Montgomery thrives in playoffs with Rangers as Yankees sit out

Jordan Montgomery, player of the Texas Rangers

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In a surprising turn of events, left-handed pitcher Jordan Montgomery, formerly of the New York Yankees, finds himself in a prominent postseason role with the Texas Rangers just over a year after being traded to the St. Louis Cardinals in 2022. Montgomery, who was not considered a key part of the Yankees’ postseason rotation plans at the time of his departure, is now set to start Game 1 of the wild-card series for the Rangers against the Tampa Bay Rays.

Montgomery’s Rangers playoff run after the Yankees’ move

Jordan Montgomery as player of the New York Yankees

Montgomery’s journey from being traded away by the Yankees to becoming a postseason starter is a testament to his dedication and hard work. Reflecting on his career progression, Montgomery stated, “I’m just trying to get better every year. It worked out. I think everybody in the Yankees’ organization I’ve ever been around knows how hard I work. So, it was kind of bound to happen.”

The decision to trade Montgomery was based on the belief that he might not fit into the Yankees’ postseason plans, but Montgomery’s resurgence with the Rangers has proven otherwise. He credits his improvement to his time with the Cardinals, particularly the guidance of pitching coach Mike Maddux. Under Maddux’s influence, Montgomery significantly increased his use of the four-seam fastball, even though he has predominantly relied on his sinker this season, despite reuniting with Maddux.

Montgomery’s pitch distribution now consists of 43 percent sinkers, 23 percent changeups, 22 percent curveballs, 11 percent four-seamers, and 2 percent cutters. While he may not have been the first choice to start Game 1 for the Rangers had Jacob deGrom and Max Scherzer been healthy, Montgomery has posted an impressive 2.79 ERA in 11 starts with the team. In his 32 starts with the Cardinals in 2022 and 2023, his ERA was 3.31.

Jordan Montgomery, player of the Texas Rangers

Both deGrom and Scherzer, who have been with the Rangers, praise Montgomery’s pitching prowess. DeGrom commends his ability to keep hitters off-balance, execute his pitches, and maintain a clear game plan. Scherzer highlights Montgomery’s feel for pitching, emphasizing his mastery of changing speeds, locating pitches, and effectively utilizing his curveball and changeup.

The Yankees received center fielder Harrison Bader in exchange for Montgomery, but the trade did not pan out as expected. Bader struggled with injuries during his time with the Yankees, missing a significant portion of games. Although he showed flashes of promise, his overall performance as a Yankee was underwhelming, with a slash line of .237/.274/.353. The Yankees ultimately waived Bader in August, and he was claimed by the Cincinnati Reds.

In hindsight, the Yankees’ decision to trade Montgomery appears questionable, given his success with the Rangers. However, at the time of the trade, the Yankees had bolstered their rotation with Frankie Montas, Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes Jr., and Jameson Taillon, with Luis Severino working his way back from injury. They also had a need for a center fielder and believed Bader had the potential to fill that role.

Montas faced struggles and injuries after joining the Yankees, but pitching was not the primary issue in the team’s playoff performance the previous year, as their rotation posted a respectable 3.74 ERA in nine postseason games.

As Jordan Montgomery approaches free agency at the end of the season, the Yankees have the opportunity to pursue his return. Montgomery’s statistics, including a strikeout rate slightly below league average and a park- and league-adjusted ERA 16 percent above league average in his career, make him an attractive option. His situation parallels that of left-hander Carlos Rodón, who signed a six-year, $162 million deal with the Yankees the previous offseason but struggled with injuries in his first season.

For Montgomery, free agency can wait as he focuses on making an impact in the postseason. As fellow Ranger Jacob deGrom notes, execution is paramount in playoff baseball, and Montgomery’s mechanics and consistency make him a valuable asset for the team’s postseason run.

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