Royals re-acquire Mike Montgomery from Cubs in exchange for Martin Maldonado

While the Royals were trying to scratch out a win against one Chicago ballclub on the field, the front office finalized a trade with the other Chicago ballclub that sent catcher Martin Maldonado to the National League and brought back former Royals first-round draft pick and left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery.

The Royals traded Maldonado to the Chicago Cubs in exchange for Montgomery, who the Royals drafted with the 36th pick in 2008, during Monday night’s game against the White Sox at Kauffman Stadium. Maldonado was taken out of the game after having started and doubling in the fifth inning.

Montgomery, who turned 30 on July 1, will move into the Royals starting rotation and fill the spot vacated when the club traded Homer Bailey to the Oakland Athletics on Sunday in exchange for a minor-league infielder. Montgomery is expected to start on Friday.

“He clearly wants to start,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore said on Monday night. “We have an opportunity to start with the trade that we made for Homer Bailey. Monty has kind of been used in a very versatile role over there. He’s started. He’s pitched in the middle. He’s pitched situational. It’s just a good opportunity to get him back and put him in the rotation. It’s potentially two years of control for us. The money is pretty much a swap.”

The Royals will call up catcher Meibrys Viloria from Double-A to join the major-league active roster. Viloria played 10 games with the Royals last year as a September call-up, and he spent most of this spring training in big-league camp.

The Royals and Cubs had preliminary discussions about a trade involving Maldonado a few days ago, according to Moore, and the Royals held Viloria back from the road trip for Double-A Northwest Arkansas in anticipation of the deal becoming final.

Montgomery played in the Royals farm system from 2008-2012, and he was part of the trade that sent infielder Patrick Leonard, outfielder Wil Myers and pitcher Jake Odorizzi to the Tampa Bay Rays for pitchers Wade Davis and James Shields in December 2012.

Montgomery, went 14-17 with three saves and a 3.74 ERA (133 earned runs in 320 innings) in 119 regular-season appearances (38 starts) with the Cubs since being acquired from the Seattle Mariners in 2016.

Montgomery recorded the final out of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series, the Cubs’ first world championship in 108 years.

This season, Montgomery made four appearances with the Cubs before going on the injured list with a lat strain in April. He’s made all 20 appearances this season in relief. He posted a 5.67 ERA and a 1.78 WHIP, while opponents have batted .327 against him in 27 innings this season.

“His stuff is good. He just hasn’t been getting the results he’d like in 2019, but he hasn’t really got going,” Moore said referencing the IL stint early in the season. “The good thing about where we are is we can give him an opportunity, stretch him out and give him an opportunity for now and the future.”

Montgomery, will not be a free agent until after the 2021 season. He was set to earn $2.44 million in salary this season. Maldonado signed a one-year deal worth $2.5 million (plus up to another $1.4 million in performance bonuses) in March following Salvador Perez’s season-ending Tommy John surgery.

The Cubs were in need of catching depth because of an injury to catcher Willson Contreras.

Entering Monday’s game, Maldonado had batted .288 with a .303 OBP and a .575 slugging percentage since June 13, when he made an adjustment to his hand placement at the plate. In 21 games since that adjustment, he’s hit four home runs, nine doubles, collected 10 RBIs and scored 13 runs.

Maldonado, in 2017, was the only player other than Perez to win the American League Gold Glove at catcher since Perez won five of six starting in 2013.

Renowned for his catch-and-throw ability behind the plate, he came into this season with the best caught stealing percentage of any catcher in the majors since the start of 2012 (37.7 percent) with a minimum of 400 games.

This season, he’s thrown out 33 percent of runners stealing.

Last summer, the Los Angeles Angels traded him to the Houston Astros prior to the trade deadline to help with the Astros postseason push. Maldonado has been lauded for his work with pitching staffs.

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Lynn Worthy covers the Kansas City Royals and Major League Baseball for The Star. A native of the Northeast, he’s covered high school, collegiate and professional sports for The Lowell Sun, Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, Allentown Morning Call and The Salt Lake Tribune. He’s won awards for sports features and sports columns.