It was recently announced that the Cubs have acquired Miguel Montero, and in doing so, consenting to cover his entire remaining contract of three years and $40 million. In exchange, the Cubs have sent the Diamondbacks two prospects in Jeferson Mejia and Zack Godley. You have likely followed more of Montero's games than I have. Therefore, you could tell me more news than I could tell you on him. Instead, I have a few things about the trade to consider that you might not have.
First off, this is another show of Theo Epstein not taking the cheap way out. In numerous trades before, he added salary from incoming players to bring in more or better talent. In this case, he is paying the full freight to limit what he is sending away. Those shekels being spent on Cubs tickets and apparel are being put back into the team. At some point, talent wins games. Epstein wants to get to that point soon.
Secondly, this casts incumbent Cubs catcher Welington Castillo in an.... awkward position. As hinted at elsewhere, he could be dealt. My guess is that it might be sooner than later, though I doubt anything would be imminent. The executives in the Cubs system have seen quality catchers before. They have a solid read on Castillo, and may think he has more value in trade than in the lineup. It only takes one GM to make an offer "too good to refuse" to pull the trigger. Or, Montero and Castillo would make a formidable pairing if nothing further develops. Either way, I tend to trust the executives. They've seen quality.
As a tag-along, if Castillo is dispatched, he probably isn't that much better than something behind him. It isn't like the Cubs to have had numerous catching options before. But, it isn't like Epstein to avoid a position on the field. If Kyle Schwarber is looking like a usable starter, then dealing Castillo when he is inexpensive might bring a better return. Or, in the other case, Schwarber isn't going to need to be pushed terribly much if he has two valid options in front of him. Either option makes sense if Schwarber (or Victor Caratini, or another option) appear viable.
If Castillo is traded, I doubt it will be for a face-saving return. If dealt, he would be dealt as a legitimate MLB starting caliber catcher.
Thirdly, teams love to get young pitching. They'd prefer it MLB-ready, but they will settle for more remote options as needed.This is the case now. It will be the case in 10 years, and in 50 if the game is still played the same. When the Cubs continue to draft and develop pitchers (yeah, you might get tired of hearing me say that), it isn't due to a lack of anything better to do.
When I started writing this article, I had no idea who the principals would be. The comments that I'd heard at the time were "two A-Level pitchers", which is pretty vague. It could be starters. It could be relievers. It could be from Bois... I mean, Eugene. It could be through South Bend up to Myrtle Beach. Having 30 good pitchers in those levels (and the Cubs are ridiculously close to that) means that the haggling over specific players can take awhile, and provide exactly what the team wants.
At just those three levels, the Cubs have the system's Pitcher Of The Year in Jen-Ho Tseng, Duane Underwood (who may be better than Tseng), and a jambalaya of hard-throwers, lefties, and any combo you want. If the team wants Paul Blackburn, the Cubs can try to ease them down a step to Daury Torrez. The combinations are all there, just within those three levels.
This trend won't stop soon.
Last year's draft loaded up on pitching after the selection of Kyle Schwarber. Some will fizzle, but few have under the new regime. If Carson Sands, Jake Stinnett, Dylan Cease, and the rest push themselves into full-season ball, they will be the next guys involved in trade talks. And there will be talks, and trades, in the upcoming years.
It is a huge edge having two dozen worthwhile arms in your system. Not just the guys where: "He could be interesting if he adds three miles per hour to his heater," but actually interesting options. The Cubs will be able to trade from depth as long as they keep developing pitching as they have recently. And just about the time the stock might start drying up, the July 2, 2015 Class will show up.
While I might be overplaying the importance of the system's pitching depth, I really don't think having a couple dozen arms other teams covet is a minor thing.
The Cubs system will miss Mejia and Godley, but not too much. Mejia was an international signing (for around $850,000) in 2013, and was involved in the car wreck that injured Kevin Encarnacion. Godley was a 10th-round selection in 2013, and was signed in that round due to his willingness to report with a very slight signing bonus. Developing players to their fullest should be a goal of every team, regardless the player's pedigree.
It's the nature of the game to improve yourself, then get traded. And eventually released. As usual, I wish them well with their new team. When you have lower level pitchers that other teams want, that's a good thing. When they are (to an extent) expendable without ruining your future systemic depth, all the better.
I have no idea if Montero will live up to his contract. I have no idea if resulting action will help the Cubs or not. I am very happy that they are trying to use their market stature to make the team better in the present and the future.