The Chicago Cubs acquired catcher Martin Maldonado for left-hander Mike Montgomery, the reliever who secured the last out of the Cubs' 2016 World Series championship season, in a deal with the Kansas City Royals, the teams announced Monday.
Maldonado, a defensive-minded, 32-year-old catcher, should be an immediate replacement for All-Star catcher Willson Contreras, who hit the injured list Monday with a strain in the arch of his right foot. Although Contreras isn't expected to miss a significant amount of time, Maldonado serves as a solid insurance policy.
"It was something we wanted to quickly finalize once it became clear Willson was going to miss some time," Cubs president Theo Epstein said after Chicago's 6-3 loss to the Cincinnati Reds. "He's an established catcher in this league who does a lot of great things behind the plate. He can really receive. He can really throw. He's handled some of the best pitchers in the game."
Maldonado has been one of the best defensive catchers in baseball this season and was traded last July, too, going from the Los Angeles Angels to the Houston Astros. He signed a one-year, $2.5 million deal with Kansas City and started in place of Salvador Perez, who is out for the year while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Montgomery, 30, was on the mound when Kris Bryant pounced on a Michael Martinez ground ball and threw to first baseman Anthony Rizzo to secure the final out of the 2016 season. It was his first career save and the highlight of his Cubs tenure, which started that season. Montgomery confirmed to ESPN that he asked to be traded early this season, as he was looking to move on to the next stage of his career.
"From a career perspective, looking at how it was taking shape, I thought I was best suited to be a starter," Montgomery said.
"I understood, from who they had here, that might not happen for me," Montgomery said.
The Cubs attempted to appease him, but a deal took months to happen and came about strictly on a need basis after Contreras went down.
Chosen by the Royals in the first round of the 2008 draft, Montgomery was a top prospect before he was dealt in a trade that netted Kansas City James Shields and Wade Davis. He was traded soon thereafter to Seattle and arrived in Chicago a year later in 2016. Montgomery vacillated between the starting rotation and a relief role until this season.
He has struggled this season, posting a 5.67 ERA in 20 relief appearances and seeing his peripheral numbers suffer as well, possibly due to his desire to move on. He began the season on the injured list with a sore shoulder.
Montgomery comes with two additional seasons of club control, which made him attractive to Kansas City. Maldonado will be a free agent after this season.
Epstein indicated that he doesn't think Contreras will be out longer than the minimum 10 days required for players on the injured list.
ESPN's Jesse Rogers contributed to this report.