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Smash or Pass: Jordan Montgomery

He was a key part of the Rangers World Series run. Can he be the same thing again in Boston?

Syndication: Arizona Republic Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY NETWORK

Who is he and where does he come from?

He’s 2023 World Series champion Jordan Montgomery. Montgomery came up through the Yankees system and pitched in New York for several seasons before being traded to St. Louis at the 2022 deadline. After a year with the Cardinals, he was sent to Texas where he was a key piece of the Rangers run to the World Series.

Is he any good?

Montgomery likely won’t be winning a Cy Young, but he’s a solid pitcher. Excluding the shortened 2020 season, he’s had an ERA under four in his four healthy seasons as a starter.

In terms of style, he’s different than many of the other top free-agent starters. He’s almost the anti-Blake Snell, in that he’s going to throw a ton of strikes and induce weak contact, rather than trying to end every at-bat with a strikeout. Given his reputation as a sinker-ball pitcher, many would expect him to have a staggering ground ball rate. In reality, Montgomery controls at-bats by getting ahead in counts and uses his off-speed pitches to prevent damage. His ground ball rate is only slightly above league average at 44%, while his strikeout rate is just below the league average mark.

Outside of his reputation as a ground ball pitcher, his curveball also gained some notoriety during the postseason. After a stellar performance against the Astros in the ALCS, Jeff Passan wrote about the pitch, putting the spotlight on “the Death Ball”. The “Death Ball” doesn’t have extraordinary movement, but given its incredibly high release point, it’s a different look for hitters. In pitching, being an outlier is typically a good thing.

His third pitch is a changeup that’s, again, nothing special in terms of movement. But despite the lack of extreme movement, it’s a solid pitch for Montgomery because of how well he locates it, and how it interacts with his other pitches. The spin is nearly identical to his sinker, making the two pitches work well in tandem. He keeps the changeup down and away from righties, getting plenty of whiffs and weak contact.

Tl;dr, just give me his 2023 stats.

32 Starts, 188.2 IP, 177 H, 48 BB, 166 SO, 3.20 ERA, 138 ERA+

Why would he be a good fit for the 2024 Red Sox?

Montgomery has been incredibly consistent for most of his Major League career. It’s no secret that the Red Sox need pitching; both quality and quantity. In each of the past three seasons, Montgomery has thrown over 150 innings. Again, he likely won’t be winning a Cy Young, but he can be an anchor for a staff that is dying for consistency. On top of that, his style allows him to go deep into games. The ability to pitch into the seventh or eighth inning might not be overly valued in today’s game given the overall quality of bullpen arms. Still, having a pitcher who can give the bullpen some relief would have helped the 2023 Red Sox significantly. Good innings are good innings, no matter when they happen.

Why would he not be a good fit for the 2024 Red Sox?

His style of pitching might not fix the Red Sox as they’re currently built. That’s not a knock on Montgomery, but rather a critique of the defense. As the roster is currently constructed, defense is still a concern. Trevor Story’s presence at shortstop should improve things, but the defense at the corners is a problem, and who knows who will be playing second base? Outfield defense isn’t as much of a concern, although the actual names that will be playing the outfield are still up in the air. With Montgomery on the mound, the ball will be in play. While Montgomery has shown he can be great, the Red Sox need to think about his supporting cast before they shell out big money.

What will he cost?

MLBTradeRumors has him projected for six years, $150MM. The Athletic set their projection at five years, $105MM. It’s hard to say where the market will fall, but somewhere in the $20-25MM/year range is probably a decent estimate. Most projections have him getting a five or six-year deal, but I wouldn't be surprised to see a team tack on a seventh year to put them over the top.

Show me a cool highlight.

Montgomery was phenomenal down the stretch for the Rangers. Here he is shutting down the Rays in the first game of the playoffs, going seven scoreless, and showing off his glove in the process.

Smash or pass?

The Red Sox have a lot of work to do this offseason, and the resources to get it done. They need to add at least two starting pitchers, and Montgomery has already been rumored as a potential option. He’s not a top-ten pitcher in the league, but he’s a proven commodity who can provide sorely needed quality innings. He’s a safe choice that would allow Craig Breslow to take a chance on someone riskier like Lucas Giolito or Sean Manaea. If financial resources aren’t a limiting factor and they can walk away from the offseason with Yamamoto and Montgomery, I’ll buy my season tickets tomorrow. In either case, I’d be happy to have the lefty on the 2024 Red Sox.