The Yankees could be quick to bring back injured starter

MLB: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals
Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

With the World Series drawing to a close, the offseason officially begins for the Yankees, as the five-day negotiating period kicks off and teams look to see which names they’ll hurry to bring back before other teams can negotiate, and the Bronx Bombers might be working early. When they acquired Frankie Montas, it was with the hopes that he’d give the Yankees a stable number two starter, but things haven’t gone to plan.

Injuries in 2022 and 2023 sidelined him for the vast majority of his tenure in the Bronx, finally pitching healthy in his 1.1 IP of Major League work against the Royals in their final series of the season. Reports have swirled that the Yankees and Montas would come together on a one-year contract to secure the backend of their rotation, and that might very well be the case, with Mike Axisa of CBS Sports speculating on his Patreon that the two parties could come to an agreement on a deal in the exclusive negotiating period.

Yankees Looking For High-Upside Arm With Frankie Montas

frankie montas, yankees
Aug 29, 2022; Anaheim, California, USA; New York Yankees starting pitcher Frankie Montas (47) throws to the plate in the first inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Frankie Montas had an excellent 2021 campaign and followed it up with an excellent start in 2022, making 51 starts in that time frame with a 3.30 ERA and 3.37 FIP, striking out 26.3% of batters faced. He was a workhorse in 2021, making 32 starts and finishing with 187 innings pitched, but ever since coming to the Bronx, he’s seen that number dwindle into just 1.1 innings this past season, and while the stuff looked sharp, it’s hard to project much of anything for the 30-year-old right-hander.

The Yankees will look at Montas as insurance, likely slotting in as their 5th starter instead of somebody to fill out the top of their rotation, as they remain steadfast on Yoshinobu Yamamoto and monitoring the free agent market as a whole. Montas possesses a high-profile pitch mix, as in 2021, he had a 115 Stuff+, which ranked ninth among qualified starters, and there were stretches with the Yankees where he looked like he “found it” before he hit the IL again in mid-September of 2022.

When his pitch mix is at its best, he has a riding fastball that generates around 17″ of Induced Vertical Break, hovering between 95-96 MPH, and his sinker works as his groundball pitch to right-handed batters. He also mixes in his cutter and slider, but the money pitch for him is that splitter.

  • Stuff+ by Pitch (2022):
    • FF: 105
    • SI: 98
    • FC: 115
    • FS: 108
    • SL: 118

Upon his return, his four-seam fastball lost a bit of ride while his sinker and splitter generated a bit more depth, so it’ll be interesting to see what his pitch shapes look like in 2024. Command and health are the biggest variables in his profile, if he’s able to control the zone the way he did in Oakland, the stuff will play just fine, and the number of innings he can provide matters here, too.

Between rehab and MLB action, Montas threw 4.1 innings last season, which doesn’t inspire much confidence that his arm is built up to do much of anything next season, but are there previous examples we can look at for a reasonable projection?

Kenta Maeda of the Minnesota Twins missed all of 2021 with a UCL tear he suffered in August, requiring Tommy John Surgery and missing all of 2022 before throwing 121.1 innings in 2023 between his rehab, Major League, and postseason work while having other injuries to contend with as well., surpassing his 2021 total of MiLB/MLB work (110.1), and doing so at a much older age than Montas.

tyler glasnow, mets, rays
Oct 6, 2020; San Diego, California, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Tyler Glasnow (20) looks on after being removed from the game in the 6th inning against the New York Yankees during game two of the 2020 ALDS at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Glasnow gave the Rays just 18.1 innings of work between rehab and the regular and postseason before tossing 138.1 innings total in 2023, and he also suffered an early-season injury that sidelined him for the start of the season. Glasnow doesn’t have a great reputation for his durability either, so seeing two separate pitchers in 2023 provide 120-130 innings for their team following a lost 2022 season could help better project what Montas’ 2023 season could look like.

The upside is certainly there for the Yankees to get a positive return on investment, and at about $10 million, he’s a great backend option for the team with their current depth. Adding a more durable starter on top of Montas should remain a priority alongside improving the offense, so it’ll be interesting to see how the Yankees handle the offseason if they choose to sign Montas, considering they’ll likely have to move pitchers currently in the rotation like Clarke Schmidt, Michael King, or Nestor Cortes, potentially in return for an impact bat.