Before Miguel Montero signed a minor league deal with the Nationals, it looked like it would be top catching prospects Pedro Severino and Raudy Read competing for the backup job in Washington.
Read received an 80-game suspension for a failed drug test recently, however, which takes him out of the mix, and barring further additions (like a trade for J.T. Realmuto or something), Severino, considered the frontrunner for the Nats’ backup role, has some veteran competition this Spring.
Montero, in a disappointing 2017 campaign, split time between Chicago (NL) and Toronto, putting up a combined .216/.310/.346 line with six doubles and six home runs in 76 games and 213 plate appearances, over which he was worth -0.4 fWAR, struggling on defense to the point where his troubles throwing out runners (8% CS%) led to his exit from the Cubs, after Nationals’ shortstop Trea Turner ran wild on him during a series in D.C. in late June and the catcher shared his thoughts on who was really to blame.
“It was a rough year,” Montero acknowledged when he spoke to reporters for the first time this season on Friday afternoon in West Palm Beach, Florida.
“But it wasn’t bad, it was all right. You can’t live in the past, so you’ve got to move on. I’m a guy that I never live in the past, I just live today and I’ll figure it out tomorrow.”
Asked what, if anything, he took away from what was his 12th major league season, Montero said he doesn’t look back.
“I don’t take anything away from it ever,” he explained.
“This life is a lot of ups and downs, more times you fail than you succeed and you learn from it. It’s what it is. I’m in a better place right now. I actually thought last year I had a chance to come here, didn’t happen, but I’m here now.”
Ending up with Washington, Montero said, was a good fit.
“It’s a winning team,” he said. “They’ve got a winning history, and as a player, you just want to win.”
Montero also has some history with Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo, who signed the catcher out of Venezuela when he was the scouting director in Arizona, and new Nats’ manager Davey Martinez, who was the bench coach in Chicago during the catcher’s time with the Cubs.
“I’ve known [Rizzo] for a while, so, it kind of helped too,” Montero said.
“I know [Assistant GM] Bob Miller too, so it wasn’t really hard to make the decision to come here, even though it was a minor league deal, I was like, ‘You know what I’ll take that, take my chances.’ It was a tough market too this offseason, ‘Wow, it’s hard to find a job.’ But yeah, it makes it so much easier to come here, plus I knew Max [Scherzer] way back, and you know, I don’t have to try to throw out Trea Turner.”
“I’ve had Miggy, and for me, Miggy is a veteran catcher, understands the game, calls a very good game, frames really well, gets pitches behind the plate,” Martinez said in his first press conference as a manager this Spring.
“I think he can help us, I really do. I know he knows Max, he’s played with Max, he’s a veteran guy, he likes to communicate, and in a positive way. I think Miggy has a great chance to help us, so I’m looking forward to having him go out there and play in the Spring, and doing what he does best and that’s, like I said, call games and — if you don’t know Miggy, Miggy loves big moments. He’s had some big hits for us in the past, and big hits for Arizona in the past, so I’m looking for Miggy to be Miggy.”
The admiration between the catcher and manager goes both ways. Montero was asked how he thought Martinez would do as a skipper for the first time after ten years as Joe Maddon’s bench coach in Tampa Bay and Chicago.
“He’s a different guy,” Montero said. “He’s got different philosophies. He’s a pretty laid back guy. I’ll be interested to see, because remember I had him as a coach, so when they’re a coach they’re one thing and when they’re manager they’re a little different.
“Obviously they’re the boss now, so they’ve got to change things around for them to be successful as well.
“From my experience, he’s a great guy, had him for almost three years [in Chicago] and he and I, we always got along pretty well, so I’m excited for him for this opportunity as well and we just have to go out there and win championships.”
Asked if he’d been given any information as to what role the Nationals expect him to play, Montero said that he wasn’t even thinking like that yet.
“No, we haven’t talked about that,” he said. “Still got to make the team, I’ve still got to make the team, so I don’t want to go that far ahead, I just want to get myself in the best shape possible and put myself in a position to compete and if I make the team great, that’s the goal, and so far the priority is just to be the best that you can be so you can make the team.”