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Professional

MLB: Cubs trade Mike Montgomery for Royals catcher Martin Maldonado as Willson Contreras goes on the injured list

Martin Maldonado became a Cub on Monday night, traded from the Royals in exchange for reliever Mike Montgomery.
Martin Maldonado became a Cub on Monday night, traded from the Royals in exchange for reliever Mike Montgomery.

The Cubs bought some insurance late Monday night after learning All-Star catcher Willson Contreras’ right foot requires more rest.

The Cubs acquired veteran catcher Martin Maldonado from the Royals in exchange for left-hander Mike Montgomery.

Contreras, who is batting .286 with 19 home runs and 55 RBIs, will be placed on the 10-day injured list, retroactive to Sunday, team President Theo Epstein said.

“We have to get ahead of it, take it out of Willie’s hands,” Epstein said. “And get him off his feet. We don’t expect it to be longer than the 10 days. That’s what we hope.”

Contreras, 27, who was seen after Monday’s 6-3 loss to the Reds walking to his locker without a limp, declined to speak to reporters.

Contreras injured his foot Saturday and was scheduled to play Tuesday night. But an MRI exam taken before Monday’s game revealed a strain, and “our medical staff feels if he tried to play on it that he would be exacerbating the injury and turning it into something long term,” Epstein said.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a bad move at all,” pitcher Kyle Hendricks said. “We need Willie for the long run.”

In acquiring Maldonado, 32, the Cubs have a 2017 American League Gold Glove catcher who has thrown out 122 of 327 attempted base stealers for a 37.3 percent success rate – best among catchers starting in 2011 (minimum 600 games played).

A veteran National League scout concurred with Epstein’s assessment that Maldonado is an exceptional defensive catcher who works well with pitchers and has displayed occasional “pull power.”

“He’s an established catcher in this league who does a lot of great things behind the plate,” Epstein said. “He can really receive, throw, he’s caught playoff games, handled some of the best pitchers in the game.

“He’s very calm, prepared, calls a great game, has soft hands, is savvy and is someone who we think can step in and share the job with Vic [Caratini] and get up to speed quickly in what we hope is a brief absence from Willson.”

Maldonado, a Puerto Rico native who has played at least parts of nine seasons with the Brewers (2011-16), Angels (2017-18), Astros (2018) and Royals (2019), is a career .220 hitter with 87 doubles, 57 homers and 210 RBIs in 686 career games.

Epstein said the Cubs were one of a few teams interested in Maldonado, and the Royals had an opening in their rotation once they dealt Homer Bailey to the Athletics. The Cubs accelerated talks once they learned Contreras’ injury would need more than a couple of days to heal.

Montgomery, 30, became expendable because of his diminished role this season.

But Montgomery is a part of Cubs lore for getting the final out in the 2016 World Series that snapped the franchise’s championship drought and “changed everyone’s lives,” Epstein said.

Montgomery on earning final out of 2016 World Seriespic.twitter.com/LnEGEpvpqX

— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales)July 16, 2019

“I look back at that, it’s an emotional experience,” Montgomery said. “At the time, I didn’t realize how much impact it was.

“Especially now that I’m leaving, it’s going to be something I can look back and be proud of and understand that I was able to accomplish a lot here, and now it’s time to move on and see what I can accomplish somewhere else.”

Montgomery on tradepic.twitter.com/yMvXSsRFH5

— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales)July 16, 2019

Montgomery’s role diminished dramatically after he served as a valuable swingman after joining the Cubs in a midseason trade from the Mariners in 2016. Montgomery, who made 38 starts for the Cubs during his first two and a half seasons, was told he will join the Royals rotation Friday.

“Bittersweet, for sure,” said Montgomery, who suffered shoulder stiffness in spring training and never got untracked as he leaves with a 1-2 record and 5.67 ERA in 20 relief appearances. “I’m excited for the new opportunity and obviously wish things would have been differently for me this year. But I look back and it’s definitely an emotional thing to think about the last three, four years here and the World Series.

“I grew up a lot here and definitely going to miss playing here in the city and with these guys. It’s going to take a while to settle in.”

Montgomery, who rejoins the organization that originally drafted him, was 14-17 with three saves and a 3.74 ERA in 119 games with the Cubs.

You threw the most important pitch in Cubs history and we will be forever grateful for what you helped bring the city of Chicago.

Thank you to a true champion,@MikeMontgum22.pic.twitter.com/7rcV43v6II

— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs)July 16, 2019

“In the long run, (going to the Royals) will be good for him,” Epstein said.

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