Miguel Montero was removed from the DL yesterday and, of course, it’s great to have him back behind the plate. I think a lot of people (including me) were thinking that the obvious player who would be sent back to Iowa would be Tim Federowicz, but, instead, it was Ryan Kalish — surprise! Just when you think you know what Joe’s going to do, he goes and does something else. Gotta love it!
It’s an interesting move, and while Federowicz had been solid defensively behind the plate he hasn’t really been tearing it up offensively. He’s slashing .200/.238/.300. So when we look at this move we can see it as a primarily defensive play. It’s clear that Joe’s more comfortable with three catchers on the roster since he’s almost always had three catchers since he began to manage the Cubs last year.
A big difference in strategy between this year and last is that Joe was able to utilize his third catcher, Kyle Schwarber, primarily in a different position than catcher until he needed him behind the plate. With the move to keep Federowicz, it’s more limiting defensively (and offensively too, but Kyle is a beast) because the three catchers don’t play any other positions.
Joe mentioned (via CSN) “It gives us more freedom to do things in the latter part of the game. You’ve seen us pull catchers early for different maneuvers and then, when you’re going with just one guy into extra innings, it’s never comfortable.”
Matt Szczur is eligible to return from the DL on Wednesday of this coming week. Once he returns, Tim Federowicz will be sent back down. The biggest question that has been raised by this move, at least to me, is when does Willson Contreras make his MLB debut. Currently the Cubs are carrying one extra pitcher with thirteen on the roster. So it’s conceivable that they’ll have room to make a move later in the season if Joe wants to add the flexibility of a third catcher, and no one is on the DL to fill in for.
When Miguel first went on the DL there were murmurs amongst some fans, particularly on social media outlets Twitter and Facebook, that they wished Joe would call up Willson. Both Theo and Joe commented that they didn’t want to rush Contreras to the big leagues and wanted to see him spend some more time this season developing at AAA Iowa, particularly since this is his first year at the AAA level. If you were wondering how that’s working out you’ll be happy to know that Willson is slashing a robust .342/.439/.514 with three home runs in 111 at-bats.
If I had to guess, and it would strictly be a guess based on what I’ve seen from Willson in spring training and at AAA so far, I would expect to see Willson on the big league roster at some point this year. Give him another month or two to continue to rake at Iowa and hopefully Joe makes the move that we are all longing to see. And when he does come up it’s going to get even more exciting — I know, that’s hard to imagine — so just wait.