The Yankees chose the wrong Monty

New York Yankee pitcher Frankie Montas

New York Yankee pitcher Frankie Montas
Photo: AP

It’s no secret. The Yankees have been awful in the month of August. Since the trade deadline Aug. 2, the once mighty Yankees have gone 3-12 (at the time of writing this), have yet to win a series, and have been outscored by 23 runs. Is it the curse of Joey Gallo? Perhaps. After all, the two-time All-Star is now slashing .231/.333/.615 with the Dodgers, good for a .949 OPS and 155 OPS-plus. The Dodgers have been doing tremendously, so perhaps Gallo was the key all along. Yankees fans certainly seem to agree.

To be fair, Andrew Benintendi hasn’t been good since joining the Yankees. This season he has three games with three or more strikeouts… all three have come in a Yankees uniform. No matter what, the Yankees can’t seem to catch a break with their outfielders, and that’s why I don’t think Benintendi is the biggest problem. The former Royal is actually hitting better than Gallo was in pinstripes in terms of walk rate, OPS-plus, on-base average, and hard hit percentage. He isn’t getting as many extra-base hits, but that’s to be expected. Rather, the Yankees’ struggles have stemmed from their pitching. I know, hot take, right? The thing everybody’s been saying all year, I’m saying now. Wow! Really pulling some juicy info out.

The thing is that the Yankees knew their biggest area of concern was pitching, which is why they tried to address it at the trade deadline. They were one of the top suitors for Luis Castillo and eventually settled for the next best option, Oakland’s Frankie Montas. However, any improvements the Yankees made to their pitching staff with that move were mitigated when the Yankees flipped one of their top pitchers, Jordan Montgomery, to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for injured outfielder Harrison Bader.

Obviously, this was an odd move at the time, especially considering the Yankees’ history with starters suffering injuries, but perhaps it could’ve all worked out if Montas turned into the ace the Yankees were hoping for. That didn’t happen. Since joining the Yankees, Montas has started three games, lasted only 14 innings, allowed as many earned runs, and struck out only eight batters. Since the start of 2018, that is the second-worst three-game stretch he’s had in terms of ERA.

Meanwhile, in St. Louis, Montgomery is 3-0 with a 0.54 ERA as a Cardinal. He’s helped his team extend their lead in the NL Central and has most likely earned himself a starting role in the postseason. That’s probably why the Yankees made the trade in the first place. It figures that they’d assume Gerrit Cole, Nestor Cortes, Luis Severino, and Montas would be their postseason rotation, but as I said earlier, that’s assuming nobody gets hurt, and that Montas adjusts well to his new team, which obviously he isn’t.

All this goes to show just how hard the Yankees’ plans backfired and how avoidable some of their recent struggles have been. I’m not saying that if they retained Montgomery they would’ve gone 12-3 instead of 3-12, but it’s hard to imagine that if Gumby was pulling the same stuff he is with St. Louis in New York (hard to do given how hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium is, but still), the Yankees wouldn’t be in a better position than they are now.

Severino is on the IL in the least surprising news of the year, and while he should be back for the postseason, there could still be setbacks, and it wouldn’t be shocking if he got hurt again. What if another starter gets hurt? There’s still Jameson Taillon, but he’s been far from consistent and has seriously struggled since late June. Furthermore, outside of Cortes, Montgomery was the only lefty with a considerable amount of games started for the Yankees this year. Being able to trot two strong southpaws out in your postseason rotation is a big advantage that the Yankees will no longer have.

I know it’s a small sample size since the trade, but I can’t help but look back on the trade deadline and consider the Montgomery trade one of the worst moves of the year. There were too many question marks surrounding the rest of the Yankees’ rotation. Keeping Montgomery was the safe option, and it’s blown up in their faces in the short run. Maybe when Bader comes back in September, he’ll establish himself in a crowded Yankees’ outfield — Aaron Hicks continues to earn his spot on the bench — and make up for it, but that still leaves an entire month where the Yankees left themselves short-handed. What were they thinking?

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