Good news on Mike Montgomery’s continued rehab from a lat injury, as he successfully pitched 4.0 innings with the AA Tennessee Smokies.
Montgomery said after the game that he accomplished what he wanted, felt good, and was headed back to Chicago to see what the next-step plans are:
— Mick Gillispie (@BroadcasterMick) April 22, 2019
If Montgomery is ready to return as soon as this week, the Cubs will have to figure out how they want to accommodate him in the bullpen. Given that they’ve already sent out Randy Rosario for Alec Mills, it’s possible the Cubs would just elect to swap out Mills for Montgomery. Lefty Tim Collins also has options remaining, though he’s been pretty effective. Ditto and ditto fellow lefty Kyle Ryan, though the Cubs might prefer to have only two lefties in the bullpen. (When Jon Lester returns, another relief arm will also be bounced, as Tyler Chatwood moves back into the bullpen.)
You can see, then, how the Cubs’ bullpen situation – as need as it is for impact arms – is crowded at the margins, especially when you factor in minor league rehab stints for Tony Barnette and Xavier Cedeño, the continued improvement of Dillon Maples, and the work being put in at AAA by Carl Edwards Jr. It’s weird to think about the Cubs’ bullpen as having an overload of options, but at some point, even as you know it needs to improve overall, you can have too many AAAA/MLB guys for roster purposes.
To that end, it’s maybe not all that surprising to see the Cubs stretching Montgomery out as a starter in his rehab outings – you never know what need might emerge at the big league level in the process of rehabbing, and it’s a lot easier to gear-down than gear-up. And it’s also maybe not all that surprising to see Jesse Rogers write something like this:
With Morrow shut down here’s my idea to get better in the pen: One trade idea that would fix Cubs' bullpen problem https://t.co/VPcvTTUqRc
— Jesse Rogers (@ESPNChiCubs) April 23, 2019
Since the start of 2017, Montgomery has posted mixed numbers as a reliever, with a 3.69 ERA and 4.49 FIP. His results have been slightly worse as a starter in that time span – 3.88 ERA – but the peripherals were better, and it was over nearly twice as many innings. I don’t think it would be inaccurate to say Montgomery has been slightly better overall as a starter the past two+ years than as a reliever. (The difference was even more stark in 2018, for what it’s worth.)
To that end, maybe Montgomery would be viewed as a valuable, cost-effective starter by other organizations, and maybe the Cubs should explore a trade, given the composition of the rest of the roster. Of course, I’m no so sure the kind of deal Rogers suggests – trading Montgomery for an established reliever – is going to be the right move, but you could at least explore the value I suppose.
Ultimately, Montgomery is a talented pitcher in an organization that needs them. I tend to doubt the perfect trade is going to come along that would get the Cubs to jump (consider, they’re just an injury and Chatwood ineffectiveness away from really, really needing Montgomery in their own rotation), and that’s especially true in April and May. I suppose I’m just saying it’s not unfair for Rogers to bring it up.
In any case, good to know that Montgomery’s rehab is progressing well, and hopefully he’ll be able to return healthy and effective to the big league team soon. Figure out the rest at that point.