The Chicago Cubs have taken the first steps towards improving their bullpen. For weeks, they’ve been linked to a number of relievers, including the big three of the New York Yankees; Andrew Miller, Dellin Betances, and Aroldis Chapman. While there’s still time for them to work on a deal for one of those three, this deal was on a slightly smaller scale.
It appears that the Cubs will be sending first base prospect Dan Vogelbach to the Seattle Mariners for former starting pitcher, turned bullpen piece Mike Montgomery. The deal is expected to be finalized, after Seattle’s game tonight goes final.
Tim Kurkjan of ESPN first made mention of a possible deal between the two teams, while on-air earlier this evening. Fellow insider Buster Olney later linked Montgomery to the Cubs in a tweet.
Tim Kurkjian just reported on air that the Cubs and the Mariners have a trade in the works. Cubs have been looking at lefty Mike Montgomery.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) July 20, 2016
Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports! later indicated that Dan Vogelbach would be heading to Chicago, in what he was told was a deal for Mike Montgomery.
Sources: Cubs and Mariners nearing a deal. LHP Mike Montgomery would go to Chicago. DH/1B Dan Vogelbach would be a piece going to Seattle.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 20, 2016
Finally, it was Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports that confirmed the deal would be Vogelbach for Montgomery.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 20, 2016
This deal is big for Chicago, as it adds a stable arm to what has been an otherwise shaky bullpen.
Montgomery has been excellent this season, posting a 2.34 ERA in 61.2 innings pitched. Aside from two recent spot starts, Montgomery has spent the majority of the year in the bullpen. The move to the ‘pen has served as a good thing for Montgomery, as it has added some more power behind his fastball. Last season, his fastball topped out at 91 MPH. This year, it has sat between 94-95 MPH. Montgomery also possesses a very solid 54:18 K:BB ratio.
Vogelbach has been performing quite well himself, this season. The 23-year-old is rated as the Cubs 20th-best prospect according to MLB Pipeline. Vogelbach was a second-round pick by the Cubs in the 2011 draft, and has slowly worked his way through the organization. For the first three years of his career, Vogelbach has no lower than .284, and smacked no fewer than 17 home runs. Over his next two seasons, Vogelbach’s average dipped below the .280 mark, with his highest average sitting at .279. However, Vogelbach has seemed rejuvenated at the plate this year. In his first year with Triple A-Iowa, Vogelbach currently owns a .318/.425/.548 triple-slash, with 16 home runs, and only 64 RBIs. He’s also drawn 55 walks, compared to 67 strikeouts.
Vogelbach figures to report to Seattle’s Triple-A affiliate, and could be a candidate for a September call-up. Possibly sooner, once you consider the American League’s designated hitter position.
Bob Nightengale of USA Today Sports later added that there will also be another pair of players switching teams, as Paul Blackburn and Jordan Pries will also be involved in the deal. Blackburn going to Seattle; Pries going to Chi-Town.
— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) July 20, 2016
Pries, 26, was a 30th-round selection for the Mariners in the 2011 draft. In six minor league seasons, Pries has gone 40-24 with a 4.41 ERA in 552.2 innings pitched. His career K:BB ratio currently sits at 464:164. This season, Pries is enjoying his best year since 2014, as he owns a 2-1 record with a 3.65 ERA in 24.2 innings pitched.
Blackburn, 22, was the 56th overall pick in the 2012 draft by the Cubs. Currently with Double A-Tennessee, Blackburn owns a career 26-16 record with a 3.21 ERA in 375.2 innings pitched. His best season came in 2014 (9-4, 3.23 ERA), although Blackburn’s on his way to a very good season this year. Right now, he owns a 6-4 record with a 3.17 ERA in 102.1 innings pitched. His K:BB ratio sits at a cool 72:26.
This move could just be the beginning for the Cubs, as the trade deadline isn’t until August 1st. There’s still time for them to further strengthen their bullpen, although this move was a good way to start.