Yankees’ free agency decision looking like a stroke of genius now

carlos rodon, yankees
Sep 23, 2022; Phoenix, Arizona, USA; San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Carlos Rodon (16) throws a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during the first inning at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Yankees entered this past weekend with a healthy starting rotation and an optimistic viewpoint, with spring training getting closer every day. However, nobody anticipated a report dropping that indicated Frankie Montas would miss the first month of the season and noted he’s 8–10 weeks behind on his off-season training.

Montas already dealing with shoulder inflammation is a terrible sign ahead of the 2023 season, especially since he ended his 2022 campaign similarly. The 29-year-old struggled with the Yankees after being traded from the Oakland Athletics, hosting a 6.35 ERA, 7.49 strikeouts per nine, and a 66% left on-base rate across 39.2 innings. He was barely able to make an impact during the playoffs. General manager Brian Cashman might be scratching his head, wondering why he traded away one of his best young pitching prospects in exchange for Montas.

Montas, in a contract year, isn’t expected to need surgery; there is legitimate concern regarding his longevity and whether he can pitch at his peak performance in 2023.

While there’s no indication that any sort of surgery is on the cards for Montas, there’s nonetheless a fair degree of concern here, particularly given Montas struggled down the stretch last summer and ultimately went on the IL with shoulder inflammation to finish the season. The Yankees activated him ahead of the ALCS, and he pitched one inning of relief in that series.

Per MLB Trade Rumors.

How the Yankees will supplement Frankie Montas’ loss:

The Bombers will likely supplement his loss with Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt, but one free-agent decision looks like a stroke of genius. In fact, signing Carlos Rodon may make up for Montas looking like a bust acquisition courtesy of Cashman’s decision-making.

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Rodon signed a six-year, $162 million deal at 30 years old, just one year older than Montas. Coming off a 178-inning performance, the best of his career, he’s posted consecutive seasons with sub-3.00-ERAs. He enjoyed a 2.88 ERA in 2022 with the San Francisco Giants, pitching in 31 games and striking out 12 batters per nine. He also tallied 2.91 xFIP, 2.25 FIP, a 75.1% left-on-base rate, and a 34.1% ground ball rate. He gave up the fewest number of home runs in his career at 0.61 per nine.

There is no question that Rodon isn’t only just as good as Montas, but he may end up being the Yankees’ ace at the end of the day. Gerrit Cole seems to have that job locked up for now, but Rodon has been lights out the past two seasons, and the Yankees could utilize him and his lefty arm in big matchups, depending on what the analytics suggest.

While Cashman hasn’t made any other extravagant moves aside from retaining Aaron Judge and Anthony Rizzo, Rodon could end up being a huge impact move. They say you can never have enough pitching, and the Yankees have certainly taken that to heart.

Electing to keep German around and expecting that Schmidt will take on a much bigger role this upcoming season, the team should be able to supplement the loss of Montas quite easily, at least until he can return to full health.