Why the Chicago Cubs need to seize moment and sign Jordan Montgomery 

@GDubMLB – Gordon Wittenmyer

Reds beat writer for Cincinnati Enquirer, co-host Cubs #ReKap podcast; formerly with Chicago Sun-Times.

Time for Tom Ricketts to seize the moment and spend more of all that money the fans keep giving him.

PHOENIX, AZ — With all due respect to profits, it’s time for the Chicago Cubs to start worrying about losses.

A handful of injuries over the past two weeks of spring training provided a quick reminder of how little depth the Cubs have before they start tapping minor-leaguers to cover important roles, which highlights just how fragile even the more modest 85- and 87-win projections are.

None of the injuries look especially serious, although $68 million starter Jameson Taillon’s back issue likely puts him on the injured list at least briefly to start the season.

More to the point, the lack of depth getting spotlighted right now is not an ideal roster reality for anybody talking so openly about the playoffs with realistic expectations after missing the postseason by a game last year — perhaps urgent expectations after missing the field the last three years.

And it’s an especially bad look — and worse business — for a high-revenue team already flirting with the luxury tax threshold. Even without doing anything more with the roster this year, some project the Cubs’ final payroll number to tip-toe across the first threshold by the time contract bonuses and natural roster churn are added.

Trading some incremental salary to stay below that level — as they did last year — would be an option between now and the July 30 trade deadline 

But that’s a bad tack and a terrible PR move (read: ticket sales, TV viewership) if they’re hanging anywhere near the leaders in the National League Central.

Which brings us back to the status quo and how stupid it would be to go into the luxury tax by a buck or two.

Which, in turn, makes the solution obvious:

Go. Sign. Jordan. Montgomery.

Not that we’re trying to tell Tom (or Joe) Ricketts how to spend their money.

But we have no problem telling them how they should spend more of that mountain of cash that Cubs fans keep forking over for a product that all too often falls short of the premium retail prices they’re paying.

Hell, even before Taillon’s back locked up on Saturday, this was a Cubs team that essentially prepared to roll out a reasonable facsimile of last year’s 83-win group, without having so much as filled its third base deficit.

In fact, two of the three big-league guys in the flawed mix at the position — Patrick Wisdom (quad) and Nick Madrigal (hamstring) — are sidelined with what appear to be relatively minor injuries.

At least they’re still blessed with good health in presumptive Opening Day third baseman Chris Morel — he of the thumpy bat and grumpy glove. Even if it’s as a place holder for flavor-of-the-month prospect Matt Shaw.

Free agent Matt Chapman would have been the perfect addition to address that. Free agent Jeimer Candelario would have been an upgrade that made sense.

But neither of those moves would have been the difference between winning the division and missing the playoffs again, because the NL Central is going to be won with pitching.

And the Cubs already looked like they might lean toward rookie left-hander Jordan Wicks as their fifth starter to open the season.

Now that might mean Wicks in the first four and going with Drew Smyly or Javier Assad or Hayden Wesneski at No. 5 to open the season — which, depending on the choice, could compromise the bullpen.

And as much as scouts, metrics and fans love top prospect Cade Horton, his best-case timeline for a debut is well into the season. And depth option Caleb Kilian is out until midseason with a teres major injury.

Believe it or not, the Cincinnati Reds have a deeper rotation of big-league-experienced starting pitchers. Free agent newcomer Frankie Montas is their Opening Day starter, and free agent newcomer Nick Martinez is in play for a fifth-starter job — unless he winds up as a swingman/sixth starter to open.

And like it or not, either the Brewers (Freddy Peralta) or the Cardinals (Sonny Gray) have the best No. 1 starter in the division. You can debate which of those two it is, but either way it’s not the Cubs.

That’s why the Cubs need to take advantage of their biggest competitive advantage in the division — their enormous revenue edge — to take advantage of the quality starting pitching still available in free agency.

Specifically: Go. Sign. Jordan. Montgomery.

Cy Young winner Blake Snell’s out there, too. But he comes with a qualifying offer means surrendering a draft pick by signing him.

Montgomery pitched in the World Series last fall. He was a 4-WAR pitcher last year and a big part of the Texas Rangers drive to the championship after being acquired at the trade deadline.

He has a career 3.68 ERA — 3.48 over the past three seasons, when he’s averaged 31 starts and 175 innings. He came up with the Yankees and pitched in the postseason for three teams — and in three of the past four Octobers.

With all due respect to Wesneski, Assad, Wicks and any other talented young pitcher Cubs fans might love, Montgomery gives the Cubs the better chance to win. Full stop.

And the Cubs should be in the business of winning. Every year. Certainly now.

Don’t like the idea of offering a five-year, $120-million-or-more deal to get it done? Fine. It shouldn’t take that much at this stage of the process anyway.

Maybe a higher AAV for a three-year deal with opt-outs after each of the first two — similar to Cody Bellinger’s deal? OK.

Just don’t get beat on whatever offers are out there now.

Just do it.

Just win, baby.

And if chairman Tom Ricketts wants to talk about how instructive it was to see the Diamondbacks reach the World Series with a below-average payroll last year and crow about payroll spending “right there at (luxury tax) levels …that should be enough to win our division and be consistent every year,” then he might want to look a little closer at what he’s getting for that spending. Whether the return is competitive enough.

If not, then it might be time to start looking at all those vows over the years to hold his front office bosses accountable for that return. 

Or to look in the mirror.

Because after firing the manager a month after raving about the guy who arguably didn’t do anything wrong, the next scapegoat might be a little harder to find if this thing falls just short again.