Diamondbacks, Jordan Montgomery in agreement on $25 million deal: Source

The Arizona Diamondbacks and left-hander Jordan Montgomery are in agreement on a deal that will pay him $25 million this season, a league source said. The deal includes a vesting player option for the second year, per the source.

ESPN was first to report news of the deal.

Ranked as the No. 6 player on The Athletic’s offseason Big Board, Montgomery positioned himself well to cash in this offseason after a strong 2023 campaign, highlighted by his role in the Texas Rangers’ run to the World Series.

Montgomery began the year with a 3.42 ERA over 21 starts with the St. Louis Cardinals. At the trade deadline, the Cardinals sent him to the Rangers along with reliever Chris Stratton in exchange for left-hander John King, infield prospect Thomas Saggese and pitching prospect Tekoah Roby. In Arlington, Montgomery took his game to a new level. He had a 2.79 ERA in 11 starts, serving as a steadying force in an otherwise injury-laden pitching staff.

Montgomery’s brilliance continued in the postseason, starting with seven shutout innings in a wild-card round victory against the Tampa Bay Rays. He finished with three wins and a 2.90 ERA in six playoff appearances.

“Nothing’s straight and nothing’s the same,” Rangers catcher Jonah Heim said of Montgomery during the playoffs. “Same release point. Ball gets on you. Big guy. Sometimes he steps on the brakes with a curveball. Other times he rams in a four-seamer on you. It makes my job easier when he can do all that.”

The 2023 season served as the best year yet for the 31-year-old Montgomery. It also validated his ability after the Yankees traded him to the Cardinals in 2022 when New York did not envision Montgomery making its postseason rotation.

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After the Yankees didn’t believe he’d make their postseason rotation, Montgomery became a playoff standout. (Christian Petersen / Getty Images)

Over the past few seasons, Montgomery has boosted his profile from that of a back-end starter to a potential frontline option thanks largely to improvements in his fastball offerings. Despite standing 6-foot-6 with a sturdy frame, Montgomery was viewed as a soft-tossing, pitchability lefty when he was a fourth-round pick out of South Carolina in 2014. His four-seam velocity, however, bumped up from 91.9 mph in 2017 to 93.3 mph this past season. Last season, he upped his sinker usage to 42.6 percent. Montgomery benefits from deception and extension, and the four-seamer and sinker look similar out of his hand until one runs to the glove side and the other darts toward the arm side. The improved fastballs have made his signature curveball and changeup even more difficult to hit.

“I think I’m kind of just staying in better counts, staying in the attack on hitters and staying in control of the game as much as I can,” Montgomery said during the World Series. “Throwing my fastball to both sides of the plate. My curveball, I feel like my shapes have all gotten better, and just repeating my delivery much better.”

If there is a knock on Montgomery, it is his relatively low strikeout rates over the past two seasons. He struck out just 7.92 batters per nine innings last season. But even in the age of the strikeout, Montgomery has had more success using his four-seam and sinker to pitch to contact. His strikeout rates have dropped in each of the past three seasons, but so has his ERA. The lack of strikeouts could lead to some volatility in projecting Montgomery’s future performance, but his command of the zone helps make up for the shortage of missed bats. He is a decidedly old-school, groundball pitcher but has quietly joined Gerrit Cole and Kevin Gausman as the only pitchers with 30-plus starts and a sub-4.00 ERA in each of the past three seasons.

(Top photo: Ron Jenkins / Getty Images)

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