Pittsburgh Pirates Should Target Jordan Montgomery In A Cole Trade

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 1: Jordan Montgomery
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 1: Jordan Montgomery /

The Yankees seem to have high interest in Gerrit Cole, and the Pirates haven’t (publicly) decided on which direction to go for 2017.  By trading Cole, they’d go in the quick rebuild mode, and Jordan Montgomery would represent a nice piece moving forward.

If the Pittsburgh Pirates trade away Andrew McCutchen, Gerrit Cole, and Josh Harrison they would be signaling a rebuild, and if they do rebuild, Felipe Rivero and Ivan Nova should be traded away as well.  The Pirates core then becomes Jameson Taillon, Josh Bell, Starling Marte, and Gregory Polanco.  This represents players who will be in their age 25-29 seasons in 2018, which is the type of core you would build around.  Marte and Polanco are on very team friendly deals, Taillon and Bell, to go along with Chad Kuhl and Trevor Williams, don’t hit arbitration until after the 2019 season.  Austin Meadows, Kevin Newman, Cole Tucker, and Mitch Keller will all be making their debut in the next two years.

It would appear that Clint Frazier is the guy the Pirates are really targeting with the Yankees, who would also represent the new wave of core players for the Pirates.  With the four guys currently in place, the four that will make their debut by July 2019, and the Pirates targeting a Major League ready outfielder for Cole, the club would likely target players that will make their debut in the same time frame in a deal around McCutchen, Harrison, and perhaps even Francisco Cervelli.  The Pirates would be pushing their next window to starting in 2019, which might be a similar season to 2012, with the true hopes of competing for the division in 2020, and the current core group of Marte, Polanco, Taillon, and Bell would all still be under contract.

George King wrote about the Pirates and Yankees discussing a Cole for the New York Post, and this is the part that sticks out, “The Pirates also are looking for a pitcher ready to work in the majors…”  King suggests Yankees top prospect Chance Adams could be a fit, though other prospects such as Justus Sheffield and Domingo Acevedo would also fall into that description.  The problem is Adams might profile best as a reliever with his control, but could also hit his ceiling and be a two/three starter.  Sheffield, much of the same can be said, especially with his health, as Baseball Prospectus describes his delivery as “occasionally violent” while noting durability concerns.  Acevedo has a violent delivery according to Baseball Prospectus, so a relief role might suit him best as well.

Ideally, given the ceilings, the Pirates could acquire a two starter, or mid rotation starter depending on the prospect they get in return.  The problem with prospects is the attrition and bust rate, though the bust rate has been decreasing over the years.  The Pirates could instead look at Jordan Montgomery, who finished sixth in the rookie of the year voting and pitched six innings of two run ball against the Pirates this past season.

Montgomery, who like Williams, Kuhl, Taillon, and Bell isn’t arbitration eligible until after 2019., started 29 games for the Yankees last season.  The former fourth round pick produced a 3.88 ERA (88 ERA-), 4.07 FIP (89 FIP-), and 4.36 DRA (92.8 DRA-) in 155.1 innings.  He struck out 22.2 percent of hitters and walked 7.9 percent, but he did give up a home run 3.2 percent of the time, right around the 3.3 percent league average.  He produced a 2.7 fWAR on Fangraphs, making him a mid to backend starter for a full season.

Montgomery has a four (or five by separating out sinker and fourseam) pitch mix.  Last season he threw his sinker 23.4 percent of the time, curveball 26.2 percent, fourseam 17.9 percent, change 18.9 percent, and slider 13.5 percent.  His change, slider, and curve got whiffs 15.15 percent, 18.52 percent, and 19.24 percent of the time.  Of the 134 pitchers to toss 100 or more innings, Montgomery had the 14th highest run value on his change (8.5) and the seventh highest run value in his curveball (10.5 percent).  His fourseam, sinker, and slider had run values of 1.3, -8.6, and 3.7 respectively.  Having two real plus pitches, though run values aren’t predictive, is rather intriguing, especially if he can get his sinker going, a pitch the Pirates love.  Jordan Montgomery could bring that mid to backend starter the Pirates want go along with Clint Frazier and one or two lesser prospects (45 and below grades).

Next: Pirates Make Trade for Nick Burdi

Of course, the Yankees might not want to deal a pitcher off their current roster, and the ceilings of Adams and Sheffield could be more enticing for a team like the Pirates.  However, if the Pirates plan is to push their new window back to starting in 2019, but fully opening up in 2020, getting a pitcher who will be in his fourth year should be something that intrigues them more than a prospect who has pitched zero innings at the big league level.  With Keller and Taillon being the front of the rotation pieces, and Kuhl and Williams looking like adequate backend guys, Montgomery could provide a solid left-handed mid rotation starter as that next window opens.

*Numbers from Fangraphs