Early Morning Dabs: Persistence

The First Hundred

Persistence can mean a lot of different things. It can be a positive. It can be a negative. To be honest it is largely the reason you are getting a post this morning at all. But it is also a trait that the front office has exemplified for a long time. The front office has been known to circle back to targets that were missed previously when making deals, and last night the Cubs did it again. Martin Maldonado was offered a minor league deal by this front office but instead elected to go with the Royals guaranteed offer. The Cubs saved over half the money but lost Mike Montgomery by doing it this way.

What did the Cubs get?

Martin Maldonado is your prototypical defense first, backup catcher. Maldonado has earned a starter's share of playing time the past three seasons, but is probably a second division stater unless you believe strongly in the value of framing. Maldonado is currently slashing .224/.288/.359 which is right in line with his career averages.

Maldonado is a strong defensive catcher with a rocket arm. He is a strong blocker of the plate, and generally draws rave reviews for his defense behind the plate. He had one amazing year framing according to Baseball Prospectus in 2017. He was a positive receiver in 2018 and this year has been neutral.

The Cubs got a defensive first, veteran catcher who is largely going to be a liability at the plate. Maldonado can run into one from time to time. He has six homers this year but averaged double digits in his two years of full time starts.

What did the Cubs give up?

Two and a half years of Mike Montgomery is what the Cubs gave up to make this deal happen. Montgomery had long seemed to be the odd man out with his desire to start and the Cubs' reluctance in a championship to count on Monty every fifth day. The previous three seasons Monty posted a 3.35 ERA over 354.2 innings.

Those were often incredibly valuable innings as Monty served as everything from a spot starter to high leverage reliever and everything in between. However, Montgomery was struggling this year mightily. He hasn't able to retire lefties and generally has been far less effective than Kyle Ryan.

This move seems like the first time that the front office has lived up to its promise of prioritizing performance this year. The Cubs have a bullpen crunch that will likely require them to remove several underperforming veterans. Kyle Ryan has been outperforming Monty for most of the season, but is at best a second lefty in the bullpen.

The Cubs perhaps overpaid in terms of what Montgomery is likely to provide in the future. However, the Cubs cannot afford to wait for Montgomery, like many tall lefties, to find himself later in his career. The Cubs instead traded a player the rest of baseball knew the Cubs were anxious to jettison, and turned it into a player the Cubs had wanted during their frozen offseason.

Why make the move now?

The biggest question is why the Cubs made this move right now. And there are a variety of possible explanations.

  1. Most worrisome is the possibility that this means the injury to Willson Contreras is worse than thought. And this suspicion was confirmed with Contreras being placed on the 10 day IL. The expectation is that Contreras is only going to miss 10 days, and that wouldn't seem to necessitate going out to add a veteran backup. Taylor Davis would seem like a reasonable fill in for at most a couple of starts. However, if the injury is going to take Willson longer, then adding a truly trustworthy backup option becomes a lot higher priority.
  2. The Cubs want to carry three catchers as a way to lengthen the lineup. The idea being that with Maldonado on the roster it would allow Maddon to play Contreras and Caratini at the same time. Caratini has long been one of the better options outside of the core as the Cubs have struggled to find hitters at the bottom of the lineup. Caratini playing third and Contreras playing in the outfield would be one way to shake up the lineup.
  3. The Cubs want to improve defense behind the plate. This seems unlikely, but perhaps the much discussed framing issues of the Cubs catcher duo prompted this move. The front office might think that having a catcher in the mold of David Ross might be a missing piece they can actually afford.
  4. The Cubs really wanted to get something for Mike Montgomery and needed his roster spot to try to improve the bullpen. The Cubs have needed a high leverage lefty all season, and Monty's reverse split woes have only made him more expendable. The Royals offer of Maldonado might have been a two birds with one stone situation for the front office.

Cubs Common Denominator Lineup

Yesterday's puzzle was a lineup based on a statistical commonality, and as a couple Denizens guessed it did have to do with doubles. Yesterday's lineup is the Cubs career doubles leaderboard. Anson in RF was kind of a clue because I needed to push him to that spot to make the top eighth fit in the same lineup. It is actually in order as you can see (excluding Charley Root of course who led pitchers) in the key below.

Career Doubles Name Position
528 Cap Anson RF
456 Mark Grace 1B
407 Ernie Banks SS
403 Ryne Sandberg 2B
402 Billy Williams LF
391 Gabby Hartnett C
363 Stan Hack 3B
362 Jimmy Ryan CF
46 Charley Root Pitcher

Here is your puzzle for today.

CCDL #13 Name Position AVG OBP SLG HR SB
1 Jon Jay LF 0.296 0.374 0.375 2 6
2 Tommy Brown SS 0.269 0.325 0.373 5 2
3 Hack Wilson CF 0.322 0.412 0.59 190 34
4 Rondell White RF 0.310 0.374 0.515 19 2
5 Terry Hughes 3B 0.333 0.333 0.333 0 0
6 Jim Marshall 1B 0.256 0.335 0.421 16 1
7 Footsie Blair 2B 0.273 0.308 0.397 10 11
8 Damian Miller C 0.233 0.310 0.369 9 1
9 Jeff Stevens Pitcher 6.27 ERA 28 K 25 BB 1 Win 0 Losses

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  • Framing is important as the acquisitions of Ross and Montero proved in 2016. There is a lot to like about Contreras and Caratini, but Maldonado is a better framer. No robo umps yet. Three catchers is a good look with Willson coming back from an arch injury.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    A strained arch can be a very serious issue going forward for Contreras. It weakens one's arch and can be chronic. Foot specialists will probably want to put him in shoes with more support on and off the field.

  • Supreme Court lineup?

  • Jay, Marshall and Stevens made it too easy

  • I thought about career doubles leaders yesterday, but I couldn't believe Sosa or Santo didn't make the list. I could have looked it up, but that's no fun. Integrity before glory, I suppose. I haven't really had time to ponder today's edition. I see a couple statistical anomalies right off the bat if it's baseball-related. But I also see some significant surnames here.

    I'll check back later. Good luck!

  • I woke up with Dabs this morning! Man does that guy snore.

    Monty was struggling keeping his emotions in check in the locker-room with the press last night. May the baseball Gods bless him with many years of good pitching to come. He's part of our historic night.

  • Monty has the look of a guy who, after getting a chance to start on a bad team, makes the most of that opportunity and gets traded to a contender and performs well just in time to get paid in FA. He no longer had a viable place on this team. He was a great pickup for a guy you had no place for and helped win a World Series. We should always be grateful for that, wish him well and move on.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Love that take, TC. I'm hoping he has great days ahead.

  • Should we be worried that his framing is neutral this year? Also what pitcher benefits from this move most? Is he going to paired with any specific starter?

  • In reply to HJW49:

    I really don't believe framing skills vary that much from year to year, so I'm not concerned that Maldonado's skills have deteriorated. As for helping pitcher, Hendricks loves to live on the edges and a good framer might get him a few extra strike calls, but the same could probably be said of any pitcher.

  • In reply to HJW49:

    To be clear it is one site that has him at 0.0 framing runs so far. It is the site I trust the most on this. I don't think it means he has become terrible or lost tremendous amounts of skill. Think the 2017 season was an outlier though as well.

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    I don't know much about pitch framing. How would he compare to David Ross?

  • In reply to HJW49:

    Ross rates higher most years through his career but Ross never had a year like Maldonado's 2017. The numbers on this are evolving though and so I generally like to think of these more as rough guides to abilities than particularly so and so was definitively better.

  • If you are going to have Anson in right field than you have to have Hal Jeffcoat as the doubles leader as a pitcher. He pitched in 93 games for the Cubs. He also played the outfield. He had 89 double to Root's 46.

  • In reply to 2016 Cubs:

    Jeffcoat was an oversight because he wasn't listed on the pitchers list when I searched for doubles by a pitcher

  • In reply to Mike Banghart:

    OK Mike. Thanks for getting back.

  • I can’t believe I was wrong about yesterday’s. I think this is the third time I’ve ever been wrong about something...

    As far as the article, I am very much behind it being a combination of reasons 2 and 3. An overall better leader, game caller, blocker, and pitch framer, along with the same arm as Willson’s behind the plate should help an overall improvement in pitching results. And we need any bat that can hit in our lineup more consistently, and hopefully Contreras comes back healthy soon enough and plays a good corner outfield and gets to hit every day. Even Caratini being put in the lineup more often might help his bat do even better.

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