Some of the best relievers in baseball are either failed or converted starting pitchers. Maybe injuries limited their durability or lack of a broad repertoire limited their ability to go deep into games. Or perhaps it’s a matter of dialing the velo up a couple ticks when they know they need to keep gas in the tank.
Mike Montgomery falls into both of those baskets to an extent, and he excelled as a reliever following a demotion from the rotation in Seattle in 2016. He initially struggled in relief after a trade to the Cubs in July of that year and eventually threw the most important pitch in team history — really in all of baseball history if we’re being honest — to close Game 7 of the World Series.
Monty was the clubhouse leader for the fifth spot in the rotation heading into the following spring training, but the acquisition of Brett Anderson put the kibosh on that. Though Joe Maddon talked about using both in hybrid roles, Anderson remained in the rotation until he fell apart like a toy from Dollar Tree. Between that and other injuries, Montgomery ended up making 14 starts and tallying over 130 innings, acquitting himself quite well in the process.
All the while, the lanky lefty expressed a desire to start while also stating publicly that he was more than willing to do what was best for the team. That’s easier to do when you’re still kind of the new guy and you have a World Series ring and there are at least four clear-cut starters ahead of you. But when two of those starters are gone and your team is very obviously searching for at least two replacements for them, you can probably connect the dots and understand you ain’t gonna start.
#Cubs LHP Mike Montgomery would like chance to start or go to place where he can, sources close to the pitcher tell The Athletic. Has communicated desire to start to #Cubs, but not desire to go elsewhere if opportunity is not available, sources say. Role in ‘18 presently unclear.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 13, 2017
And as if their other machinations weren’t a clear enough sign as to Monty’s future, the Cubs just signed another potential starter who won’t even take the mound at 2018 at all. Wait, something just hit me. No, not literally, just starting to put the pieces together on Rosenthal’s tweet.
If the Cubs hadn’t already known about the desire to go elsewhere, they sure do now. Not long after the report that Montgomery might seek a trade out of Chicago came word that the Cubs had acquired Drew Smyly, a lefty who has worked as both a starter and reliever. His last team? The Seattle Mariners. It’s as though they’re just flat-out trolling Montgomery.
Yeah, you’re right, the Cubs wouldn’t pay at least $10 million just to mess with a guy. What they would do is load up on as much depth as possible, particularly in light of this recent development.
From the looks of it, this could very well be Montgomery’s camp leaking some information to a very prominent media member at a time when teams are hot to make deals. Maybe it amounts to nothing more than that and Montgomery swallows his pride and remains with the Cubs. But if it’s legit and he really wants an opportunity to start elsewhere, the 28-year-old swingman provides the Cubs with a pretty serious trade chip.
In addition to pitching well last season in dual roles, Montgomery is still very cheap. Like, pre-arbitration cheap. And even though that’ll change after this season, Monty is still under team control for four more seasons. It’s kind of ironic that after all the talk of using one of their young position players to anchor a trade, the Cubs might now be able to use Montgomery instead.
Again, this is all conjecture based on a tweet, but four cost-controlled seasons of a starting pitcher in this weak market could be worth a little something. I don’t begrudge the man wanting to get a shot to start and I will wish Montgomery the best if that wish is powerful enough to carry him out of Chicago.
Tricky thing about wishes, though, is that you’ve got to be careful if and when they come true.
Cubs beat writers caught up to Jed Hoyer in the wake of Rosenthal’s tweet to get the GM’s reaction:
#Cubs Hoyer says this "caught me by surprise, to be honest. We view him as a starting pitcher. I know he views himself as a starting pitcher but he's a good teammate and has been willing to do both and I think he's done that very well" https://t.co/9EeiLCRwbG
— Carrie Muskat (@CarrieMuskat) December 13, 2017
Jesse Rogers spoke with Mike Montgomery to get some clarification on yesterday’s report. Montgomery reiterates that he wants to start and feels that is in the best interest of the team, but that he would not request a trade. We’ll have to see if that holds should the Cubs sign another starting pitcher or if Monty doesn’t get a rotation job out of Spring Training.
Spoke to Mike Montgomery today after a report from Ken Rosenthal of Fox/Athletic that he's adamant about starting: "I'm at that point in my career where that's what I want. In my opinion I think it's in the team's best interest for me to do that but… https://t.co/X8obrKCoIo
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) December 13, 2017