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Talking Cubs Baseball Since 2003



December 2016



Mike Montgomery: Starter or Back-End Reliever?

Written by , Posted in General

Like most Cubs fans, I have probably watched the final out of the World Series over 100 times. The circumstances are what made the out even sweeter (if that was even possible). The Cubs rental, stud reliever had blown the lead, then held the lead, and the Cubs needed someone to come in and close the door. Carl Edwards had an opportunity to earn the save, but he couldn’t quite shut the door. Mike Montgomery was brought in to face a switch-hitter. And….. Well…… You know the rest.

Montgomery filled many roles after he was traded to the Cubs. To be honest, my expectations were pretty low mostly because I didn’t know what to expect. After his first outing in Milwaukee, I was wondering why the front office even made a move to get him. As his time with the Cubs progressed, I began to like him more and more. He became a “jack-of-all-trades” for the Cubs pitching staff, and Joe Maddon took advantage of his versatility. Maddon used him as a long-reliever, middle-reliever, left-on-left reliever, setup man, closer, and starter. There aren’t many pitchers that could be used that way in one season. I would look for Joe Maddon to attempt to use him as either a starter or reliever and stick with that for the entire season. A lot of what Maddon decides will depend on whether or not the Cubs make a trade for a starting pitcher.

So, if it were up to me, what would Montgomery’s role be for the 2017 Cubs? Personally, I believe that Montgomery is more effective in a relief role. He proved that he can be a fairly reliable starting pitcher, but he also proved that he can be a major piece at the back-end of a bullpen. If it were up to me, I would make a trade for a young, controllable starting pitcher (like Chris Archer), and only use Montgomery in a relief role. I believe that he is someone that can be used in a setup role, or in high-leverage, left-on-left situations. One of Montgomery’s assets that makes him such a solid starter and reliever is that he is able to get outs against good right handed batters. I could see him being used in sort of a platoon-type role with Hector Rondon and Pedro Strop in the 7th/8th innings. Montgomery has also proved that he isn’t fazed by big moments. During the playoffs, Joe Maddon got in a habit of using a limited number of relief pitchers because of trust level. Montgomery was one of those pitchers and he proved to be very valuable when it mattered most.

Luckily for the Cubs, I am not in the front office. If I was, however, these are some of the moves that I would consider making to improve the Cubs pitching staff/bullpen depth. One thing that is constantly preached by the Cubs front office is depth and versatility. It is one of the reasons the Cubs were so good in 2016; they had a bunch of guys that could play a bunch of different positions. With pitchers like Montgomery that can pitch at different points in the game, the Cubs are diversifying their bullpen in the same way.

  • cap’n realist

    In the sunshine and crumpet world where the Cubs can get another young, controllable starter, I like Monty in the pen. If they can’t or just don’t, I like having a 2nd left-handed starting pitcher. As a bonus, this one can field his position and control the running game.

    Lost in all of this is the confusing fact that the Cubs seem to have zero interest in keeping Hammel, despite his 25 wins over the past 2 seasons. I like Hammel A LOT more than Lackey at this stage of the game. Sticking Lackey, who really has declining stuff, in the pen for long duty makes the most sense to me. Hammel is younger, and has about 1000 fewer innings on his odometer over the past 15 years.

    • Doc Raker

      Didn’t they already let Hammel go? I agree that Lackey should be considered for the bullpen, he doesn’t have the stamina at his age to start effectively for the entire season. I thought it would of made sense to keep Hammel, put Monty in the starting rotation and put Lackey in the pen.

    • JTBarrett16

      If Hammel is unsigned into February, the Cubs should bring him back, similar to the manner Fowler was brought back, minus the pomp and circumstance.

      • Sherm

        I agree, partially. I’d keep the pomp. I can take or leave the circumstance.

      • JTBarrett16

        They should celebrate his return with a big bag of potato chips. Mmmmmmmmm…potato chips

      • Seymour Butts

        The Pomp is just for show. It’s the circumstance that matters!

    • Doug S.

      The idea of Lackey in the pen has some appeal.

      • Seymour Butts

        So does an Italian banana.

      • that is an absolutely amazing dad joke

    • I’ll never understand why they let Hammells walk, or how to spell his name.

      • Sherm

        I think they let Hammmmel walk because, well, just look at the teams making him offers…

        Whatever it is? Every team saw/sees (see-saws?) the same thing and isn’t willing to pay big $$ for it. They “did the right thing” and cut him loose to pursue the market, saved a good deal of cash in doing so – and will look good to future free agents because of it. He just might re-sign with them if there are no other takers. Talk about win-win. (Provided both “wins” are for the team and not the player.) If he has a great year? Who knows? Maybe he’ll get a big contract next time. If so, good for the Cubs and for him.

        The only other thing that makes any sense is that they believed at the time – and possibly still do – that they were going to pull off a deal for another front line pitcher and he wouldn’t be needed, and they wanted to free up that salary. I think that Theo will be working on improving this team right up to the day he isn’t responsible for improving this team anymore!

      • Doc Raker

        One L two S’s

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        I do not want anything with one L and two S’s ever associated with the Chicago Cubs again, with the exception of World Series Champion.

      • Doc Raker

        The World Series Champions- never gets old

      • JTBarrett16

        That’s 3 S’s and one L

  • Connor Ladwig

    The Cubs will need a fifth starter this year, and judging on how Montgomery pitched last year, I would at least have him start the season as our #5 guy. If he struggles, Joe could always move him to the pen.