The Cubs are seeking a left-handed reliever in advance of the July 31 deadline, but one of their own southpaws – Mike Montgomery – “has been involved in trade talks,” Jesse Rogers of ESPNChicago.com writes. However, it’s unclear whether there’s a deal featuring Montgomery on the horizon.
Now 30, Montgomery joined the Cubs in July 2016 as part of a trade with the Mariners for then-first base prospect Daniel Vogelbach, who has emerged as a formidable piece of the M’s offense this year. Montgomery was a quality member of the Cubs in his own right from 2016-18, notching 99 appearances and 38 starts of 3.56 ERA/4.10 FIP ball with 6.88 K/9, 3.5 BB/9 and a 54.9 percent groundball rate over 293 innings.
The Cubs surely expected more of the same from Montgomery this year, but his production has cratered across 20 appearances and 27 frames (all in relief). To this point, Montgomery owns an ugly 5.67 ERA/6.21 FIP. His K/9 (6.0) has declined, albeit not a ton from its already underwhelming levels, while Montgomery’s control and ability to induce grounders have also faded. He’s walking a career-worst 4.33 batters per nine and generating grounders at a personal-low 43.3 percent clip.
Unsurprisingly, with hitters having an easier time elevating the ball against Montgomery, more of his pitches have been leaving the yard. Montgomery has yielded home runs on a whopping 28.6 percent of fly balls, which is the eighth-highest figure among all pitchers who have thrown at least 20 innings in 2019. Part of the problem for Montgomery has been a sudden inability to retire left-handed hitters, whom he fared decently against coming into this season. They’ve teed off on him for a ridiculous .557 weighted on-base average this season. Lefties and righties have combined for a .416 wOBA against Montgomery, which is right in line with a .415 expected wOBA that Statcast ranks fourth from the bottom among qualified pitchers.
Needless to say, the 2019 version of Montgomery hasn’t done his trade value any favors. He does have his pre-2019 performance to fall back on, though, not to mention a couple years of team control. Montgomery’s earning $2.44MM this season and comes with two more years of arbitration eligibility. While the struggling Montgomery’s current salary doesn’t look onerous, the Cubs may want him and his money out of the picture as they try to upgrade their roster by the end of the month.