Mike Montgomery is expected to join the Cubs' bullpen Friday in Milwaukee.
Mike Montgomery was nearly cut, first of all. In the final two months of 2015, over 10 starts, Montgomery put up a 7.49 ERA, a 35/25 SO/BB ratio, and looked to be a failing as a major league pitcher. Coming into 2016 out of options, with the Mariners and Jerry Dipoto overhauling the team's rotation with Wade Miley and Nathan Karns, Montgomery appeared to have no place in this organization.
The Mariners decided a first round, left-handed arm deserved a look at relief conversion in Spring Training, and as Seattle's bullpen suffered injury after injury during Cactus League play, Montgomery's strong showing won him a job. It was the window he needed, and he hasn't looked back.
Montgomery as a reliever is exactly what you hope to see when converting a failed starter to relief. His fastball velocity spiked sharply, from 90.9 MPH in 2015 to 94.0 MPH (touching 97 at times) this year. The fastball is Montgomery's primary pitch, and he locates it effectively to hitters from both sides of the plate. The added heat makes his curveball more effective, and, while more a show-me pitch than anything, his change up is a serviceable third option, primarily to right-handers.
Montgomery is an excellent athlete. When I asked a few organization members who the best athlete on the team is, other than Taijuan Walker (who is an amazing athlete), Montgomery was largely the consensus. Should he end up spot starting in Chicago, he can even hit a little. He has faced the end of his starting career, adjusted to a new role on the fly, and thrived. He is tough, competes his butt off, and will be missed in Seattle. The Cubs got a good one.