Lefty Mike Montgomery, having fully rehabbed his early-season lat injury, and having stretched out in some minor league starts, is very much ready to return to the big league roster. A healthy Montgomery figures to be a very useful arm, so, if he’s ready to come back, go ahead and activate, right?
Well, it’s a little tricky. Montgomery, who would be able to return to the bullpen – based on his last throwing session – as soon as today, was stretched out as a starter in the minors, but there’s obviously not spot for him right now in the rotation. And, although the Cubs have used him as a sometimes sixth starter to give breaks to the regulars and keep them fresh for later in the year, Joe Maddon tells Cubs.com that isn’t in the cards right now, as the front five are plenty fresh and he wouldn’t typically think about six-manning until the second half.
So, if Montgomery isn’t going to take a start, he’d go right back into the bullpen, displacing one of the current arms, right? Well, again, Maddon wasn’t going to give it up just yet: “Monty, if he’s throwing well, he’s been a big part of our group. We’ve got to try to figure this out soon and we are working on that. The challenge component of it, we do have our ideas. We’re just not ready to unleash them yet. We’re just working on things.”
Here’s the current eight-man bullpen:
Carl Edwards Jr.
If they’re healthy, none of the first four are going anywhere, so cross them out for these purposes. Edwards has minor league options, but the Cubs just brought him back this weekend – would they really bounce him right back down to Iowa? Chatwood is looking the part as a reliever, and I really am cool with the Cubs giving him that chance unless someone immediately right now wants to take on most of his contract. Ryan has options left, but he’s been so dang good – do you really want to remove him from the mix? Webster has no options left, but has enough talent that if you waive him, I bet he gets plucked up (and I’m not sure you could alternatively trade him for much value right now).
One very short-term way to bring back Montgomery, depending on the circumstances, is if Ben Zobrist needed a leave of absence (he was scratched late last night for a personal reason), and the Cubs wanted an extra arm today/tomorrow instead of a bat (Montgomery is already in Chicago). That would merely punt the decision down the road for a couple days, and would also leave the Cubs shorthanded on the bench, but it could be an option. Sometimes the rest of the decision sorts itself out in a day or two, unfortunately, because of an injury or something.
To that end, it’s possible someone in the bullpen has a nagging something or other right now already, and that person will get a little break on the Injured List to accommodate Montgomery. There’s no way for us to know that right now as we sit here, though Chatwood did have a minor groin thing late last week, and Strop did have weirdly low velocity on Monday.
The other theoretical option is to trade Montgomery to a team that wants to use him as a starting pitcher right away, where he might actually offer the most value. The trick there is that the market for such trades at this time of year is not necessarily robust, and it could sting badly to move Montgomery now … only to find you really wish you still had him in two weeks when a starter or two gets hurt.
If the Cubs go with a traditional roster move, you’ve gotta figure it’ll either be Ryan being optioned down or Webster being DFA’d (and then the Cubs will try to get him through waivers, or, if not possible, try to trade him). I really, really don’t love either of those paths, but I also don’t necessarily want to see the Cubs lose Montgomery.