Back on Tuesday morning when I wrote my weekly mailbag for 973espn.com, I was asked what I thought the Phillies should do to help stabilize the flailing club. One of my responses was that the Phillies should consider adding a veteran catcher, who would do a good job with pitchers calling pitches and who was a bit of an upgrade with the bat. One name in particular I suggested was Cubs catcher Miguel Montero. That very night, Montero made some controversial comments and by Wednesday morning, he was designated for assignment. Now that he is very available, I would suggest that the Phillies consider giving him a shot.
What caused the ire of the Chicago clubhouse that led to Montero's designation were comments critical of Cubs pitcher Jake Arrieta. Frustrated that Washington Nationals stole seven bases, Montero placed the blame on Arrieta in postseason comments:
"It really sucked, because the stolen bases go on me. But when you really look at it, the pitcher doesn't give me any time, so yeah, 'Miggy can't throw anyone out,' but my pitchers don't hold anyone on."
This did not sit well with the Cubs brass. Both Cubs manager Joe Maddon and Chicago Cubs president Theo Epstein were highly critical of these comments. Since they are the decision makers, the Cubs designated Montero for assignment the next day.
Part of the blame is on Montero. However, Arrieta and pitcher John Lackey, whom Montero was frequently paired with, are both known for being slow to the plate. In fact, Trea Turner, who stole four of the Nationals' stolen bases Tuesday night, said as much:
"I knew that Arrieta was slower to the plate, so I just wanted to be aggressive and make sure I was taking good chances."
Montero was the catcher for Arrieta's no-hitter back in 2015.
While it is fair to say that Montero's skills have diminished some behind the plate, it is not all bad for the veteran catcher, now 33 years old. Grant Brisbee of SB Nation actually looked at all 31 stolen bases against Montero this season. 15 of them he did not even get a throw off. Generally, of the stolen bases, the pitcher's throw time to the plate was on the high side and Montero's throws to second base were indeed on the slower side, for a tough combination.
So why do I think Montero would help the Phillies?
The Phillies are playing Cameron Rupp less and less. The reason has something to do with his batting average, currently at .208, and Rupp's pitch calling. At times, the coaching staff's criticism over Rupp's pitch calling has become public. The first such instance was a Bryce Harper home run on May 14. On Sunday, the Phillies broadcast showed pitching coach Bob McClure and assistant pitching coach Rick Kranitz converge on Rupp again about his pitch calling.
The veteran Montero could help the Phillies pitching staff with some better game calling and at the same time help mentor young catcher Andrew Knapp and eventually Jorge Alfaro.
Montero has always been a brutally honest player, for better and for worse. After essentially winning the World Series for the Cubs with a bases-loaded hit that drove in the winning runs, Montero still expressed he was disappointed about his lack of playing time. This Phillies team might need some honesty at this point, especially as the development of young players is at stake. But the Phillies, with a large Venezuelan contingent, probably will have great respect for Montero, a native of Venezuela himself.
Futher, Montero would bring to the Phillies lineup an .830 OPS from the left side of the plate. The veteran bat might do the Phillies very well in a lineup that may have lost Howie Kendrick to the disabled list and got nothing out of Michael Saunders.
Montero is making $14 million this season. Right now, still in the 10-day window that teams have when designating a player for assignment, the Cubs will look to trade Montero before releasing him. Maybe the Cubs would consider a one-for-one swap with the Phillies and Rupp. With Alfaro ready to make the big leagues (he is out of options and has to begin 2018 with the Phillies or they could lose him), Rupp has no long-term future with the club. Montero would just be signed until year's end and could turn the position over to Alfaro and Knapp afterwards.
The Phillies could eat a little bit of money, perhaps more than the Toronto Blue Jays could, who are reportedly interested in acquiring Montero. A deal would not and should not cost much in terms of talent; after all, after 10 days if the Cubs cannot make a deal they will have to straight release Montero. If all Montero costs is a player such as Rupp and money, I think the Phillies should give him a shot.