With the Cubs’ starting five scuffling a bit out of the gate, it was inevitable that folks’ eyes would start to turn toward the coming Trade Deadline, even as it is still three months away. It was always the case that the Cubs would be mulling their options at the deadline, whatever the current state of the rotation, because their needs extend past the 2017 season, and the deadline might be the best time to acquire a pitcher under control for multiple years.
To that end, Bruce Levine has already started discussing the possible trade targets for the Cubs this summer, and it includes the familiar Chris Archer, Sonny Gray, Jake Odorizzi trio. While it’s totally fine to ruminate on the possibilities, I think we’re going to see other maneuvering in the rotation long before trades enter the equation.
Specifically, I’m kinda thinkin’ Mike Montgomery is going to get a start soon.
You’ll recall, even as Brett Anderson was named to the rotation coming out of Spring Training, the Cubs never indicated that Montgomery, who was competing for a rotation spot, was never going to get a start this year. To the contrary, just like last season when he shifted into the rotation periodically to give the Cubs a temporary six-man staff, yielding extra days of rest for the other five, the plan was always to get Montgomery starts at some point.
Given that Montgomery nearly pitched four innings on Monday, I wonder if that “some point” is going to come pretty soon, given that he is now stretched out organically (which is not easy to do artificially during the regular season if you (1) want to win games, and (2) want to get a bullpenner stretched out by X Date).
In fact, Joe Maddon even hinted at this possibility when he said, after Monday’s game, that one of the “takeaways” for him was stretching out Montgomery (Cubs.com). That wouldn’t be much of a positive takeaway from a bad game unless there was at least the potential for there to be some purpose behind it in the near future.
I’d say keep an eye on Montgomery’s usage in the coming days. Does he stay stretched out, or does he resume more match-up-oriented duties? If he doesn’t make a short-term appearance in the next couple games OR does make a multi-inning appearance, I’m thinking the Cubs might take advantage of the opportunity and plug him in the next time through the rotation. The Cubs don’t have another off day until May 11.
Using Montgomery in a sixth starter / swing role has the added benefit of not having to make a tricky roster move to accommodate bringing up a different internal option at Iowa like Eddie Butler (fantastic results so far, but terrifying peripherals) or Alec Mills (currently on DL) or Rob Zastryzny (currently pitching long outings out of the bullpen). (UPDATE: And I see that Butler is now also on the 7-day DL. So, like I said … yeah, Montgomery makes a lot of sense.)