Last year at the Trade Deadline, many questioned New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman for trading four prospects to the Oakland A’s for starting pitcher Frankie Montas (and reliever Lou Trivino). While Montas is talented, he gave some evaluators pause because of his inconsistency as he had made only 20 starts just twice in his MLB career. He had fallen short of that number in the past because of suspension and injury. Now he’s hurt again and may miss the entire 2023 season.
MLB News: Yankees’ Rotation Takes Hit With Frankie Montas Needing Surgery
In June 2019 when Montas was in the midst of a breakout campaign with Oakland, he was suspended 80 games for PED use. That means if caught again, he would be suspended the entire season. The right-hander was terrible in eight games for New York last year, going 1-3 with a 6.35 ERA. He was the second pitcher in Yankees history to allow 20 or more earned runs and have zero wins in his first five appearances, with the other being failed trade acquisition Esteban Loaiza in 2004.
Montas injured his right shoulder late in the season and wasn’t a factor in the playoffs (left off the ALDS roster, pitched one inning in the ALCS). Prior to that, however, he enjoyed a breakout 2021 campaign with the A’s in which he finished sixth in the AL Cy Young balloting.
In January, New York and Montas avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $7.5 million contract. He was expected to be fully healthy this spring from that shoulder issue. General manager Brian Cashman said three weeks ago that the damage didn’t appear to be structural in nature.
However, once Montas began his throwing program, inflammation popped up. At first, the team thought he would only miss the opening month but now will have surgery next week.
“They have an idea [what’s wrong],” Manager Aaron Boone As said. “Once they’re in there, they’ll know: Do they have to touch the labrum or touch the rotator cuff? That’ll determine if you have to add weeks to the surgery. Best case is he would be back late in the season. … If it’s just a scope, then he could potentially be back late in the year.”
There was some concern about his shoulder even before the Yankees made the trade, as Montas left an early-July 2022 start with Oakland after just one inning due to inflammation and didn’t pitch again for 18 days. So why make the trade? Some are calling the deal Carl Pavano 2.0.
“Look, we knew when we traded for him that he had missed time with the shoulder,” Boone said. “That’s the nature of a pitcher, though. They’re able to get back on the mound and pitchers will go sometimes their entire career, if you examined them on an MRI from a shoulder standpoint, there’s labrum issues, there’s rotator cuff issues, but things that they’re able to pitch with all the time.”
The Yankees waited until now for surgery because there was some optimism that Montas could build himself back up in the winter with his offseason throwing program. But once it became clear that it wasn’t happening, the Yankees decided surgery was the only option.
Right-hander Domingo German is the favorite to step into Montas’ spot in the rotation at the moment, with Clarke Schmidt providing another option. The Yankees’ starting depth falls off from there, however, after they traded away much of it last season. Germán finished 2022 with a 3.61 ERA in 15 games (14 starts) but also had a higher-than-average FIP (4.44). He finished in the bottom quartile of average exit velocity, hard-hit percentage and strikeout rate.
The team has Cy Young favorite Gerrit Cole and free-agent addition Carlos Rodon atop the rotation followed by injury-prone Luis Severino and Nestor Cortes, who is currently dealing with a hamstring injury that forced him to skip the World Baseball Classic. Cortes dealt with a groin injury in late August of last season, landing him on the IL, and then exited Game 4 of the ALCS against the Houston Astros due to a groin injury.
It’s at least possible that the Yankees will look outside the organization for rotation help, but they’ve been unwilling to cross the fourth and final luxury-tax barrier and currently sit less than $1 million shy of that mark.
New York is a +145 favorite to repeat as AL East champion on the MLB odds.
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