Chicago Cubs: Mike Montgomery a possible solution to bullpen need

(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Banks/Getty Images) /

If the Chicago Cubs are experiencing budget woes, they need to look within to address roster needs. Specifically, they need to look at Mike Montgomery.

Mike Montgomery proved that he can be a serviceable fifth starter — if not better — when given the opportunity. As things currently stand, though, he has his work cut out for him in terms of making the Chicago Cubs starting rotation in 2019.

Montgomery filled in admirably for Yu Darvish — last offseason’s prized acquisition —when the latter went down with a triceps injury in May last year.

Reliable, but no room

In 19 starts last season, Montgomery posted a 3.69 ERA with a 1.352 WHIP.  In seven of those outings, the left-hander pitched exactly six innings, allowing one earned run or less each time.

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Montgomery deserves to be a starting pitcher. Unfortunately for the 29-year-old lefty, though, the Cubs have a plethora of starting pitchers on their roster.

Really, barring unforeseen circumstances (i.e. injuries or trades), Montgomery is sixth or seventh on the Cubs’ 2019 depth chart. Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, José Quintana, Cole Hamels and Darvish are rotation locks.

Depending on how one views Tyler Chatwood, Montgomery is either the next man up behind those five pitchers or one slot down. Chatwood led the league in walks (95) in 103 2/3 innings, but the Cubs owe him a combined $25.5 million through 2020.

Get your money’s worth

Common sense says the Cubs are likely to do all they can to get Chatwood “right,” whatever that means. At the very least, that could mean fixing Chatwood’s control issues to make him a reliable reliever.

Maybe, just maybe, another team will see value in Chatwood and inquire about his availability if the Cubs fix his control issues. Be that as it may, Montgomery’s position on the Cubs’ starting pitcher totem pole is low right now.

This is not to say that Montgomery has no value to the Cubs. It does mean that fixing Chatwood to make his contract worthwhile is important. Montgomery is still valuable, but his value to the 2019 Cubs might be as a reliever.

In a column (sub required) published Monday, The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal said the Cubs would have to clear payroll even to afford a modestly priced reliever like Adam Warren.

Value lies elsewhere

Yes, that’s the same Adam Warren who posted a 5.91 ERA in 29 games with the 2016 Cubs. If Rosenthal’s report truly is reality for the Cubs, then why not work with the resources available to the team?

Montgomery can and has been a good reliever since arriving in Chicago in 2016. He deserves to start, but the Cubs need him to contribute elsewhere. Having him in the 2019 bullpen adds a reliable arm without adding payroll through free agency.

This might not sit well with the left-hander, though. If that becomes the case, perhaps the Cubs could trade Montgomery to a team in need of starting pitching.

Trading Montgomery and his projected arbitration salary of $3 million would not clear much payroll. However, it could net the Cubs assets valuable to the 2019 team. This is all hypothetical, assuming he is not OK with being a reliever.

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Ultimately, the Cubs have quite a few options when it comes to Montgomery in 2019. For the team, though, the best one might just be sending him to the bullpen, saving a few dollars in the process.