On Monday afternoon, the Yankees struck a big deal with the often sell-happy Oakland Athletics. New York sent JP Sears, infield prospect Cooper Bowman, and pitching prospects Ken Waldichuk and Luis Medina. As has been well-covered by now, the Yanks received reliever Lou Trivino and right-handed starter Frankie Montas.
Montas is a fairly well-established, hard-throwing starter, with a few years of fairly significant success behind him. The Yankees wanted to bolster their rotation for a postseason run, and did just that, adding likely the best starting pitcher available post-Luis Castillo deal.
The 2022 season has been a successful one for Montas amidst a struggling Oakland squad. The 29-year-old has taken the bump for 19 starts thus far, pitching 104.2 innings to the tune of a 3.18/3.36 ERA/FIP (118 ERA+). He’s sporting a strikeout rate of 25.8 percent, fairly in line with his past performances, partnered with a 6.6-percent walk rate that is better than each of his last two seasons.
Montas came up with the White Sox in 2015, didn’t pitch in the big leagues in 2016, and after a couple trades, returned to The Show with Oakland in 2017 exclusively out of the ‘pen with a noisy 7.03 ERA. The righty began to find real success in 2018 and 2019, and in 27 starts between those two seasons, Montas pitched 161 innings with a 3.13/3.36 ERA/FIP, though the latter ended with an 80-game PED suspension. He didn’t fan batters with as much frequency in that time, but he was able to reel in the rough 13.3 percent walk rate he was sporting through 2017.
In the shortened 2020 season, Montas only pitched 53 innings, as his ERA ballooned a bit to 5.60, walking more batters than the previous two seasons, and getting bit by the long ball a bit as well. In 2021, however, Montas came into his own in a mostly full season, pitching 187 innings over 32 starts. He struck out over 200 batters, kept the ball on the ground and in the park effectively. This all culminated in 4.1 fWAR and a sixth-place finish in American League Cy Young Award voting.
Montas features a five-pitch mix, including a four-seamer, splitter, sinker, slider, and cutter. The righty was once a bit of a sinkerballer, but lately, he’s opted for higher usage with his fastball and splitter, to much success.
Montas’ four-seamer and sinker have been his two hardest-hit pitches in 2022, with a .303 and .383 wOBA against each respectively. That’s not a bad figure for his four-seamer, as that’s well below the average mark, while the wOBA against his sinker stands in the opposite direction. He does, however, effectively keep his fastball higher in the zone, and the sinker down and to the arm side, taking advantage of the run on that pitch.
The starter’s slider and cutter, each of which have seen an increase in usage this season, have been successful pitches. Both pitches have spin rates around league average, but have netted Montas wOBA marks better than average against both as well. This is likely due to his ability to locate both, keeping them both consistently on the glove side, with the slider often lower, and the cutter slightly higher and in the zone.
Montas’ splitter is perhaps the most appealing pitch in the righty’s mix. He is headed in the right direction with it too, as he’s throwing it more this season than ever before, and may benefit from increasing that usage even more. This pitch, along with his breaking ball have helped contribute to Montas’ 88th-percentile chase rate.
These pitches, and their increased usage, have also lent themselves to Montas keeping the ball on the ground, something that has correlated well with his success on the mound.
Adding Montas gives the Yankees a very strong option to start behind Gerrit Cole, not only this year and into the postseason, but in 2023 as well, as the right-hander has another year of team control. He has had some up and down stretches over the course of his career, as well as some injury history, but has also shown flashes of being a really dominant presence on the mound.
Montas has an interesting pitch mix, particularly one that would seem to mesh well with the work the Yankees’ staff has done with others, and he has already found great success without those possibly beneficial tweaks. As the Yankees head toward the end of the season and enter the playoffs, the addition of another potential top-end starter is incredibly valuable. With a fairly high-ceiling and established success, the Yankees added an extremely helpful piece, for what seems to be a pretty reasonable price.