It’s unlikely the Cubs will comply with calls to sell at the deadline now that they’ve fallen back into bad habits and back out of first place. Their poor play has exposed flaws in the lineup and the bullpen, but those can still be corrected with two or three moves that won’t cost them too much depth.
Even so, they could engage in a little soft-selling when it comes to redundant depth that doesn’t appear to be critical to their success down the stretch. As Robert Murray of The Athletic tweeted Sunday, that could mean flipping backup catcher Martín Maldonado at the deadline, even if it’s not as part of a deal to acquire a new bat or arm.
Would not be a shock to see Martin Maldonado on the move again before the deadline. Has only played in four games since being traded to the Cubs and Willson Contreras just returned from the Injured List.
— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) July 28, 2019
Though the Cubs have maintained since Maldonado’s acquisition that they were willing and able to carry three catchers, there was a sense all along that he was being brought in as insurance. Which is to say that they might have been discussing Victor Caratini in other deals. If those trades grew too rich for their blood, or if they could swing them without including him, Maldonado’s role is reduced significantly.
As Murray notes, Maldonado has played in only four games since being acquired on July 15, all of which came in a span of six days following the trade. He hasn’t played since Contreras was activated from the IL and his bat doesn’t fit well in a lineup that has struggled to score runs, so it’s hard to see him getting much run down the stretch.
That’s an important factor to consider, since it’s the reason Maldonado chose not to sign with the Cubs this past winter. You may recall that they had courted him in free agency, but couldn’t offer the starting role or even guarantee significant playing time. It’d actually be kind of fitting for them to have acquired Maldonado in exchange for a player who was unhappy with his role, only to in turn spin the catcher off for the same reason.
Maldonado isn’t likely to fetch much in a trade, maybe just cash considerations or a PTBNL, so such a deal would likely be made as precursor to or in conjunction with another trade. Should the Cubs bring in another hitter in exchange for prospects, they’d need a spot on a 25-man roster that is already congested. In addition to adding external pieces, Cole Hamels is set to return in a matter of days and Daniel Descalso is shelved on the IL for the time being.
So even if there’s no specificity to this “rumor,” it makes a lot of sense when considering where the Cubs are right now.
Update: Citing Murray, his colleague at The Athletic, Patrick Mooney reported that Maldonado “has been marketed in trade discussions…with the Houston Astros emerging as a particular team of interest.” You may recall that Houston acquired Maldonado last year from the Angels, so they’re familiar with what he brings to the table.