Yesterday, the Cubs pulled off their first significant trade of the (rumor) season, acquiring LHP Mike Montgomery (and RHP prospect Jordan Pries) in exchange for first base prospect Dan Vogelbach and pitching prospect Paul Blackburn.
Although Montgomery isn’t one of the flashy left-handed relievers from New York, he has been quite good this season, and there’s nothing in this deal that precludes the Cubs from making a more significant move later on, as Theo Epstein discussed last evening.
At some point soon, we’ll break down the newest Cubs lefty Montgomery in greater detail (he’s reporting to the Cubs tomorrow), but for now, let’s dig in on the trade, itself. There’s a lot of information out there, so we’re going to do it bullet style. Enjoy.
- At ESPN Chicago, Jesse Rogers discusses why this deal makes some sense for the Cubs, for more than just the need of a left-handed reliever. Specifically, the Cubs just bought themselves some time and leverage. Not only do the Cubs now have the benefit of Montgomery’s services (that’s a 2.34 ERA overall and even better numbers against lefties), they are no longer trading from a position of weakness. Now, when the Cubs are discussing deals with other teams, there will be far less urgency and far less desperation. The Cubs no longer *have* to make a move, even if they want to.
- It’s not just about the next two weeks, though. As we know, Montgomery is under cheap team control through the 2021 season, so the Cubs just added more pitching depth with multiple years of control (something they want to do at all times, not just at the deadline). Not unlike the acquisition of Adam Warren, Montgomery is a former starter, who has the ability to step things up in the pen, but the potential to stretch out and rejoin the rotation down the road. Epstein indicated that that door will be open, long term. Even if Montgomery isn’t that shut-down reliever the Cubs have been looking for, this is a flat out strong move for the team long term.
- But make no mistake, Montgomery is already pretty good and has the potential to be great, as Patrick Mooney writes at CSN Chicago. As a former starter, Montgomery has been able to take his performance to the next level in shorter doses out of the pen. Since the switch, he’s increased his fastball velocity, improved upon his walk and strikeout rates, while getting fewer homers and more ground balls. And, although Epstein is aware that Montgomery isn’t in the tier of an established guy like Andrew Miller, that doesn’t mean he can’t get there some day. “That’s how a lot of guys get there,” Epstein said of the trade. “If you wait until they’re fully established, sometimes the price tag is so high that they’re virtually impossible to acquire. But if your scouts do a good job of identifying the guys who are trending in the right direction – and you’re willing to take a shot – sometimes there’s a big payoff at the end.”
- At the Chicago Tribune, Mark Gonzales has some background on Montgomery (and the trade), including his time spent with the Tampa Bay Rays under management of Joe Maddon. But, I feel it’s worth mentioning, even though Montgomery was in the Rays organization at the same time as Maddon, he was still working his way towards the Majors at Double and Triple-A. I have no doubt that Maddon is very aware of Montgomery, his abilities, and the best way to use him, but he hasn’t managed him in a real game yet. Even still, Maddon is excited about the addition, claiming that Montgomery “has a big arm.” If Maddon’s happy, Michael’s happy.
- Jesse Rogers has more from Montgomery, himself, including his surprise at being traded. “I was a little sad at first,” Montgomery said, “understanding that I’m not going to be here with these guys in this city. But at the same time, I’m excited because I’m going to a good team and I’m ready to go contribute any way I can and help them win a World Series.” I believe the impact on a player of picking up and moving after a trade is something we frequently underestimate, and hopefully Montgomery will take well to it.
- And also some comments from Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto, who is clearly thrilled to have Dan Vogelbach in his organization. “He rakes,” Dipoto said. “He rakes everywhere he’s ever been. He’s an elite strike-zone controller with well above-average power. He has absolutely tormented right-hand pitching, especially this year.” He later added that the left-handed offense Vogelbach brings “was really too appealing to pass up.” There is no timetable for Vogelbach’s Major League debut, but his fit in the organization was not determined based on his fit on the current roster. Instead, Dipoto values the long-term gain over short-term roster complications. We’ve seen the Cubs front office act in exactly the same way; get the best possible talent you can get, sort the rest out later.
- On the departure of Dan Vogelbach, Theo Epstein emits the same reaction as a teary-eyed boy does in a kids movie after having to tell his dog to “go on, get outta here!” for his own good. “I’m sad to see Dan go – he’s a great guy to be around – but also happy for him to go to an American League club,” Epstein said. “This will be a chance to get at-bats at the big league level pretty soon. He’ll be around for a long time because he can hit and has great energy.” Indeed, I’m not sure there was ever a player more destined for the American League than Dan Vogelbach. Hopefully, he gets the call soon and terrorizes the AL West.
- Lastly, at FanGraphs, Jeff Sullivan writes about the trade, with a heavy focus on Montgomery and Vogelbach, in particular. I’m most interested, though, in the many interesting, less obvious details of Montgomery’s game that Sullivan points out. Like, for example, his 3.0 MPH increase in velocity this season is the sixth highest increase in all of baseball. And, because of poor pitch framing, Montgomery should have actually received about 27 more strikes than he’s gotten this season. With apologies to Willson Contreras, if Montgomery pitches to David Ross or Miguel Montero, that number might normalize in a hurry, making him even better than he has been. In the end, it’s not too difficult to be very happy about this trade.
- For more on the trade’s implications, Montgomery’s recent performance and team control, make sure you check out all the updates from yesterday’s post as the trade was going down.