On Saturday, the Chicago Cubs filled out their rotation by handing Yu Darvish a six-year, $126 million deal – a deal that effectively squashed Mike Montgomery’s chances of being a full-fledged starting pitcher in 2018 (absent any Spring Training injuries or meltdowns).
Of course, for the Cubs, that’s great news. Not only did they improve the rotation by adding one of the better pitchers in the game to the front, they also improved their bullpen and starting depth, by moving a pitcher of Mike Montgomery’s quality to the pen. Jed Hoyer recently spoke about this very move, and mentioned that while he’s aware of Montgomery’s desire to be a starter, the team can’t ignore how much value he provides in a swing role (he likened his versatility to Ben Zobrist and Javy Baez).
For Montgomery, on the other hand, it’s a little bittersweet. “I definitely want to be here,” he told the Chicago Sun Times. “I know I want to be a starter, but, look, being a part of this team the last couple years, it’s a special group, and we not only have a good team, but I’ve never had more fun playing baseball.”
Over the winter, Montgomery made his desire to be a starter very well-known, with several public declarations to that effect. But given where things stand, he wants to make one thing clear it was never an ultimatum. “It wasn’t like, ‘Hey, make me a starter or I get traded,'” he said. “It wasn’t that black and white. It was just, ‘Hey, I want to be a starter.'”
But Montgomery also reiterated that he does take pride in his unique role, but he just wants to make sure his arm is healthy enough to last through the entire year (and for the rest of his career) – swinging back and forth as often as he did in 2017, according to Montgomery, took a serious toll on his body.
But again, Montgomery’s primary desire – above starting – is remaining with the Chicago Cubs. In an article at Cubs.com, Carrie Muskat shares the quote that spells it all out: “Being on a winning team is the most important thing.”
Understanding that sentiment – that Montgomery wants to be with a winner and hopes that winner is the Chicago Cubs – matters, because as Brett explored earlier … teams are interested, and that was before their recent moves:
The Phillies would be the second team we’ve heard about having interest in Montgomery, together with the Orioles (remember those Manny Machado rumors?), but I suspect there would be a ton more. Even if you think Montgomery’s ceiling is a back-end starter, there’s a whole lot of value in a guy who can do that for several very cost-controlled years. And I happen to believe he’s got middle-of-the-rotation upside.
For now, I have to image that the plan remains to keep Montgomery in Chicago (unless the Cubs are blown away by an offer), while stretching him out as a starter in Spring Training. From there, he’ll most likely head to the bullpen for the beginning of the year. Then, when a need arises in the rotation – as it always, always does – the Cubs can swing Montgomery into that role, so long as it’s for more than just a spot start (to save his arm the trouble). Additionally, if, at any point, the Cubs decide to use a six-man rotation for certain stretches (which they’ve done in three straight seasons under Joe Maddon), Montgomery will also get a chance to start during those stretches, too.
It might not be ideal for the pitching-Ben-Zobrist, but as Montgomery has admitted, sticking with a winner like the Cubs and helping them get back to the World Series remains the priority. Good teammate. Good ballplayer. Good dude.
Oh, and just for fun:
Can you believe that after 108 years, it took the Cubs seven games and 10 innings to win the World Series … and they still only did it by one run?!