Should the Yankees reunite with this World Series winning starter?

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One of the most criticized moves the Yankees made over the past few seasons was the decision to trade Jordan Montgomery to the St. Louis Cardinals. While Harrison Bader came up clutch in the 2022 ALDS, the Yankees didn’t get the season they were hoping for from the speedy outfielder, as he would miss all of April due to a hamstring injury, and while he had a 109 wRC+ through his first 40 games in 2023, he’d slash .207/.258/.246, good for a 40 wRC+ over his final 58 games, finishing with a .622 OPS and 1.0 fWAR on the season.

On the other side, Jordan Montgomery would post a 3.17 ERA across 43 starts and help the Texas Rangers win the World Series following a dominant playoff run. With Yoshinobu Yamamoto now off the market, could the Yankees have a potential reunion with the left-handed starter?

The Value of Volume and Consistency For Pitchers

MLB: Kansas City Royals at New York Yankees
Jul 31, 2022; Bronx, New York, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery (47) pitches in the first inning against the Kansas City Royals at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Montgomery has been one of the top starters in the sport since 2021, as the southpaw ranks 17th among all pitchers in fWAR (10.1) and Innings Pitched (524.1), a product of his durability. He may not be the best starter on a per-rate basis, but something that he brings to the table that the Yankees desperately need is durability. He finished second this past season in innings pitched when you include the postseason, and the ability to work deep into the season is deteriorating across the league, especially with the rule clock changes.

Often, we undervalue the importance of being consistent and providing volume, and having a pitcher who averages over 3 fWAR a season over the past three years with a good chance of exceeding that mark again, you’re securing the third spot of your rotation for the next few seasons. The Yankees have long needed a reliable second option alongside Gerrit Cole. While Jordan Montgomery doesn’t possess the upside that Frankie Montas or Carlos Rodon did, he does provide a steady track record of excellent pitching.

Another variable here is that Jordan Montgomery has steadily controlled the three true outcomes well in in his career, as his career strikeout rate is 22.5%, extremely similar to the 21.4% mark he had last season. The same is true for his walk rate at 6.6% in his career and 6.2% in 2023, with the only number fluctuating being his HR/9 rate, which had been 1.07 in his career but has since dipped below 0.86 in 2023. He consistently around his career averages, and that’s a luxury that allows teams to comfortably pay over $20 million a season for him.

mlb: wildcard-texas rangers at tampa bay rays, jordan montgomery, yankees
Oct 3, 2023; St. Petersburg, Florida, USA; Texas Rangers starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery (52) reacts after striking out Tampa Bay Rays pinch hitter Junior Caminero (1) to end the seventh inning during game one of the Wildcard series for the 2023 MLB playoffs at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Montgomery has been worth north of $20 million, according to FanGraphs, in each of the last three seasons, and while you can’t control injuries or other variables involved in regression, he seems as steady as they come. Signing the left-hander would add that stable option into the middle of their rotation, but the price he’s commanding on the market would scare any front office away. Reports suggest that Montgomery wants a $160 million deal, and paying $26.7 million a year for six years to Montgomery feels like an overpay.

As mentioned previously, the per-season numbers will always be good, not elite, and that should immediately limit what teams are willing to pay for his services. FanGraphs values him at a five-year deal worth $105 million, and that would be a lot more palatable for teams to sign. I think his bidding will exceed that figure, but where should Gumby rank among other starting pitchers in total contract value?

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Is the Price Right for the Yankees to Bring Back Monty?

MLB: Winter Meetings
Dec 11, 2017; Orlando, FL, USA; New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner during the winter meetings at Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Not including Shohei Ohtani’s $700 million contract, if the Yankees gave Jordan Montgomery $160 million, it would be the 14th-highest contract ever given out to a starting pitcher. Not that he isn’t good, but it feels a bit extreme to hand him money that puts him in the company of Cy Young contenders when he’s more of a good-not-elite pitcher. Perhaps a better comparison for a contract here would be the one given to Kevin Gausman, who got $110 million over five years. It was reported then that the Mets had made a higher offer to Gausman, so one could assume that his “market value” sat around $130 million.

Add on a sixth year, and Jordan Montgomery would make north of $20 million a year for six seasons, a fair cost for his services and a number that the Yankees would be willing to pay. If the Yankees get production similar to what Steamer projects for Monty, they’ll pay $21.6 million next year for a 3.2 fWAR, which is roughly $6.7 million per WAR. You’d pay Montgomery from his age 31 to age 36 seasons as he turns 31 on December 27th, and considering how well he pitches without overpowering velocity, he might project well in the long run.

We’ve also seen Montgomery make some tweaks in Texas that could make him an attractive option for their rotation, most notably the decrease in sinker usage with the Rangers. Unlike what people on social media will tell you, Jordan Montgomery is at his best when he’s blending in his four pitches well, not when he just leans on his fastball. This change is most visible in his matchups against right-handed batters, decreasing his sinker usage from 43.7% to 35.9% in those situations while increasing his curveball and four-seamer usage.

If Jordan Montgomery can provide an 85 ERA- over 180 innings, the Yankees are getting somebody who works perfectly in contrast to Gerrit Cole. It’s certainly a gamble to run three left-handed starters out in their rotation, but the Yankees just need quality starting pitchers. Another aspect of this is he’s a different kind of pitcher in comparison to Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, and Nestor Cortes, as he doesn’t have a high-carry fastball that can chase swings and misses, but their interest in him should hinge on what the market for him should look like.

The Yankees should be opportunistic buyers with Jordan Montgomery, we know that they have internally discussed the idea, but they shouldn’t just sign him to spend the money we set aside for Yamamoto. If they go after Montgomery, it won’t be a blank-check situation, they’ll wait to see whether his market falls to where they’re willing to spend. One of the biggest issues with the Yankees is durability, and Montgomery certainly provides that, but the question that looms is whether he’ll fit within their evaluation of him or not.

Stability is something the team and fanbase desperately want in the starting rotation, but it’s a question of whether the Yankees will end up matching what that stability could cost.