That’s a New One: Jordan Montgomery Could Be a “Strike-First” Option for the Cubs

While we wait for Shohei Ohtani to make his decision, and Yoshinobu Yamamoto to sign shortly thereafter, perhaps the Cubs could surprise the industry and sign … left-handed starting pitcher Jordan Montgomery? That’s new.

The rumor in question isn’t quite as sexy as the Cubs-centered updates for Yamamoto and Ohtani, but Jeff Passan dropped a brand-spanking bit of intel this morning that should have your full-attention:

Left-hander Jordan Montgomery might not have to wait for Yamamoto to choose a team or the trade market to get moving. Coming off a bravura performance for the World Series-winning Texas Rangers, he finds himself in a sweet spot: His performance certainly warrants a nine-figure deal, but not one so rich that he needs to draft off Yamamoto (which teams believe National League Cy Young winner Blake Snell will do). The Rangers want to re-sign him. He could be a strike-first option for Boston if it’s feeling squishy about Yamamoto. Same to the Cubs, particularly if the top end of the market doesn’t pan out.

Yeah, that’s the first time the Cubs have been connected to Montgomery *at all* this offseason, so let’s dig in a little bit on the pitcher, before getting to the expected contract/fit/impact and so on.

Jordan Montgomery, The Pitcher

Jordan Montgomery debuted (and broke out) with the Yankees all the way back in 2017, but Cubs fans might be a little more familiar with him from his time with the Cardinals (somehow, they landed him for Harrison Bader (I hate the Cardinals)).

Naturally, just four games into his brief Cardinals career, Montgomery threw his first complete-game shutout against the Cubs at Wrigley Field, because of course.

A year later, the underwhelming Cardinals traded Montgomery to the Rangers, where he had a dominant 11-game regular season stretch (2.79 ERA) heading into the postseason, where he probably increased his offseason earnings substantially: 5 starts (6 games) with a 2.90 ERA and a 3.7% walk rate.

Montgomery did have Tommy John surgery back in 2018, but he returned in 2019, got his feet under him in the pandemic-shortened season, and went on to rattle off three very impressive seasons between the Yankees, Cardinals, and Rangers:

2021: 30 starts, 157.1 IP, 3.83 ERA (3.2 WAR)
2022: 32 starts, 178.1 IP, 3.48 ERA (2.7 WAR)
2023: 32 starts, 188.2 IP, 3.20 ERA (4.3 WAR) + 31 postseason innings (219.2 IP total)

Indeed, Montgomery’s regular season innings (524.1 IP, 17th) and games started (94 GS, t-6th) make him one of the most dependable big league starters of the last three seasons. And his 3.48 ERA, 3.62 FIP and 10.2 WAR over that stretch are all WELL above average.

Jordan Montgomery
(Photo by Getty Images)

The Sinker

Montgomery isn’t necessarily exceptional in any one area, but he limits hard contact well, strikes out just enough batters, and has very good command (career 6.6% walk rate). And while his heater doesn’t come with extra cheese (93.3 MPH last season, a career high), it rates as one of the best sinkers in baseball.

In fact, Jordan Montgomery’s sinker rates just narrowly ahead of Marcus Stroman over the last three years, just behind Brandon Woodruff. And last season, it ranked as the second best sinker in baseball, behind only Chris Bassitt. Between Kyle Hendricks (career 43.5 sinker%), Marcus Stroman (42.4%), Drew Smyly (38.9% last season), the Cubs have plenty of familiarity working with sinkers. Maybe that’s part of the allure.

The Cubs already have another lefty atop their rotation right now, but Jordan Montgomery is a slightly different look that Steele, whose sinker usage dropped to 1.3% last season.

The Fit/Cost Etc.

I’m sure the Cubs like Jordan Montgomery’s sinker and his ability to gobble up innings. He’s also entering just his age-31 season, so he’s not exactly ancient, either. Those are all obvious.

But perhaps the most attractive part of Montgomery (for the Cubs) is the price-tag.

Executives that spoke to Jeff Passan estimate a deal in the six-year, $140M range, though the panel at The Athletic was much lower (5/$105M). And they have him as the sixth best free agent this offseason for whatever that’s worth. It’s tempting to want to compare these figures to the deals given to Jon Lester (6/$155M) and Yu Darvish (6/$126M), but those deals are WAY out of date. The price of poker has gone up significantly, and I think you’d be wise to adjust your expectations accordingly.

But all of that is a good thing. Because if the Cubs do whiff on Ohtani and Yamamoto (the apparent predicate for turning their attention to Montgomery), the drop in price to Montgomery is SIGNIFICANT and would allow them to add more, elsewhere.

Whether that’s a trade for another arm or to add a big bat, I don’t know. But I think a Montgomery addition, if it came to it, wouldn’t come alone.

As for the “strike-first” part… I’m just not sure what to make of that. We know the Cubs are active with money and a desire to spend, but they’re still wholly in the hunt for Ohtani and Yamamoto. So I guess you can take a Cubs-Montgomery marriage (if it happens BEFORE Ohtani and Yamamoto) as a sign the Cubs have exited those more exciting sweepstakes.

Oh, one final thought: It’s possible this fresh Jordan Montgomery news is partially true, legit, whathaveyou… but also partially to demonstrate to the Rays that the Cubs have other options than Tyler Glasnow. They could turn to Shane Bieber on the trade market. Or Yoshinobu Yamamoto or Jordan Montgomery in free agency. Just saying, it’s a possibility.

written by

Michael Cerami began covering the Chicago Cubs for Bleacher Nation as a part-time contributor in 2015. One year later, he joined Bleacher Nation full-time, covering the Chicago Cubs and Major League Baseball. Today, Michael runs Bleacher Nation, contributing as a writer (Cubs, MLB) and an editor for all sections of the site, including the Chicago Bears, Bulls, and Blackhawks, as well as MLB, NBA, NHL, and NFL. In 2019, Michael was the co-host of NBC Sports Chicago's Cubs Post-Game Show Outside the Ivy. You can find him on Twitter/X @Michael_Cerami

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