The Chicago Cubs biggest weakness this year has been their relief pitching, particularly from the left-hand side. While they have been rumored to be interested in acquiring either Andrew Miller or Aroldis Chapman from the New York Yankees, the cost of either of the two would be exceedingly in terms of the prospects they would have to give up. So on Wednesday, the Cubs made a far less splashy move that could prove just as effective for a much more palatable cost, as the traded Triple-A slugger Dan Vogelbach and Double-A pitcher Paul Blackburn to the Seattle Mariners for lefty swingman Mike Montgomery and Triple-A pitcher Jordan Pries.

Montgomery, 27, is a converted reliever who can spot start when needed and has been solid this season for the Mariners. In 61 2/3 innings (30 relief appearances, two starts) this season he has a 2.34 ERA with 7.9 K/9, 2.6 BB/9 and a stellar 58.8 percent ground-ball rate. Since shifting to the bullpen, Montgomery has seen a huge spike in his velocity, as his heater, which averaged 90.9 mph out of the rotation in 2015, is now sitting at an even 94 mph in 2016. At one time he was a top prospect in the Kansas City Royals’ farm system and was a key component of the trade that sent Wade Davis and James Shields from Tampa Bay to the Royals back in 2012, along with Wil Myers and Jake Odorizzi. He had already dropped off the prospect radar by the time the Mariners acquired him before last season for right hander Erasmo Ramirez, and made an impressive showing as a major league starter in 2015, allowing only nine runs in his first seven starts (50 innings), including shutouts against the Royals and Padres, before coming back down to earth to finish the season.

For Chicago, he figures to start off as a lefty specialist, as they are only hitting .164 off him this season, but he could finish the season joining Pedro Strop as the bridge, and top setup men, to closer Hector Rondon.

USATSI_9172338-200x300The Cubs do wind up paying a price for Montgomery, but not one along the lines of a Kyle Schwarber or Jorge Soler, which would be at least part of the cost for a bigger name. In Vogelbach, 23, a first baseman possibly better suited for a designated hitter role, the Mariners get a player who has mashed at every level in the minors, and at one time was considered one of the top prospects in the Cubs farm system. But a poor showing in 2015 took him off prospect radars, and his path to the majors has been blocked by Anthony Rizzo, leading to him being expendable for Chicago. Before last season he hit more than 16 home runs in three straight seasons, and currently has 16 home runs, 64 RBI and a .318 batting average in 89 games for Triple-A Iowa. While he may not be major league ready yet, the Mariners have a player whose power could play for them, even in spacious Safeco Field, either as a DH or as a first baseman if his fielding can improve.

While there are two other players involved, this trade is all about Montgomery and Vogelbach for their respective teams. Its a solid case of each team acquiring a player with potential at a position of need, and if it works out, the Cubs may be one step closer to their bullpen being as good as the other parts of the team, while the Mariners could be one step closer to having the offense they have long craved next to Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz.

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