Brewers working hard to trade Kottaras
MILWAUKEE — With Jonathan Lucroy returning to the Brewers' lineup and young catcher Martin Maldonado in the middle of a breakout season in Lucroy's stead, Milwaukee was left with three capable catchers on its major league roster -- a logjam the team didn't have room for.
So on Thursday, the Brewers announced that backup catcher George Kottaras — the longest-tenured catcher on Milwaukee's roster — would be designated for assignment. The team still has 10 days to trade a Kottaras, a move Brewers manager Ron Roenicke knows general manager Doug Melvin hopes to make to ensure Kottaras lands with a major league club.
"We've got the days to do it, and hopefully it'll work out," Roenicke said. "This guy belongs in the big leagues, and that's the tough part. I know this is the right move for us, but the issue is George is a major league catcher. … I hope it works out where he can go with somebody. And if he goes with somebody, hopefully it'll be a better situation than here."
Roenicke said the decision was tough on him, considering Kottaras' role on the team and his tenure in the clubhouse. But when it came down to it, the team just couldn't justify sending Maldonado down to the minor leagues, considering how well he's played in the past two months.
"It's just the way he's playing," Roenicke said of Maldonado. "I think it would be really tough to send down Maldy. He's great defensively. The offensive part, he's done outstanding. He gives you great at-bats. He's had big hits for us. We just didn't think that was the right thing to do."
So on Thursday, Kottaras began packing up his locker into large brown boxes, giving hugs and shaking hands with teammates and Brewers staff members. It was a somber moment in the clubhouse, overshadowed by the optimism of Lucroy's return.
For Kottaras, the roster move didn't come as a complete surprise, but the designation for assignment was a bit of a shock. Still, he understood how the Brewers' depth at the position could make him the odd man out. And considering the slump he had been entrenched in since May — batting just .175 with no home runs and three RBI — the move made sense on the surface, even to Kottaras.
"I don't know about (expecting) that (designation for assignment), but at the same time, you kind of see how things are rolling around and Maldy came up and played great," Kottaras said. "You have to toss him out there and let him continue to succeed. … I know there's a lot of things that could've happened, but they chose this route and I'm just going to see where the future takes me."
The future may also be unclear for pitcher Randy Wolf, who had used Kottaras as his personal catcher since both players came to Milwaukee in 2010. Roenicke said on Thursday that he had discussed the situation with Wolf, and he expected Maldonado be the backstop for Wolf's upcoming start. However, he wasn't sure about the catching situation for Wolf's future starts.
But on Thursday, as Kottaras continued to say his goodbyes, even Lucroy couldn't help but reflect on the tough nature of baseball at the trade deadline.
"We've been playing together for three years now," Lucroy said of Kottaras. "It's a tough thing to always lose guys, especially around this time of year. I know the upper management has some tough decisions to make, and I'm glad I'm not a GM. I don't think I could handle that job."
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