Perspectives: Wherefore Art Thou Jordan Montgomery?
by Paul Semendinger
August 6, 2022
Whew! What a week.
I loved all the baseball talk. I loved all the different thoughts on the various deals. I love the optimistic writers. I love the pessimistic writers. I love respectful and thoughtful debate. And we saw a lot of that this week.
In the end, we'll find out who is correct and who isn't. And, in the end, we'll all be sort of correct and all sort of wrong about most of that we said and wrote. But, as they say, "that's baseball."
Some more thoughts from me:
I know people like to say they don't pay a lot of attention to pitcher wins. "It's a flawed statistic," they say. And it is. But wins still matter and we all look at a pitcher's record to get at least a sense of the success he's having. For example, we still celebrate the 20-game winner. Wins don't mean everything, but they still mean something.
Imagine if the Yankees had a guy whose record this year was 13-7 and they traded him away.
Here are the starts where Jordan Montgomery either lost or earned a no decision in 2022 where he pitched well enough to win:
5 innings, 0 runs allowed = No Decision (Yanks lost 2-1)
6 innings, 1 run allowed = LOSS (Yanks lost 3-0)
5.2 innings, 2 runs = No Decision (Yanks won 5-2)
5 innings, 2 runs = No decision (Yanks won 3-2)
6 innings, 2 runs = No Decision (Yanks lost 4-2)
6 innings, 2 runs = No Decision (Yanks won 7-6)
6.2 innings, 2 runs = No Decision (Yanks won 5-4)
5 innings, 1 run = LOSS (Yanks lost 2-0)
5.2 innings, 2 runs = No Decision (Yanks lost 6-5)
6.1 innings, 2 runs = No Decision (Yanks lost 3-2)
That's ten games he pitched well enough to get the win. Ten. If half of these were wins, his record could have been 8-3. How about if these were all wins? Jordan Montgomery would have been 13-1.
I think it's fair to ask - If Jordan Montgomery was 8-1, or 8-2 or even 8-3 (there were some no decisions I left out where he could have lost, of course), or 13-1, would the trade have been made? I say that there is no way the trade would have been made. BUT, he would the same pitcher he already is.
I just went through all his 2022 games and made a quick decision on whether Jordan Montgomery pitched well enough to win or not. The games I decided he should win were the games where he pitched at least five innings and had an ERA of under 4.00 for that game. I have him at 13-7 (with one no decision). If Jordan Montgomery was 13-7, I don't think the people who like the trade would like the trade as much.
We still look at pitcher wins, even if we say we don't. If Jordan Montgomery was 13-7, he would have never been traded. yet, he's the same pitcher who was 3-3.
The Yankees traded away a quality pitcher, a really good pitcher, on a team that needs pitching, especially starting pitching, for an outfielder who is injured and cannot play. This does not make sense. In any way. At all.
The Yankees need their starting pitchers to be well rested and ready to go for the playoffs. If nothing else, even if he wasn't pitching in the playoffs, Jordan Montgomery would have been a pitcher who helped make sure that was possible. Right now, he's still second on the team in innings pitched. That's not nothing. In fact, that's a whole lot of something.
In 2021, Montgomery was second on the team in innings pitched.
The Yankees traded the pitcher who, after Gerrit Cole, has given them the most innings pitched since the beginning of last season at the precise time that they have a bullpen that has suffered a ton of injuries and when many starting pitchers are faltering, injured, or are exceeding their innings limits for the year.
Which begs the question - Wouldn't it have been better to keep pitching Jordan Montgomery precisely because he wouldn't be in the post season rotation (as so many speculate)? Wouldn't you rather take the innings others would have thrown and give them to the guy who will pitch well, who will keep you in the game, and who won't be someone whose tired arm could impact the team in the post season? Think on that for a moment. I would have been better to have Jordan Montgomery take the ball every five days until October because they're not counting on him for the playoffs.
Isn't one of the Yankees' big problems the fact that the bullpen is running on fumes? Isn't the pitcher who gives them team the second most innings a very valuable commodity? Of course he is. For me, that value greatly exceeds the value Harrison Bader might give playing off the bench and possibly making a catch in the outfield that Aaron Judge wouldn't have been able to make. I would much rather have had Montgomery eating innings down the stretch.
Harrison Bader is the second player the Yankees have acquired this year who they knew was injured when they acquired him. The Yankees also knew Ben Rortvedt was injured. Brian Cashman even admitted this:
“He had it coming in,” Yankees GM Brian Cashman said Monday. “We were aware that he had a very light oblique strain that was resolving, and it's still resolving. He didn't reinjure it in camp, but he did have it.”
I'm sorry. The stats can be spun any way people wish. Trading a quality left-handed starter for an injured player in the hopes that the injured player can come back and impact a post season game is a poor plan. Hey, maybe it'll work out. But, still, it's a poor plan.
As for Ben Rortvedt... it's August and he's still not back. If we give Brian Cashman credit for his good moves, we also have to be honest and say, "That was a bad job."
This trade will go down as a bad one. Absolutely. It makes no sense. I know that we can look at all sorts of numbers to say it could work, but sometimes the best way to look at a trade is to use good old common sense.
It makes very little sense to trade a guy who is a workhorse starter for a player who is injured - especially when the injury is one that has the player's (and/or the St. Louis Cardinals') doctors befuddled:
"Bader said his doctors had 'tried everything except for nothing' to address his plantar fasciitis, which is why he is currently in a boot and resting. "
Let's just think about that for a moment. The Yankees traded Jordan Montgomery for a player who is injured and for whom the doctors have tried a number of approaches and none of them have worked. Hummmm. The Yankees are hoping that he can come back in September. Hoping. No one is saying, "Injuries like this typically heal in X weeks..." No, they are saying, "We have no idea why he isn't responding, so we'll try one last idea. Let's put him in a walking boot." It might work. And Ben Rortvedt just might also come back and hit some big homers down the stretch. Maybe. But Bader coming back isn't something anyone is can be confident of. Instead it's all just a hope and a prayer. They're using a "Let's try this" approach because they do not have an answer. It might work. But it equally might not.
Isn't it also true that it is widely considered as fact that the St. Louis Cardinals are one of baseball's best run franchises? This isn't a team that doesn't do its homework. They must employ great doctors. And yet, their expert staff can't figure out Bader's injury.
And this has to also be noted... I keep hearing that Harrison Bader is insurance in case Aaron Judge signs elsewhere after the season. He isn't that at all. At all. Bader isn't Judge insurance in any universe. He's as much insurance for Judge leaving as Jose Vizcaino or Luis Sojo would have been insurance if Derek Jeter had left in his prime. "They're both able to play shortstop." The logic that Bader would mitigate Judge leaving is absurd on its face. If Bader replaces Aaron Judge, the Yankees are in huge trouble. If Aaron Judge leaves, the Yankees will need to replace him with a guy who is a superstar, not a guy whose career numbers (since 2017, so this is no small sample size) are .246/52/168. That's true no matter how good he is patrolling centerfield. (By the way, Bader has never played in even 140 games in a season so it's not like he's out there day-in-and day-out anyway.)
If Harrison Bader is that elite - that he is good enough to replace Aaron Judge - why would the Cardinals (again, one of baseball's best run franchises for a long long time) trade him away?
This is what Yankees fans are hoping - Brian Cashman is so smart that he realizes that Jordan Montgomery isn't any good and Harrison Bader is so special that even if he only plays for a few weeks this year or even just in the playoffs that his presence changes the Yankees so much that they become World Series favorites. That's basically what I keep reading. But, maybe it's the other way around... Maybe the Cardinals were the brilliant ones here. They traded an injured guy for a workhorse starting pitcher.
One final thought... We have read many times that the Yankees front office has not always had a great relationship with the players, especially stars, many times at the end of their careers:
Might it be possible that the Yankees also haven't had a great relationship with Aaron Judge? Baseball players are human beings. I am sure that the players didn't like how Montgomery was treated - traded out of the blue, just minutes before the deadline hit, after being with the organization since 2014. That kind of thing hurts. It just does. It sends a message. Aaron Judge and Jordan Montgomery have been teammates since 2016 in Triple-A. Might that hurt, at least a little?
Has any of you ever been in a work environment where things like this occur? "Sally was let go... after six years... and all she has done?" Or "Did you hear about Trevor? Yeah, they moved him to the St. Louis branch. His family is devastated. He never saw this coming. They guy showed up every day and gave his all. And they shipped him out." Have you also heard things like this, "I hear that our competitor treats their employees better. I might start to be looking..." This is how people react to things - especially things that they feel are unfair. It's not all that different with baseball players. They feel the same emotions. They take them to heart. I have no idea how Aaron Judge feels about Jordan Montgomery being traded, but I do think it is very possible that it could impact his decision making when it comes to his deciding where to play in 2022. If that's the case, if Judge leaves, in part because of the way Jordan Montgomery was treated, Bader isn't insurance in case Judge leaves. His acquisition might be one reason he leaves.
I hope I'm wrong about all of this. I hope Judge stays. I hope Bader is a star in New York. I hope the Yankees don't miss Jordan Montgomery. But I fear I'm not.
Even if it all works out, this was a bad trade. It was a trade that cancelled so much of the good that the Yankees did at the deadline. They were all-in and going for it - until they weren't and they traded away a player who was an important part of their success.