Arizona Diamondbacks open to dealing Miguel Montero

Looking to create some payroll flexibility, the Arizona Diamondbacks have reportedly shown a willingness to move catcher Miguel Montero in a trade this winter. FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal hears from other teams that the D’backs are actively shopping the backstop but Arizona claims that they are in more of a “listening mode” only.

Either way, it’s an interesting situation to consider Montero available – particularly considering how barren the free agent market for catchers is this offseason.

The 31 year old Montero has three years and $40 million remaining on a contract extension he’d signed prior to the 2011 season. He appeared in 136 games for the D’backs in 2014, batting .243/.329/.370 in 560 plate appearances. It marked the second consecutive down season after beginning the extension with a pair of years with an OPS above .820. The back to back years of struggles have brought about some questions about how he’ll continue to trend through the rest of the contract.

Montero is a unique breed of catcher, as he plays in nearly every one of his team’s games (similar to Kansas City’s Salvador Perez). He’s caught more games behind the plate than any other catcher in baseball over the past four seasons. As Rosenthal notes, that increased workload – and the increased wear and tear – could play into the diminished offensive production.

This, of course, is directly related to Arizona’s current organizational makeup behind the plate. There is no likely internal option to replace Montero should the team end up moving him. Peter O’Brien, who the team acquired at last July’s trade deadline, carries one of the best power bats in the minor leagues (34 home runs in 2014 across two levels while batting .271/.316/.594 in 427 PA) but plenty of questions about his long term future defensively. Stryker Trahan, the team’s #7 prospect according to Baseball America heading into the 2014 season, has yet to see any playing time above Class-A (he hit just .198/.264/.367 in 407 PA there this past season).

Montero may draw some interest on the trade market this winter, especially once Russell Martin (the lone true starting option at catcher that’s available) signs. It’s hardly certain that the D’backs will end up moving him, however. Arizona may need to pay down part of his remaining salary in order to facilitate a deal, especially if they hope for a decent return, which coupled with their need to replace him may simply not make sense in terms of the big picture.

Arizona has just over $68 million committed to their 2015 roster, with a number of players still looking at raises via arbitration. They expect, as Rosenthal points out, to open the season with a payroll in the neighborhood of $100 million – limiting how much room they have to work with this offseason in order to make improvements. The D’backs are expected to be aggressive this winter – with a number of players who could be available on the trade market. Montero’s name will be floated out there but a deal, for now, doesn’t appear likely.