The news came out on Sunday morning just before the NFL games that Aaron Nola will be returning to Philadelphia for the long term. The 30-year-old right-hander agreed to seven-year contract worth $172 million. According to Jon Heyman of the New York Post, Nola met with other teams and turned down more money to stay in Philadelphia. He chose to stay with a team that was in the World Series in 2022 and a win away from making it back to the World Series in 2023. This choice by Nola could lead to a certain free-agent left-hander also choosing to stay with the team that he finished the season with. Now that Texas has an idea of what Montgomery is worth on the free agent market would it be smart to bring him back for those years and at that cost?
Is 7 years for Jordan Montgomery a good investment for the Texas Rangers?
Aaron Nola and Jordan Montgomery do share one thing in common and that is they are both 30 years old currently. Montgomery is about six months older than Nola. Montgomery will be turning 31 next month, while Nola will be 30 until next June. The age difference is pretty negligible between these two pitchers. The thing going against Nola is there is much more wear and tear on his arm compared to Montgomery. Nola in his career has pitched in parts of nine seasons prior to reaching free agency. He has thrown 1,422 innings in his career and that does not include the innings he has thrown in the postseason. Montgomery has played in parts of seven seasons and only thrown 755 innings.
The main question Texas has to ask about Montgomery when considering his contract is how will Montgomery age over the life of the contract. A large contract could hinder the franchise if by year two or three Montgomery is not living up to it or is getting hurt. In his career, Montgomery has been very reliable. He did miss the majority of the 2018 and 2019 seasons with Tommy John surgery. That missed time has saved some innings on his arm. When healthy he regularly makes his start. 29 is the fewest amount of starts he has made in a season when he has been healthy and that was in 2017. He has been 30 or more starts since 2021.
Montgomery does not rely on an overpowering fastball to record outs. His average four-seam fastball and sinking fastball were at 93 mph in 2023. That was a career high for Montgomery. He also gets outs with a great changeup and curveball. Montgomery as he ages should be able to adjust if he does lose some velocity, by leaning more on the curveball or changeup and being able to spot his fastball and sinker. I am not too concerned about how good he will be at age 35, 36, or even 37. I would be more concerned about Nola truthfully and how he will age than I am about Montgomery.
is around $172 million a good use of resources for Montgomery
I know the argument will be Texas needs to focus on its bullpen this offseason. They need a DH to replace Mitch Garver. Texas also needs to reinforce its starting rotation. I am sure Texas was hoping that pitchers like Jack Leiter, Owen White, and Kumar Rocker would have all been ready to step up in time for 2024. None of them took that step forward in 2023 that the team was hoping for and in Rocker's case he likely will not pitch until late in the 2024 season. Texas will need to fill out their rotation once again in free agency or through the trade market.
The Phillies chose to give Nola the 7 year/$172 million contract which works out to almost $25 million per season. Let's start at that average value for Montgomery as a starting point. That would immediately put Montgomery as the second highest-paid pitcher on the team behind Jacob deGrom and ahead of the $16 million that Nathan Eovaldi will make. Montgomery will likely go into 2023 either as the Opening Day starter or will start the second game of the season. I do not think he will be overpaid at that amount per season.
One thing we have seen from Montgomery throughout his career is that he will start 30 times, he will throw more than 150 innings, and win around 10 games, while also having an ERA in the low 3's or high 2's. He is a winning pitcher who gives his team a chance to win nearly every time he takes the mound. That is evidenced by Montgomery having 20 quality starts in the 32 starts he made in 2023.
If you look at the numbers Montgomery might just be entering the prime of his career. Montgomery had a career-low ERA in 2023 at 3.20. That includes a 2.79 ERA after the trade to Texas. Then he put up a 1.29 ERA in the ALCS and picked up two wins in three appearances. He had that memorable game one that saw him retire Yordan Alvarez in four plate appearances against the Astros slugger. All of these numbers point towards a progression from Montgomery rather than regression. There is a good chance that if Texas does sign Montgomery for 24-25 million per season that it is looked at as a bargain in the next few years.
What will Montgomery end up signing for?
Now that we have an idea of what the market says a pitcher of Montgomery's skill level is worth I think we can make a guess on what he will end up signing for. There have been reports that he is interested in coming back. If Montgomery does end up coming back to Texas I am predicting he will sign a 6 year/$150 million contract with an option for a seventh season based on innings pitched that would take it to 7/170.
Montgomery can certainly sign a bigger contract. I am guessing Boston would go higher than that, the Orioles might be at or higher than that number. If Montgomery wants to come back and try to keep winning then I think Texas can justify spending that much while also not hampering the pursuit of bullpen options or DH options as well.
I am thinking with Nola now off the board we could start to see more free-agent movement maybe early this week before the Thanksgiving holiday. I would not be surprised to see more players come off the board before the Winter Meetings in December. Montgomery could certainly be one of them now that we know how many years it might take to sign him and how much per season he could demand.