Myth-busting the Cubs’ Martin Maldonado trade

Everything you need to know about Contreras’ injury, Caratini’s status, three-catcher math, Bigfoot and what’s really going on in Area 51. Well, most of that anyway.

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Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs

Maldonado makes the quick tag on Nick Senzel for the final out of the Reds’ first inning on shortstop Javy Baez’ relay throw Monday night.

Photo by David Banks/Getty Images

The Cubs’ trade of pitcher Mike Montgomery to the Royals for backup catcher Martin Maldonado late Monday night seemed to catch many by surprise. It led to a lot of speculation Tuesday in search of a deeper meaning related to the Cubs’ roster plans and trade-deadline intentions.

But sometimes a trade is just a trade, and a 10-day foot injury is just a 10-day foot injury.

Here are a few myths and realities surrounding the trade for Maldonado — who started Tuesday night against the Reds — based on numerous conversations with players and team officials:

Myth: Willson Contreras’ foot injury must be worse than the Cubs are saying if they made a deal like this on July 15.

Reality: Not even close. The Cubs already were talking to the Royals about Maldonado once the Royals created a desperate need for a starter (i.e., Montgomery) with their trade of Homer Bailey to the A’s over the weekend. And when the Cubs’ medical staff suggested a cautious approach to Contreras’ sore foot to prevent a long-term injury, talks intensified. If anything, the push-it/don’t-push-it middle ground of Contreras’ injury made both the injured-list decision and the trade decision easier.

“I just got back from a specialist, and he said it’s just a bruise,” Contreras said Tuesday, anticipating full activity by the end of the week. “Nothing to be worried about. If it was [up to] me, I’d be playing today.”

Myth: Backup catcher Victor Caratini’s days with the Cubs must be numbered. The team must be planning to include him in an imminent deal closer to the deadline.

Reality: It’s certainly not out of the question that Caratini — or any of several other Cubs — could be included in a trade for an ideal return. But don’t bet on it. That never came close to entering the thinking. This was about catching depth, in particular a high-valued defensive catcher the Cubs coveted over the winter. 

Myth: Something must be going on, because a left-hander who can start or pitch in relief with two years of control left is a lot more valuable than a backup catcher.

Reality: Not when he has a 5.67 ERA and has declined in value in every possible role for the Cubs, and when interested teams can’t get a scouting report off his 2019 appearances to suggest anything better than that. Think: change of scenery (and see “desperate need” above).

Myth: If they’re not going to trade him, then Caratini must be headed to the minors once Contreras is activated from the IL — or, wait a minute, maybe Contreras is getting traded.

Reality: Stop it. The Cubs want catching depth, especially during this time of the year. And they’ve often carried three catchers on the roster down the stretch. Think Bobby Wilson last year, Alex Avila the year before and Contreras/David Ross/Miguel Montero before that.

“We’ve said it many times since we’ve been here that depth is incredibly valuable, especially at a position that’s as physically taxing and has as many injuries as catcher,” general manager Jed Hoyer said. “You can never have enough good catching, especially catching that is playoff-experienced and respected by veteran pitchers and coaches alike.”

Mythmaker question: OK, smart guy, then why didn’t they get their third catcher in August like they did the last few years?

Answer: Because waiver deals in August were eliminated this year, leaving July 31 as the lone deadline for acquiring major-league players before the Aug. 31 deadline for playoff-roster eligibility.

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