The Astros have traded utilityman Tony Kemp to the Cubs in exchange for backup catcher Martin Maldonado in an intriguing move. On July 15, the Cubs sent lefty Mike Montgomery to the Royals in exchange for Maldonado and now they've flipped him.
Also of note: Maldonado is going to the Astros for the second straight year, as last year on July 26 the Angels sent him to Houston.
When the Cubs traded for Maldonado, starting backstop Willson Contreras was hurt, but he recovered quickly and is already back off the injured list. With backup catcher Victor Caratini healthy, there wasn't much reason to carry three catchers on the active roster, so Maldonado was expendable.
Kemp, 27, is hitting .227/.308/.417 (91 OPS+) this season but he hit .263/.351/.392 last year. He can handle second base and outfield while being a viable pinch runner. He fits the Cubs' roster a lot better than Maldonado and perhaps this means something will happen with Daniel Descalso (possible DFA candidate), Albert Almora (he could use a stint in Triple-A) or David Bote (ditto on Triple-A). It doesn't have to be the case, of course, since the Maldonado roster spot has been cleared.
On the Astros' end, they'd already designated Kemp for assignment, so it's not like they are actually losing anything here. There's a familiarity with Maldonado with the pitching staff -- he started six postseason games for them last year -- and he can serve as a backup to Robinson Chirinos. The backup before this move was Max Stassi and he ended up being traded to the Angels.
In all, this move appears to marginally help both teams.