Chicago Cubs: Should the team attempt to trade Mike Montgomery?

(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) /

The Chicago Cubs have a bit of a tough situation on their hands regarding left-hander Mike Montgomery. He’s been a valuable part of the team since he was acquired in 2016, but the Cubs may not be able to give him what he wants.

About a month ago, it was reported that Chicago Cubs pitcher Mike Montgomery either wanted to start for the team full-time or be traded to a team that would let him start full-time. This apparently caught the Cubs off guard. Montgomery has plenty of experience as a starter, even with the Cubs. But his resume looks better as a reliever, and that’s the way he best fits with Chicago.

There is no obvious solution here. Numerous factors come in to play in this tricky spot. Quality starting pitchers aren’t exactly growing on trees these days, so Montgomery would undoubtedly attract plenty of attention on the trade market. The question is more of what the Cubs would get in return and if they have the ability to fill his role internally.

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In-house replacement

Montgomery was acquired via trade at the 2016 July deadline, and since then he’s provided tremendous value for the Chicago Cubs. They’ve given up a lot of assets over the past few seasons to become a championship-caliber team. Some of those moves were just short-term answers with hefty costs. But the Montgomery trade is one move the Cubs clearly won.

The issue is whether or not the Cubs have someone on their roster or in their organization who could do what Montgomery’s been doing. Not so much the ability to start if needed, but effectiveness getting lefties out. The Cubs have been lacking productive left-handed relievers for the past couple seasons. That’s why Montgomery has been so important.

The first name that comes to mind is Justin Wilson. It’s still not clear what his role will be in 2018, but he’s a lefty reliever who’s had success throughout his career. Unfortunately, he struggled mightily with the Cubs in 2017. Whether or not he gets things turned around this season is yet to be determined.

If he does, he could be the reliable left-hander the Cubs need in their bullpen. If not, the team is left with Dario Alvarez, Randy Rosario and Rob Zastryzny as far as lefties. It’s possible one of those three could end up being a suitable replacement, but they all have something to prove. None of them immediately inspires as much confidence as Montgomery.

Should he stay or should he go?

Since joining the Cubs in 2016, Montgomery has recorded a 3.25 ERA over 169 innings pitched. And that’s with 19 total starts. That kind of flexibility and success would not be easy to replace.

As a starter in 2017, he recorded a 4.15 ERA over 69 1/3 innings pitched with an opponent’s batting average of .222. As a reliever in 2017, he pitched to the tune of a 2.49 ERA over 61 1/3 innings pitched with an opponents’ batting average of .208.

He’s most valuable in the bullpen. And that’s likely where he would spend most of his time in 2018. But just like years past, he’d also probably be afforded a number of spot-starts here and there. Montgomery, though, would like to be a starter full-time. And that’s something the Cubs simply cannot promise him.

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There are plenty of teams that would give Montgomery the number of starts he desires. But the Cubs would have to really like the return package. There may not be a perfect deal out there.

As they currently stand, the Cubs are a top-tier team built to compete with the rest of the league’s contenders. And Montgomery, in his current role, is a valuable part of the Cubs’ pitching staff. He may be unhappy for the time being, and it may not be the best fit in his mind, but this is the way he fits best with the Cubs.

In my mind, Chicago should open a Cheesecake Factory adjacent to Wrigley Field and make Montgomery the “starting” cashier/waiter. Problem solved. Everybody wins, including the fans.