Mariners Send Mike Montgomery to Cubs for 1B/DH Dan Vogelbach
With the trade deadline approaching, the M’s made an intriguing trade today, sending left-handed pitcher Mike Montgomery to the Cubs in exchange for 1B/DH Dan Vogelbach. The clubs also exchanged high-minors starting pitching depth, with Jordan Pries moving to the Cubs and Paul Blackburn joining the M’s org. SP depth is nice and all, but the deal really centers on Montgomery and Vogelbach.
Vogelbach was drafted in the 2nd round out of a Florida high school, and the Cubs bought him out of a commitment to LSU. While Vogelbach could hit, the pick was somewhat controversial – at the time, Vogelbach was generously listed at 5’11” 280 lbs. A HS player who looked like this in his showcase events is not…it’s not what scouts are used to seeing, or what they LIKE to see. Almost immediately, though, Vogelbach started to slim down, and he’s now listed at 6’0″, 250 – he’s not svelte, but that’s playable.
Despite a huge half-season for Boise in the Pioneer league in 2012, many were still unsold on his overall ceiling – 1B prospects need to hit a ton, and it wasn’t clear how he’d do against advanced pitching with power that isn’t off-the-charts good. Indeed, Vogelbach’s numbers slipped a bit in the Midwest League and Florida State Leagues (two of the tougher leagues for hitters in the minors), but he’s made some key adjustments as he’s risen through the system. He’s having his best season since that 2012 rookie-league breakout this year for Iowa in the PCL, and he’s demonstrated that he doesn’t need 35 HR power to be successful. Vogelbach is a much more complete hitter, with a good sense of the strike zone and the ability to drive the ball against righties and lefties – platoon issues dogged him in the low minors, but he’s slugging .506 against them this year in AAA.
That’s all well and good, but he still doesn’t get great reviews on his defense, which has led people to assume he’d get traded to an AL team for years. The M’s don’t have a DH opening at the moment, but they could rotate him in there as soon as next year, and they could platoon him with the similarly proportioned Dae-ho Lee at 1B. There’s a reason 1B prospects don’t have a ton of value, and there are even more reasons why Vogelbach is often underrated even within the ranks of 1B/DHs, but he’s hitting well enough that he might be a good fit for the organization.
It’ll be interesting to see Mike Montgomery’s role in Chicago. For this year, he’ll bail out a scuffling Cubs bullpen, but with several years of club control left, they may try him in the rotation down the line. The Cubs were reportedly in on Drew Pomeranz, who they planned to trade on for a young starter. That deal obviously fell through, but Montgomery could give them a cost-controlled starter, which might be nice as their payroll swells. That said, their rotation’s already pretty full, as Dave Cameron mentioned today. Jason Hammel’s got a club option for 2017, but I don’t really know why the Cubs would decline it the way he’s pitching. Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester aren’t going anywhere, and Kyle Hendricks and John Lackey have been great, too. All four of them are under contract for 2017. Thus, if Monty pitches well down the stretch, they could trade him again in the offseason if someone wants to make him a starter.
Losing a cheap, cost-controlled player like Montgomery hurts, especially for an old team like Seattle. But there’s something to be said for selling high on relievers in July, when prices are high. Vogelbach is a pretty good get, and while he’s got the ceiling of a 5th starter, Paul Blackburn’s would seem to have more of a future than Jordan Pries. Dipoto’s done pretty well here, as he’s shored up a weakness in the M’s system while leaving the bullpen mostly whole (especially if Charlie Furbush can make it back soon). It’s not a *big* move – I don’t want to oversell it – but it seems fair for both sides, and it opens up a huge opportunity for Vogelbach, who was blocked by Anthony Rizzo and National League rules before. Welcome to the M’s, Dan. Keep hitting, please.