On Thursday morning, a few hours before the Cubs took on the Milwaukee Brewers in the finale of a rain-shortened two-game set at Wrigley Field, the team announced that Miguel Montero would be placed on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Monday, and that Tim Federowicz had been called up from Triple-A Iowa to take his spot on the roster. Earlier, Montero had been out of the lineup for two consecutive days (one rained out) with a stiff back.
While it doesn’t sound like Montero will be out for any extended period of time—in fact, the team went so far as to say that if Federowicz can’t make it from Iowa in time for today’s game, Montero will be the emergency catcher, which is quite something—this does mean a bit of an increased workload for David Ross in the short term, and will likely mean a significant hit for the Cubs’ offense out of the catcher position. Although Federowicz is hitting .303/.415/.515 at Iowa for the year, he’s never shown much of an ability to hit at the big-league level, and (absent a major, unreported mechanical change) there’s no particular reason to expect that to change now.
Behind the plate, Federowicz is considered a strong defensive catcher, particularly with respect to his framing skills, and you should expect him to get a few starts behind the plate until Montero is eligible to return. In other words, he’s not expected to be a pure backup, which is probably for the best given David Ross’s need for rest, every now and then. There’s no particularly good way to spin this as a good thing for the Cubs, as Montero is clearly the superior option behind the plate, particularly on offense, but as minor-league depth options go, Federowicz is pretty darn good, and should hold down the fort reasonably well until Mr. #wearegood returns. Oh, and Willson Contreras? He won’t be back until the middle of the year, at earliest.
I wouldn’t read a great deal into Contreras not coming up now—he’s only just figuring out Triple-A, and although the Cubs fully expect him to be a part of their catching situation going forward, perhaps as soon as this year, arriving in an emergency role for a short-term injury wasn’t the right way to do it. Sit tight until June or July, or perhaps September in a pinch, and Cubs fans will get plenty of chances to decorate beachballs for his debut.
When Montero returns, take a close look at how he’s moving behind the plate: the back is bad place to get hurt, as a catcher, and it’s reasonable to worry (if not overmuch; this is only a 15-day DL trip) about lingering effects as Montero continues his age-32 season. His profile offensively may be changed some, as well, but that’s harder to get a sense of until we see if there are any swing changes coming as a result of a tender back. Stay tuned.
Other Catching Reading: “Catchella: The Cubs’ Catchers in Statistical Perspective,” by Matt Trueblood; “Fatigue, Platoons, and a Prospect: Cubs Catching Sans Schwarber,” by Zack Moser.
Lead photo courtesy Matt Kartozian—USA Today Sports.