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Around the Empire: Yankees news - 12/31/23

Frankie Montas signs with Reds; Juan Soto, AL MVP?; Parsing thinning pitching market; Jordan Montgomery leaves door open to return; Monitoring Ben Rice’s progress through minors

MLB: New York Yankees at Kansas City Royals Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

NJ Advance Media | Randy Miller: One of the Yankees’ options to bolster starting rotation depth has come off the board, with Frankie Montas signing a one-year, $16 million deal with the Reds. The Bombers were linked to a reunion with the 30-year-old righty after essentially paying for the entirety of his shoulder surgery rehab, but the price likely soared beyond their comfort level. It brings an official end to what wound up as a disastrous tenure in pinstripes, as Montas made only nine appearances with a 6.15 ERA after headlining the deadline day trade that netted Oakland four Yankees prospects.

ESPN | Kiley McDaniel: (subscription required) In the wake of missing out on Yoshinobu Yamamoto, the Yankees options are sparse when it comes to pitchers who can impact the rotation with the same force as the Japanese superstar. Rather than pursue Blake Snell (injury risk) or Jordan Montgomery (price), McDaniel recommends the Yankees turn to the trade market, where he suggests they could acquire Dylan Cease from the White Sox for top overall pitching prospect Chase Hampton, outfielder Everson Pereira, and catcher Agustin Ramirez. He also floats Brandon Woodruff on a two-year deal as a potential late-season lottery ticket before urging New York to also add a high-leverage lefty reliever, all of which should come in at roughly the same price tag in 2024 as the AAV of the deal they offered Yamamoto. | Anthony Castrovince: In a way-too-early prediction for 2024 major award winners, Castrovince names Juan Soto as his pick for AL MVP. Much as Aaron Judge launched an AL-record 62 home runs in his final season before free agency, Castrovince predicts a monster platform year campaign from Soto, the lefty slugger having turned down a 15-year, $440 million extension offer from the Nationals in 2022. Leading the Yankees back to the postseason after they missed out for the first time in seven years would add further weight to the case of the 2021 NL MVP runner-up.

New York Post | Greg Joyce: With Montas’ name off the board, Montgomery becomes an increasingly attractive candidate for the Yankees rotation, not least of which because of his proven success pitching in pinstripes (3.94 ERA in 502.2 innings). The 31-year-old southpaw took his game to another level after leaving the Yankees, his 3.17 ERA in that span the seventh-lowest and 5.7 fWAR 12th-best during that span. Brian Cashman memorably did not trust Montgomery as a playoff starter, and Monty only went and pitched to a 2.90 ERA in six appearances en route to winning the World Series with the Rangers. Montgomery maintains that there is no bad blood between him and the organization after his trade to the Cardinals, though he is said to be seeking in the neighborhood of the deal Carlos Rodón signed with the Yankees — six years, $162 million — last winter.

New York Daily News | James O’Connell: Austin Wells impressed in his September cup of coffee with the big league squad, but another catcher is making a name for himself on the farm. Ben Rice — taken in the 12th round of the 2021 MLB Draft and currently the Yankees’ No. 21 prospect per MLB Pipeline — slashed .324/.434/.615 with 20 home runs and 68 RBI in 73 games between Low-A, High-A, and Double-A in 2023, the lefty exhibiting far more power to the pull side than scouting reports projected. With Kyle Higashioka included in the trade for Soto, Rice could force himself into the third catcher conversation behind Wells and starter Jose Trevino, and at the very least should be plying his trade behind the plate and at first base with Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to start 2024.