What a day for the boys in blue. Tuesday night, after a game that saw three different Washington Nationals swipe a total of seven bases, Miguel Montero exploded in his interview with the media. He pinned the blame for the stolen bases on his pitcher, Jake Arrieta, who is known for being exceptionally slow in his delivery to home plate.
In the interview, Montero said “It really sucks because the stolen bases go on me,” and followed by making a jab at Arrieta, “Yeah, but my pitchers don’t hold anybody on.”
While no one is going to say that Miggy is lying, his 0-31 caught stealing record is not helping his side of the story. The main problem here is that Montero was basically throwing his teammate under the bus to the national media. The conversation could have and should have taken place behind closed doors. With Cubs fans all over still talking about what Montero had to say, a much more important voice hopped into the conversation early Wednesday morning.
“When you point fingers you’re a selfish player. We have another catcher that throws everyone out.” Those was the words of the unofficially official team captain Anthony Rizzo. Rizzo’s comments seemingly spoke for the entire clubhouse in saying that they backed up their starting pitcher and guys were unhappy about the way Montero handled the entire situation.
Still reeling from the new Rizzo comments on the situation, Cubs Twitter next found news that late Wednesday morning backup catcher Miguel Montero was designated for assignment. While the hostile comments towards Arrieta were the straw the broke the camel’s back for Montero, there were several other reasons for the DFA of Miggy.
In 2016, Montero struggled mightily for the entirety of the season with the bat. He put up a measly 83 wRC+ and lost playing time to Willson Contreras as the year went on. While he created two of the greatest moments in Cubs Postseason history, he was still unhappy about his playing time in the playoffs and made his opinions felt prior to Spring Training this year. While his bat has been significantly better this season (112 wRC+) he has become unbearable on defense, from throwing out runners to blocking balls in the dirt.
The DFA of Miguel Montero left a big hole on the Cubs Major League roster at backup catcher. That role has been immediately filled by Victor Caratini. The Cubs announced shortly after the Montero news, that Caratini would be taking the open slot on the roster. While I mentioned Caratini as a “Next man up” previously, we could always use a refresher on who this kid is.
Victor Caratini was acquired by trade from the Atlanta Braves in 2014 in a deal that sent Emilio Bonafacio and James Russell down south. A second round draft pick in 2013, Caratini has always had a plus hit tool while in the minors to go along with impressive zone management. His walk rate is sitting at 7.8% this year with his strikeout rate sitting at a very reasonable 19.1%.
Where Victor has really improved this year has been his power numbers. He already has eight home runs on the season which is a career high and his .539 slugging percentage is destroying his previous career high of .430. His slash line on the season of .343/.384/.539/.923 is what sets his wRC+ at 133 to this point.
So with Montero being sent away mainly because of his extremely poor defensive numbers, what can we expect from Caratini on this front? Behind the plate this season, he has thrown out 27.9% of would-be base stealers and allowed only four balls get away from his behind the plate. Those numbers are definitely an improvement over the 0% caught stealing percentage of Montero. In addition to catching, Caratini can play a little first base as well and give Rizzo a day off here or there if he needs it.
When it comes down to it, Caratini fits into this roster as a very solid backup catcher for the rest of this season and for years down the road. Miguel Montero may be gone, but we will always be able to say, #WeAreGood.