Chicago Cubs: Montgomery, Anderson, or a Six Man Rotation?

Theo Epstein added some depth to his ballclub’s pitching staff this summer. But just how will the Chicago Cubs deploy its arsenal of hurlers?

Clearly there is a tremendous amount of young firepower on the offensive side of the ball at Wrigley Field. Led by 2016 NL MVP Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, Javier Baez and Jason Heyward (I’m only partially kidding), the Cubs will no doubt have one of the best lineups in baseball.

However, we shouldn’t let this overshadow how successful Joe Maddon‘s pitching staff is shaping up to be.

We all knew that Jon Lester, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey were capable of forming one of the most solid top of the rotations in the league. But no one expected the leap that the afterthought of the rotation, Kyle Hendricks, would lead the group in earned run average.

With all four pitchers returning for the club’s 2017 campaign, the Cubs were left with only one starting spot to make a decision on over the offseason after non-tendering veteran Jason Hammel.

Lefty starter/reliever Mike Montgomery, whom the Cubs got from the Mariners for first base prospect Dan Vogelbach, was the incumbent number five at the start of the winter. This didn’t mean that he had the job all too himself.

It was clear that Theo Epstein felt the need to improve the team’s starting pitching depth. Even though the starting pitching market was devoid of many quality rotation options, this meant that there would be many pitchers looking to take on a one-year, prove-it, type of deal.

Most notably the Cubs had their eyes on talented starter Tyson Ross. The 29 year-old (30 in April), was non-tendered by the Padres prior to the start of free agency due to injury concerns. However, this did not keep the Cubs from pursuing the former all-star, according to Carrie Muskat of MLB.com.

Ross eventually went onto sign with the Rangers, much to the disappointment of the Cubs brain trust.

“We go after lots of players,” team president Theo Epstein said. “But I think he made a decision that he sees in his best interest to come back from his injury and put himself in a position to pitch again. We wish him well.”

(Quote courtesy of Patrick Mooney of CSN Chicago)

Ultimately, the team ended up inking Brett Anderson to a one-year, $3.50 million agreement. The low price stemmed from Anderson’s inability to make it onto the field for the Dodgers last season.

Nevertheless, the 29 year-old stands a reasonable chance against Mike Montgomery in competing for the Cubs final starting spot. It should also be noted that the team also brought in the likes of Eddie Butler, who still has above average stuff after flaming out in Colorado. As well as former Royal Alec Mills and former Athletic Aaron Brooks.

Still, this beefing up of pitching depth could give way another intriguing possibility? If everyone stays healthy, could the Cubs in fact open with a six man rotation, which includes both Montgomery and Anderson?

We all know that Joe Maddon is one of the most innovated managers in the game today and that the team is dealing with two starting pitchers in Lester and Lackey that have a lot of tread on the tires.

If Montgomery were to lose out to Anderson in spring training, the team still has enough depth in the bullpen where the lanky left hander wouldn’t be forced into relief duty. The roster may be built for this sort of unusual way to start a season.

No manager has ever really deployed a full-out sixth man rotation at the start of the year. We have seen it be put into use in the middle and latter portions of the regular season because of injury. But it should be noted that Madden did in fact employ a deeper rotation leading up to the postseason.

Would this move be something that I would do if I were in the Cubs position? Probably not. Routine is so crucial to starting pitchers that I would be hesitant to mess with fresh arms trying to ease their way back into the grind of the baseball season.

But if the Cubs are unable to make a decision on the matter through spring training, why not give this idea a chance with the thought that the starting five would sort themselves out?

Anderson hasn’t finished a season with more than eight starts in five out of the past six years, and Montgomery has only been a full-time starter for a half a season in 2015. Both provide hope that under Maddon’s tutelage they can produce a reliable starting pitcher.

Perhaps which one the Cubs start with will be decided in Spring Training? If not, I wouldn’t say that it would be the end of the world of Maddon started off the first couple weeks of the regular season with an unorthodox pitching staff.

Is a six man rotation viable for the Cubs? If not, who is most likely to open the season as the team’s final starter? Let us know in the comment section below.

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