The New York Yankees‘ off-season plans should include the acquisition of a new starting pitcher, but it depends on how much money owner Hal Steinbrenner is willing to spend on the position. Last year, he gave the green light for general manager Brian Cashman to spend $162 million over six years for Carlos Rodon.
Of course, the deal for Rodon looks like a dud at this point in time, but he has five years left to reinforce the reason the Yankees invested him in the first place. Rodon was coming off two fantastic seasons before his 2023 demise, a result of three different injuries that significantly limited his production.
The Yankees Are Set to Lose Several Starters
However, the Yankees have three starters likely hitting the free-agent market: Frankie Montas, Domingo German, and Luis Severino. They will have more than $20 million to spend in free agency, so if the front office wants to hand out another big contract, 25-year-old superstar Yoshinobu Yamamoto out of the JPPL makes plenty of sense.
There’s a strong argument that the Yankees should invest in one of their own, Jordan Montgomery. The 30-year-old lefty was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for Harrison Bader during the trade deadline in 2022. While Bader certainly provided stellar results during the 2022 postseason, he underwhelmed this past campaign. Bader ended up being waived, landing with the Cincinnati Reds but suffering another injury that ended his season prematurely.
Ironically, Montgomery was traded because the Yankees felt he wouldn’t be an asset during the playoffs last year. This season, Montgomery is enjoying a fantastic postseason performance, hosting a 2.08 ERA, 2.85 FIP, 82.5% left-on-base rate, and 36.2% ground ball rate across 17.1 innings. He’s not known for his strikeout numbers, but weak contact and low walks per nine have paved the way. He has an exciting combination of pitches, notably his fastball and change-up.
This season between the Cardinals and Texas Rangers, Montgomery pitched 188.2 innings, a career high. He earned a 3.20 ERA, 7.92 strikeouts per nine, a 75.6% left-on-base rate, and a 43.2% ground ball rate. Preparing to hit free agency, most believe that he will earn a contract worth more than $100 million, and the Yankees reportedly have interest.
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Risk-Reward for the Yankees
The question is about upside. The Yankees could take a shot at Yamamoto and his transition to the MLB, and given he’s 25 years old and has pitched three consecutive years with over 170 innings, it is fair to say he fits the mold perfectly for what they need.
Alternatively, Montgomery is a proven commodity and is coming off his best season, so his stock has never been higher. There is a bit of concern that he could regress a bit from this year, but he is still a solid pitcher who would give the Yankees another lefty arm in the rotation. The issue then becomes the team having three lefty starters, which isn’t a preferable strategy. Yamamoto is five years younger and could become the team’s ace down the line once Gerrit Cole’s age catches up with him.
It’s all about risk-reward for the Yankees, but they’ve erred on the side of risk over the past few years, which has been a bad strategy.