most-worked catchers when it came to pitch framing. Only two National League catchers allowed more passed balls and committed more errors than the 27 year old.
One potential target for the Cubs, as detailed in a recent story in the Chicago Tribune, could be Arizona Diamondbacks centerpiece Miguel Montero.
With the D-backs’ apparent interest in bolstering their pitching stable, a trade of their franchise catcher doesn’t seem out of the question. Two seasons ago, Montero signed a five-year, $60 million contract with the D-backs, making him the highest-paid position player in franchise history. Headed into 2015, $40 million remains owed to the 31 year old.
Montero is a two-time All-Star, earning selection in 2011 and last season, when he saw a resurgence — driving in 72, thanks to 13 home runs and 23 doubles. Touted as a clubhouse leader and solid defensive catcher, he becomes a much more appealing option to a young Cubs team than Castillo, albeit a more expensive one.
Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein was formerly linked to interest in Montero, while serving as general manager of the Boston Red Sox. The team has also been rumored to have interest in Houston Astros product Jason Castro.