Mike Montgomery was a smart acquisition for the Kansas City Royals but expecting him to become a dominant starter in a bad rotation would be unrealistic.
I very much liked the trade that brought Mike Montgomery back to the Kansas City Royals. We gave up Martin Maldonado. A catcher that was doing nothing for the struggling 2019 Royals, a team with no hope of a postseason. It also gave us another much-needed arm in the rotation.
The Royals are desperate when it comes to pitching.
For all the talk about the young arms in the minors, and there is plenty of good to say about them, it does not make up for the gaping holes we have currently in both our rotation and our bullpen. We have exactly one starting pitcher that made it to 170 innings this year. And we have only 2 starters who qualified with an ERA+ plus of more than 100, which would be league average.
One starting arm that was right around league average as a Royal was Mike Montgomery. His numbers as a Royal were noticeably better than they were during the 27 innings he threw for the Chicago Cubs. After being traded, he threw 64 innings over 13 starts and, as a Royal, finished with an ERA+ of 102. He was, dare I say it, good.
Mike Montgomery has made it clear that he would prefer to be a starting pitcher, even though he has had some real success as a reliever. His best season was in 2017 where he did a little bit of everything. He started 14 games that year and finished 11. As a pitching jack of all trades, he was a valuable player that season, being worth more than 2 WAR.
Fastballs will never be the most significant pitch to Mike Montgomery. His velocity with the fastball stays right around 92 MPH and he has thrown less and less of them throughout his career. He now throws fastballs less than half the time. His curveball and his change-up are the pitches he needs control of in order to be successful. And he has shown that he can be crafty enough to pull it off.
My concern with Montgomery is that, as he turns 30, he has only reached the 130 innings mark one time during his career. And while I respect his ability to induce weak contact from hitters, his hits per 9 innings are climbing each season. He gave up over 11 hits per 9 innings this season. That means he is giving hits with more regularity than Jorge Lopez. Yeah, that Jorge Lopez. Montgomery also averaged less than 5 innings per start this season. That feels like a bit of a red flag.
Mike Montgomery was a good piece to trade for. The Royals have him under team control through the 2021 season and he will be a useful pitcher. But he is not fixing our rotation. While we do need more guys that are not just up there pulling pins and tossing hand grenades, we should expect better. Royals fans have known for the last few years that the pitching product is not good enough. If fans know it, we can be sure that management gets it.
Adding an arm like Mike Montgomery to be our 6th starter/long reliever/possible bullpen arm is a great idea. I support it. Pretending Mike Montgomery will become a front-end starter next season and throw 180 innings is unrealistic. The Royals need to do more this offseason than what we have seen them do in recent years. Another 100-loss season is unacceptable. Expecting us to be surprised when Mike Montgomery does not turn this rotation around in 2020 would be insulting.