Ex-Yankees pitcher having dominant season after busted trade

mlb: los angeles angels at texas rangers, yankees, jordan montgomery
Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees have been navigating a series of trades over the last two off-seasons, and one that stands out as particularly precarious was the deal executed at the deadline last year. Unfortunately, this trade ended up being a net negative, with centerfielder Harrison Bader emerging as the central figure in the acquisition.

The Trade Unfolded

In this transaction, the Yankees traded left-handed pitcher Jordan Montgomery to the St. Louis Cardinals. However, Montgomery’s journey didn’t end there, as he was subsequently moved to the Texas Rangers in early August, marking his second trade within a short span of time.

Montgomery’s Stellar Performance

This season, Montgomery has exhibited a remarkable performance, pitching 147 innings with a notable 3.12 ERA, a 3.94 xFIP, 8.20 strikeouts per nine innings, an impressive 75.6% left-on-base rate, and a solid 45.9% ground ball rate. It’s evident that Montgomery is showcasing his best professional season yet, raising questions about the Yankees’ decision to part ways with him at a crucial juncture.

The Transformation in Texas

Since the deadline, Montgomery has pitched 26 innings for the Texas Rangers, boasting a remarkable 1.73 ERA and an impressive 90.5% left-on-base rate. His performance highlights him as one of the league’s standout pitchers, with only Gerrit Cole holding a better ERA among the Yankees’ pitchers. Montgomery’s initial confusion about being traded by the Yankees last summer seems to have evolved into gratitude for the opportunity to prove himself elsewhere, especially as he approaches a contract off-season.

Bader’s Struggles

On the other hand, Harrison Bader, the player the Yankees acquired, has faced challenges. At 29 years old and heading into free agency, Bader’s performance has been inconsistent. He holds a .249 batting average and a .295 OBP, accompanied by seven home runs, 37 RBIs, a 17.2% strikeout rate, a 4.2% walk rate, and an 81 wRC+.

Bader’s offensive stats have been the weakest since his rookie season in 2017, and his discipline at the plate has wavered. Despite significant reductions in his strikeout rate, his overall offensive contribution remains below average.

Defensive Prowess and Offensive Struggles

Defensively, Bader’s performance shines. He has played 618.1 innings, securing six defensive runs saved and eight outs above average. While Bader has consistently demonstrated elite defensive skills, his offensive limitations have been a hindrance, particularly when batting in the lower half of the order.

Some argue for the Yankees to extend Bader’s contract in free agency, but others suggest a different approach. The team’s options include making a substantial move by signing Cody Bellinger or relying on burgeoning prospects such as Everson Pereira and even Jasson Dominguez.

The Yankees Lost the Trade

In retrospect, the Yankees could have greatly benefited from Montgomery’s contributions this season, especially considering their substantial investment of $162 million over six years in Carlos Rodon. The convergence of circumstances in 2023 has presented a challenging scenario for the Yankees. To regain their footing as postseason contenders and shake off the stigma of a last-place standing, the team must recalibrate their mindset and strategy for the upcoming 2024 season.

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