Phillies showing interest in Cubs’ southpaw Mike Montgomery

By Matt Rappa, Sports Talk Philly editor

CLEARWATER, Fla. — It is no secret. The Philadelphia Phillies are looking to improve their starting rotation with some veteran presence, despite having eight pitchers currently listed on their depth chart — Aaron Nola, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Nick Pivetta, Ben Lively, Zach Eflin, Mark Leiter and Jake Thompson.

There is a common denominator among those eight pitchers. All throw right-handed.

And while the club has looked into many options this offseason, including right-handers 2015 National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, the right move just has not come into play for team Vice President and General Manager Matt Klentak to act on.

Arrieta won 68 games for the Chicago Cubs through 128 starts, and even worked out this offseason with Phillies outfielder Nick Williams. The Phillies simply have yet to bite on the 31-year-old's reported five-year asking price.

They may have their eyes set on one of Arrieta's former teammates, however, in left-hander Mike Montgomery.

Montgomery, 28, made it clear in December he wants the chance to start for the Cubs this season. With the club signing four-time All-Star RHP Yu Darvish to a six-year, $126 million contract on Tuesday, however, there is little chance Montgomery's wishes will come to fruition.

The Cubs rotation will likely feature Darvish, right-handers Kyle Kendricks and Tyler Chatwood, and left-handers Jon Lester and Jose Quintana. All are under contract through at least the next two seasons. Not to mention, they have LHP Drew Smyly stashed away for an anticipated late August return after undergoing Tommy John reconstructive surgery in June.

Clubs took notice of Montgomery's comments this offseason on wanting to become a starter, and quickly acted once the Darvish signing became official on Tuesday. Montgomery necessarily does not wish to be traded. Per The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, he does not desire "to go elsewhere" if the opportunity to start for the Cubs does not present itself in 2018.

Health concerns are a worry for the left-hander, however, if he continues to assumes the swingman role. A trade to a team with room in their rotation would quickly erase those worries. The Phillies are among the clubs that have been in contact with Chicago regarding Montgomery's availability, "long before the Darvish deal looked close," according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Gordon Wittenmyer.

The Cubs' asking price may be too high for the Phillies' liking, however, labeling Montgomery as a "bona fide major-league starter." Wittenmyer writes of Montgomery's value and well-respected status within the Cubs organization:

But his value to the Cubs might be as great as ever, with already high postseason expectations skyrocketing and his role having become so important for the pitching staff.

Already well-liked in the clubhouse, Montgomery’s team-oriented perspective in the face of a return to sixth-starter status only adds to his value, Maddon said.


Stats


Montgomery went 7-8 with a 3.38 ERA and 100-55 strikeout-to-walk ratio through 44 appearances and 130 2/3 innings last season with the Cubs. Montgomery helped the Cubs greatly during their 2016 championship run, allowing just one run through  five appearances and 4 2/3 innings in the World Series against the Cleveland Indians.

The Mission Hills, California is not the first southpaw the Phillies have recently been linked to via rumors. On Tuesday, the club was reported to be showing interest in seven-year veteran reliever LHP Tony Watson.

Montgomery would certainly be an attractive for rookie manager Gabe Kapler and the Phillies. Acquiring Montgomery likely would mean he would assume a starting role heading into the season, making him the club's first left-hander to start a game since 2016. Also, Montgomery's contract is certainly attractive, with him under club control through the 2021 season.

Time is running out for the Phillies to solidify their rotation. The club will be among many teams attending former San Francisco Giants Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum's showcase in Kent, Washington on Thursday.

Six weeks remain until the 2018 season gets underway on March 29 against the Atlanta Braves at SunTrust Park.