#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
So, if I’m reading that correctly, Mike Montgomery wants to start (understandable), has told the Cubs he wants to start (fine), wants them to trade him if he isn’t going to start (it happens), but hasn’t told the Cubs that part … but it did somehow get to Rosenthal (?).
Earlier this offseason, Theo Epstein indicated that the expected role for Montgomery in 2018 would look a lot like 2017: stretched out as a starter, working out of the bullpen, but swinging into the rotation when the need arises, and probably getting 10 to 20 starts on the year.
In 2017, Montgomery wound up posting a 3.38 ERA and 4.07 FIP over 130.2 innings (4.15 ERA and 3.94 FIP in 69.1 innings as a starter, 2.49 ERA and 4.22 FIP in 61.1 innings as a reliever). He made 14 starts, and came out of the bullpen 30 times.
If you’re Montgomery, it’s easy to see why that wouldn’t be preferable, both from a competitiveness standpoint and a looming-arbitration-years standpoint. To date, though, he has expressed only that he’s willing to do what’s best for the team, and, at least publicly, there’s no reason to doubt that stance, since he’s backed it up with his performance. And if you’re the Cubs, it’s hard not to believe having Montgomery in this swing role – one that is very difficult and one in which he seems to excel – is too valuable to pass up, especially if you can add another starting pitcher this offseason.
To that end, unless the Cubs are planning to go with a six-man rotation (I’m totally on board, given the rest benefits, but we’ve gotten no indication of anything dramatic like that on the horizon), adding another starting pitcher means Montgomery is the swing guy. And if he’s not willing to be in that role, while he cannot force the issue, it could put the Cubs in a spot to consider making a move.
As I said at the top, I want to hear a little more about this before I really break one way or another. I can understand Montgomery’s position, assuming Rosenthal is presenting it accurately. I can also understand why the Cubs have used Montgomery in the role he’s been used, even though he looks like a guy who could be a successful full-time starting pitcher.
The fact that this is coming up at the Winter Meetings – where rosters will be shaped through transactions – is not lost on me. It probably isn’t entirely a coincidence.
UPDATE: A thoughtful and measured response from Jed Hoyer:
Hoyer: RE tweet on Montgomery's preference to start: "We know he wants to start. We know some of our position players want to play one position. I think our guys have been great about doing what’s good for the whole team and for the greater good. Our guys don’t complain about it.
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) December 13, 2017