CHICAGO (AP) –– With their All-Star catcher sidelined, the Chicago Cubs quickly found some experienced help behind the plate.
The NL Central leaders acquired Martin Maldonado in a trade with Kansas City on Monday night that sent left-hander Mike Montgomery to the Royals.
Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein announced the deal following Chicago’s 6-3 loss to Cincinnati — adding that top catcher Willson Contreras was going on the 10-day injured list with a strain to the arch area of his right foot.
The 32-year-old Maldonado, a Gold Glove winner in 2017 with the Angels, was batting .227 with six homers and 17 RBIs in 74 games for the struggling Royals this season. The Cubs are his fifth team in nine major league seasons, and Epstein expects him to provide a strong defensive presence.
“He can really receive,” Epstein said. “He can really throw. He’s caught playoff games. He’s handled some of the best pitchers in the game. He’s a favorite of pitchers to throw to. He calls a great game.”
Contreras’ injury initially was not deemed serious and he was expected to start Tuesday, but an MRI showed enough damage to warrant shutting down the 27-year-old. Epstein said Contreras should improve quickly with rest and the club hopes he’ll be ready to play once eligible to return from a backdated stint on the IL.
“Our medical staff feels like if he were to try to play on it, that he’d be risking exacerbating the injury and turning it into something long term,” Epstein said. “So we have to get ahead of it, take it out of Willie’s hands and get him off his feet.”
Maldonado is a .220 career hitter with 57 homers and 210 RBIs in 686 games.
Montgomery, 30, is 1-2 with a 5.67 ERA in 20 relief appearances for the Cubs this year, and was 14-17 with three saves in 119 games for Chicago over four seasons.
Montgomery got the final out in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series at Cleveland, ending the Cubs’ 108-year championship drought.
“You can’t talk about his contributions without talking about him getting the last out in that World Series that changed everybody’s lives,” Epstein said. “Beyond that, I thought he started coming into his own.”
Montgomery will get to a chance to start with the Royals, who drafted him in 2008, something he wanted to do with the Cubs, but wasn’t given many chances to crack the rotation.