LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — The Cubs' starting rotation has yet to be finalized for 2018. But if they want Mike Montgomery to hang around, they might want to think about putting him in that five-man staff.
According to a Tuesday night report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, Montgomery wants to start with the Cubs or go somewhere where he can start. The Cubs have used Montgomery as a swingman the past two seasons, plugging him in as a starter when another starter got hurt and also using him in various roles out of the bullpen.
#Cubs LHP Mike Montgomery would like chance to start or go to place where he can, sources close to the pitcher tell The Athletic. Has communicated desire to start to #Cubs, but not desire to go elsewhere if opportunity is not available, sources say. Role in ‘18 presently unclear.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) December 13, 2017
The somewhat complex wording of that tweet makes it seem like Montgomery isn't exactly demanding a trade or anything like that, but his desire to be a big league starter seems strong.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer was asked about the report Tuesday night and admitted it took him by surprise.
“That kind of caught me by surprise, to be honest with you," Hoyer told reporters after while discussing the team's deals with free agents Brandon Morrow and Drew Smyly. "We view him as a starting pitcher. I know views himself as a starting pitcher. But he’s a good teammate. He’s been willing to do both, and I think he’s done that really well.
"But as far as a dialogue this winter, we’ve had no dialogue with Mike whatsoever about that. Like I said, we view him as a starting pitcher, we know he can do it. But our job is to build up as much depth as possible. As far as the dialogue, there’s nothing going on between us. We just like having him.”
As for what the Cubs will settle on remains to be seen as the rest of the offseason plays out. They lost Jake Arrieta and John Lackey to free agency, creating a couple big holes in the rotation, but they've since added Tyler Chatwood on a free-agent deal and have been connected to other pitchers such as Alex Cobb.
Montgomery started 14 games last season, posting a 4.15 ERA as a starter. As a reliever, he had a 2.49 ERA in 61.1 innings of work out of the bullpen.
Cubs manager Joe Maddon has always talked glowingly about Montgomery and has suggested he could be a full-time starter in the past.
Hoyer credited Montgomery's versatility Tuesday, comparing it to the versatility of position players like Javier Baez and Ben Zobrist.
"Like I said, Mike’s a great teammate," Hoyer said. "Obviously we know he wants to start. We know that some of our position players want to just play one position. I think our guys have been really great about doing what’s good for the whole team and sort of kind of the greater good. And our guys don’t complain about it.
"We’re fortunate. We’ve won a ton of games the last three years in part because guys have been willing to move around. In some ways I look at Mike the way you might look at a guy like Javy or like Ben Zobrist. He’s been really versatile, and that’s part of what makes him really good.”
Again, even if the Cubs fill their starting rotation with guys not named Montgomery, it doesn't mean Montgomery won't be in the bullpen next season. But for a guy under team control for another four years, it's interesting to see how both Montgomery and the Cubs react if he doesn't get a rotation spot.