The Diamondbacks are in disarray. The starting pitching is a mess, and the bullpen is shaky. The team’s win-loss record reflects these issues. Meanwhile, the team’s payroll is the highest it has been in years. The horrid record and high payroll were not supposed to coincide. This situation begs for the D-backs to trade expensive, veteran players for young talent. They’re not going to compete in the present, so they might as well build for the future.

There are trade rumors abound. Many different trades have been advocated for on this very site. One thing that has not been advocated for is a Miguel Montero trade. I think there’s one primary reason for this: there is no organizational depth at catcher. I certainly don’t dispute this notion. Instead, I don’t think it matters because this team won’t contend in the near future. Your opinion on trading Montero might come down to whether you think the Diamondbacks can be good in the next few years.

Montero is having a good season; he was an All-Star, and he is one of only seven catchers in the majors who has been an above-average hitter. His contract situation is stable. He is due $12M next year and $14M in 2016 and 2017. It’s possible the Diamondbacks are contenders by 2017, but it’s also possible that they are not. The problem is that Montero is 31 years old, which means his skills are beginning to decline. There is this idea that catchers age faster than position players, but it’s been proven to be false.

courtesy of Jeff Sullivan & Dave Cameron                                                               (

Jeff Zimmerman’s graph shows that a catcher’s offensive ability declines in a similar fashion to a position player’s offensive ability. Maybe catchers don’t decline faster than position players, but they still significantly decline, beginning at 30-years old.

I’m advocating selling high on an asset. Right now, Montero is projected to finish the season as a three-win player. At his peak in 2012, he was worth almost five wins. Even if you consider his 2013 season an aberration, these two data points from 2012 and 2014 fall exactly on the aging curve. He’s lost about 20 runs (every 10 runs is worth one win) between his age-29 season to his age-31 season. Next year, the drop off is supposed to be steep. Right now, his $10M salary for 3 wins is a pretty good deal.  Montero will probably continue to decline at an average rate, which will make his contract less team-friendly.

Since we’re on the topic of Miguel Montero, I wanted to mention an interesting development. Both his BB% and K% have fallen significantly since 2012. If you regularly watch Diamondbacks broadcasts, you may remember comments made about Montero’s swing. They usually say that he’s a good low-ball hitter and that he swings at high pitches too often. I pulled up the heat chart to confirm.

heat map strike-zone

Sure enough, his heat zone is down in the zone. Now here’s some good news: Montero has been swinging at the ‘right’ pitches more often in 2014. Look at these two charts of his swing percentage to see the evidence. The top chart shows his swing percentage earlier in his career (2011-2012), while the bottom chart shows the current season.

montero swing 2011 2012

(click to enlarge)

montero swing 2014

You can see that this year he is swinging at fewer pitches up in the zone, and conversely, more pitches in the bottom of the zone. Since Montero is swinging at better pitches, we’d expect his K% to decrease and his offensive numbers to increase. That hasn’t happened.

The issue is that he’s been hitting too many groundballs on pitches down in the zone. Compare 2011-2012 (top) to 2014 (bottom):

montero grounders 2011 2012montero grounds 2014

I am not exactly sure why he’s hitting more groundballs, but I would guess it is related to his age. The older he becomes, the less bat speed he possesses. And while he’s combating that decreased bat speed with a better eye, the decreasing abilities eventually will catch up to him.

I suggest trading this asset while it still has value.

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19 Responses to Why Trading Montero Makes Sense

  1. Anonymous says:

    Unless you’re talking about getting Walker back in exchange, Price etc… I don’t know they have over used him, miggy but you’re talking a top 5 catcher in the world right now.

  2. Puneet says:

    The problem is that teams may not be willing to part with a top catching prospect for an aging veteran, unless that’s the piece they need to contend for a title right now. I think most of those teams don’t have talented catcher prospects in the minors (but could be very wrong about this – just the impression I’ve gotten from reading other trade articles talking about teams with catcher prospects we can target).

    • RG says:

      He might be a top-5 catcher this year, but his decline has already begun. KT has been selling low (Bauer, Kennedy, etc.), so I’m trying to advocate the opposite.

      I didn’t even address the issue of compensation. I am worried that a mid-market team is going to be stuck paying a 1 WAR player $14M next year. Small payroll teams can’t allocate their resources in that fashion.

  3. Paulnh says:

    Before reading this article, I had never even considered trading Miguel Montero. This piece certainly got me thinking about it but I decided that I have to disagree with you to some extent. I believe Miggy will never put up his 2012 season again, but he still will be a very productive catcher. Even if he does decline, he started on a very high mountain. He can still be a solid player into his mid 30’s. I want to see Miggy play for us as long as he can be productive, but he could certainly help a good team become really good. His stock is higher than it will ever be again, but I can’t stop looking at that glaring hole that is behind him if he were to get traded. We would have to get a durable, every day catcher for the foreseeable future for us to be able to trade Miggy. I can certainly see the argument for trading him, but I have to favor the one against it. Besides, what kind of tacos would we get if we payed one extra dollar to make our tacos supreme? They can’t be Goldy style can they?

    • RG says:

      Point taken Paul. And if you factor in his pitch-framing value, there’s a solid argument there. I loved your taco comment and literally laughed out loud. Thanks for reading.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Who you trading him for?

  5. Ken Avenetti says:

    Greetings All, I think the DBacks have a good team with a lot of good players. They need to get better, not worse and by trading Miggy or Prado then they will take a step back. I would trade Trumbo and Ross for pitching.

  6. Colin says:

    We all know how in todays game most catchers with any offensive ability get moved to first base, so to have a catcher who is an all around good player will become more and more rare with the catchers spot in the lineup almost becoming the other pitcher spot. With that being said he could be worth a lot. I personally have no faith in KT getting the value needed for Montero. Speaking from a business aspect as well nobody will compensate the team for the publicity he draws. Hes become more of a face of the franchise (at least locally) than Goldy. He puts fans in the seats. I just don’t trust KT to make a good trade that will get us any where near what hes worth my vote is no lol.

  7. Read says:

    Muggy is too expensive as is Cahill,Ross,and Chavez.
    KT has been consistently wrong on acquisitions,payroll,and trades. So make things worse by trading Montero and the payroll, for what we have,is still high.

    On paper, by position, this team looks OK. The pitching staff is so mediocre that there is no way we can win. Muggy can’t change this so let him go to a winning team now and develop a catcher while acquiring better pitching.

    What would we look like today with Skaggs and Bauer?

  8. Rob says:

    I will give you 1 reason NOT to trade Miggy… Tuffy!! That’s where we would be sitting, don’t do it!

  9. Hunter says:

    I’d like to see the Dbacks pull a Hershel Walker and trade Goldschmidt for a haul.

  10. […] Why Trading Montero Makes Sense […]

  11. DON says:

    I keep hearing what does KT plan on doing, I believe KT is no longer making the final decisions. And I think we will see better players coming our way rather than leaving.

  12. […] teams would love to have. Those things, combined with his age, may make trading Montero make sense, as RG explained last month. But in terms of August deals, they also make Montero not movable. And, of course, there’s […]

  13. […] were Aaron Hill and Miguel Montero. I don’t want to toot my own horn too much, but I advocated selling high on Miguel Montero. He declined just like a 31-year-old catcher is supposed to. Aaron Hill felt the ill effect of old […]

  14. […] As Rosenthal notes, the D-backs do not really have any catching depth behind Montero. Indeed, that’s why Jeff and I had not really considered a Montero move. But then RG wrote this: […]

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