The Yankees were on the hunt to find a quality arm heading into the non-waiver trade deadline, and Sonny Gray was the team's primary target. They ultimately got their man. As negotiations with Oakland dragged on, though, the club moved to acquire Jaime Garcia. Some speculated that Garcia was insurance in case a deal for Gray couldn't be worked out, but the Yankees had been looking to add a starting pitcher even before Michael Pineda suffered a season-ending injury.
It was widely assumed that this was due to concerns regarding Jordan Montgomery's innings total. Following Sunday afternoon’s game, the team confirmed this by optioning the rookie left-hander to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
The Yankees are among the many teams that have bought into the Verducci Effect; they have managed young pitchers accordingly. What is the Verducci Effect? Sports Illustrated's Tom Verducci theorized that young pitchers are likely to experience a drop-off in performance — as well as heightened injury risk — the year following a workload increase of more than 30 innings. Despite epic failures managing the innings of Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, the Yankees remain committed to the approach.
Montgomery threw 139.1 innings last year in Triple-A. So far this season, he stands at 120.2 innings between the minors and the majors. Assuming he averaged six innings per game for his remaining 11 starts, he projected to complete 186 plus innings. This would put him 17 innings above the "Verducci line."
In May, I opined that the Yankees should shift to a six-man rotation in order to control the workload of Montgomery and Luis Severino, as well as to give Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia an extra day of rest. Many have since joined that chorus, but Joe Girardi has been disinclined to go in that direction. He did opt for six starters this week, but we should not expect that to become the norm.
"In theory it sounds great, but now you have six relievers and six starters," Girardi said. "You get rid of one of your relievers that can give you distance, it puts you in a bind. You've got to remember, too, that most pitchers are used to going on a five-man rotation. It might help one guy and screw up the other four. That's a problem."
Today’s roster move indicates the veteran Garcia has replaced Montgomery in the rotation, even though the rookie has better numbers this year. Montgomery has pitched to a 4.05 ERA and a 3.95 FIP. Garcia meanwhile carries a 4.49 ERA with a 4.04 FIP.
The veteran left-hander made three straight starts in June where he gave up six earned runs, followed by a five-run dud to begin July. Other than that rough stretch, he has performed pretty well this season. Garcia has given up three runs or less in 12 of his 20 outings. The soft-tossing southpaw has given his team a chance to win nearly every game he has pitched. He even got the win in two of those six-run affairs.
He has a career 3.68 ERA and a slightly better than league-average 107 ERA+. He’s also a post-season veteran. Following an imposing front-four of Gray, Tanaka, Sabathia, and Severino, the Yankees have a solid fifth starter in Garcia. His experience should be a real plus in the pennant chase.
Montgomery has endeared himself to fans, many of whom will likely be disappointed with the decision to replace a homegrown favorite with a newcomer. These feelings could exacerbate after his stellar performance yesterday and Garcia’s uninspiring debut. Keep in mind, Brian Cashman promised to maximize the present while protecting the future. The decision to limit Montgomery’s innings is about protecting his arm. He has pitched his way into the Yankees’ plans, which is a good thing.
The rookie southpaw’s season is not over. Being sent down to Triple-A means he can help the RailRiders pursue the International League crown. He could always return as a September call-up. Montgomery would be the obvious candidate to make spot starts down the stretch. He gives the team the quality starting pitching depth that they have so badly lacked in recent years.
What you think about today’s roster move? Do you agree with replacing Montgomery in the rotation? Let us know in the comments below.