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Arizona Diamondbacks All-Time Top 50: #15, Miguel Montero

If you don’t toot your horn, people will fill it with excrement!

Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images
  • Avg ranking (high/low/most common): 19.49 (6/48/16)
  • Seasons: 2006-2017
  • Stats: 1181 games, .257/.340/.412 = .752 OPS, 191 OPS+, 13.5 bWAR
  • Two Best seasons:

2011 - 140 games, .282/.351/.469=.820 OPS, 121 OPS+, 4.1 bWAR

2012 - 141 games, .286/.391/.438=.829 OPS, 123 OPS+, 4.1 bWAR

Miguel Montero’s career looks like a mountain – the ascent, the mountain top, and the descent. Let’s look at each part of the journey.

The Ascent (September 2006 to June 2010).

On 6 September, 2006, Miguel Montero played his first game in the Majors. He played catcher for the complete game, beginning a long career.

Chris Snyder was the primary catcher for the Diamondbacks from 2005 to 2008. Montero played in the background.

In 2009, Montero’s star was rising quickly - he started 102 games. A setback happened. In April 2010, Montero injured his right knee and he had surgery to repair a partially torn meniscus.

On 12 June of 2010, Montero returned as the everyday catcher. Montero’s star was high in the sky. His 13 complete games during June were strong evidence that the Diamondbacks preferred Montero to Snyder. In July 2010, Chris Snyder was traded to the Pirates in a salary-dump trade. This trade of Snyder foreshadowed Montero’s exit from the Diamondbacks four years later.

The Mountain Top (July 2010 to November 2012).

His best two seasons were 2011 and 2012. He was worth 4.1 bWAR each season, not counting his positive impact from pitch framing. Which season was better?

Lets look at 2011.

  • His pitch framing was better (114 vs 40 +calls per 100 games started).
  • He had more hits per game started (106.1 vs 102.2 hits per 100 games started).
  • “…Montero delivering the best season by a catcher in Diamondbacks history, and being rewarded with the team’s first All-Star at the position since Bob Melvin picked just about everyone off the Diamondbacks in 2002.” Jim McLennan
  • The Diamondbacks played in the NLDS. Montero had two RBIs in the NLDS.

Lets look at 2012.

  • His percentage of caught stealing peaked at 42%. Although his pitch framing bounced around each season, it was always positive while a Diamondback, except for 2013.
  • In 2012, he was nominated for a gold glove award. He might have won except Molina was in the middle of his 8 year streak of winning the NL Gold Glove award, eclipsing any chances by other catchers.

Because of his larger positive impact on the team, my vote is for 2011 being his better season. During his three peak years, his OPS+ was 102, 121, and 123. Most awesome for a catcher!

The Descent (2013-2017). Descent is different than disappointing. Montero’s descent was full of amazing and memorable events. His descent started with his contract for 5 years and $60 million – these were his biggest earning years. He earned the record (1002) for most games started by any Diamondback catcher. In 2014, he was a reserve catcher in the All-Star game.

December 9, 2014, the Diamondbacks traded him to the Cubs. At the time, this trade was seen as a salary dump because the Cubs took on all of Montero’s salary and sent the Diamondbacks two low-level prospects. With the benefit of hindsight, this trade accomplished two important things. First, the trade acquired Zack Godley, who was worth 4.5 WAR over the next three years (compared to Montero’s 1 WAR). Second, Montero was traded before his decline in offense and defense (especially his ability to throw out base stealers). The following three graphs make it clear the Diamondbacks won the trade.

Date from Baseball Reference
Data from Baseball Reference
Data from StatCorner and Baseball Reference

Although the Diamondbacks won the trade, Montero benefited too. Because of the trade, in 2016 Montero played in the World Series. Many players only dream of playing in the World Series.

Barking to the Media.

In June of 2017, the Nationals stole 7 bases in 4 innings. Montero said, “It really sucked, having those stolen bases go to me. And when you look at it, the pitcher doesn’t give me any time.... My pitchers don’t hold anybody on.”

Pitcher Jake Arrieta said, “I know what it was about, and there’s a lot of honesty there. I didn’t do him any favors. I was slow to the plate.”

Teammate Anthony Rizzo said, “It’s the second time barking in the media and not going to his teammates,” (the first time concerned playing time in the postseason) and “When you point fingers, you’re a selfish player.”

The Cubs responded by designating Montero for assignment. He went to the Blue Jays.

How do I see it? I listened to one of my organization’s top managers. She was near the top, and within a year of joining us she left for a promotion beyond my imagination. She said, “If you don’t toot your horn, people will fill it with excrement”. Perhaps her wisdom explains why Montero spoke as he did. My take on “barking to the media” is that there should be an addendum to her wisdom. If you are part of a problem, don’t toot your horn about it.

In 2018, Miguel Montero is a free agent. Will he retire or continue exploring the mountain?

The Nationals signed Montero to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. If he makes the 25-man roster, he will earn $1.3 Million, with another $1.7 million possible with incentives.