The Pirates have a lot of young, but talented starting pitching options for 2024. The Opening Day rotation will consist of some form of Mitch Keller, Johan Oviedo, Luis Ortiz, Andre Jackson, Roansy Contreras, Bailey Falter, and Quinn Priester. They should get some young reinforcements later on in the year, but adding a veteran who can provide both stability and solid innings is a must. If there’s any pitcher on the free agent market who can fill said role, it would be left-hander Jordan Montgomery.
Montgomery has pieced together his third straight quality season. In 188.2 innings, Monty owns a 3.20 ERA, 3.56 FIP, and 1.19 WHIP. Montgomery has a 21.4% strikeout rate but has combated that with a healthy 6.2% walk rate, and 0.86 HR/9. It is the third straight season in a row he has posted an ERA+ above 112, as well as the third straight year he’s started at least 31 games.
That might all seem to price him way out of the Pirates’ range, but there are some things that might work in the Pirates’ favor. Even though he has a career-best ERA, he’s not pitching all that much differently than he was in 2021-2022 when he had a (still quality) 3.65 ERA.
Montgomery had about the same walk rate (6.3%), a slightly higher srikeout rate (23.1%), and HR/9 (1.06) between the two seasons. His exit velocity, hard-hit rate, and barrel rate have all stayed within 1% of each other over the last three seasons. His xFIP, SIERA, xERA, and DRA- have also had a close to net-zero change. It certainly helped he has a 2.79 ERA with the Texas Rangers, though the Rangers also rank top ten in defensive runs saved and outs above average.
So why do I have any hope of the Pirates signing Montgomery (besides the fact he’s pitching about the same as he always has)? He seems a little pricey, doesn’t he? I agree with that sentiment, but Ben Cherington loves his veteran left-handed pitchers. Each and every season since becoming the Pirates’ general manager, Cherington has signed at least one veteran left-handed starting pitcher. In 2020, he got Derek Holland. 2021 was Tyler Anderson. 2022 was when they signed Jose Quintana. This past year, it was Rich Hill.
Now granted, each of those guys were back-of-the-rotation, one-year rentals. The Pirates haven’t given out a multi-year contract to a starting pitcher since Ivan Nova in the 2016-2017 off-season, and that was a relatively low-cost deal. But if there was an off-season for the Pirates to go all-in on an MLB free agent starting pitcher, this is the year, and Jordan Montgomery is the guy.
Last year, the Pirates spent about $17 million between Hill, Vince Velasquez, and Austin Hedges. I could see them offering that kind of AAV to Montgomery. Will he accept it? It’s obviously not a guarantee, and I don’t know what Montgomery’s market will look like/other potential offerings will be either. But I am really hoping that the Pirates give 110% effort in signing a good pitcher.