Superstar player is the perfect fit as top manager makes another major push in free agency pitching

It’s unlikely that the Phillies will sign a marquee free agent. The three best lefties still available on the pitching market are reliever Josh Hader, starter Blake Snell, and starter Jordan Montgomery. The Phillies have been linked to all three pitchers by multiple insiders, but it’s likely that the team was interested in signing Yoshinobu Yamamoto in the past.

If Phillies make another big free agent pitching splash, Jordan Montgomery  is the best fit | Phillies Nation

However, nothing can be completely ruled out. The Phillies were anticipated to sign one of the best outfielders available as a free agency in the 2021–2022 offseason. They had ties to Kyle Schwarber before the lockout and soon after the work stoppage ended, they signed him to a four-year, $79 million contract. After Nick Castellanos’s market did not materialize as expected, Dave Dombrowski assumed ownership of the organization and was authorized to acquire the luxury tax and sign Castellanos to a $100 million contract.

Of the three major lefties available, Montgomery would be the most suitable for the Phillies if they wanted to make another impact.

Montgomery, 31, is expected to receive a sizable salary after a stellar 2023 year with the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals. During the regular season, he tossed 188 2/3 innings with a 3.20 ERA. At the trade deadline, he was acquired by the Rangers from the Cardinals, where he played brilliantly in the final stretch. In 11 starts during the regular season with Texas, Montgomery has a 2.79 ERA. In two of his first three postseason starts, he tossed at least 6 1/3 scoreless innings; in an ALCS Game 7 victory against the Astros, he threw 2 1/3 scoreless innings out of the bullpen.

He got hammered hard in his ALDS start against the Orioles and in Game 2 of the World Series against the D-Backs, but he demonstrated he has what it takes to pitch in October.

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He’ll turn that stint with the Rangers into a lucrative deal. Montgomery, a client of Scott Boras, will most likely close a deal that is valued at more than $100 million. Who signs him and how close he comes to Aaron Nola’s $172 million guarantee are the only things left to decide.

Montgomery’s advantage over Snell and Hader is that he does not have a qualifying offer associated with him. The Phillies would have to forfeit their second and fifth-round picks in the following draft in addition to one million dollars from the international bonus pool if they were to sign Hader or Snell. A draft is affected when picks are lost because teams forfeit the bonus money attached to those picks. It’s a cost that a team like the Phillies shouldn’t have to incur in order to strengthen their farm system. Montgomery was traded during the season, so he was ineligible for the qualifying offer.

On the surface, Hader appears to be the ideal fit in the absence of the qualifying offer. The Phillies may use a great closer now that Craig Kimbrel is no longer with them. Some have claimed that Hader would have helped the Phillies win the NLCS in place of Kimbrel, but that argument misses a few key points. With only Seranthony Domínguez and Matt Strahm as viable bullpen alternatives, the Phillies would still have needed to score in extra innings to win and survive even if Hader had pitched the ninth inning in Game 3. In Game 3, the lineup managed just one run thanks to a wild pitch.

Though Hader is almost exclusively a three-out pitcher, it’s still feasible that he would have replaced Kimbrel in Game 4’s eighth inning and delivered a clean inning, forcing the Phillies to deal with a fatigued José Alvarado or Michael Lorenzen at the top of the D-Backs order in the ninth. In a contract year, he was never going to return for the ninth inning, and given the condition of the Phillies bullpen at the time, there was no assurance they would lead through the bottom of the ninth.

It could be enticing to sign Hader regardless of the acquisition cost. However, the Phillies have a decent history of finding underappreciated talent and developing it into a strong back end reliever; Alvarado and Jeff Hoffman are the clearest examples from the last several seasons. Furthermore, it might not be a good idea to spend that much money on a single reliever if they are high on Orion Kerkering.

There are issues with depth in the Phillies’ rotation. The greatest five players in baseball are Nola, Taijuan Walker, Zack Wheeler, Ranger Suárez, and Cristopher Sanchez, but there is very little depth behind them. If the Phillies sign another big starter, such as Snell or Montgomery, they will have four starters with playoff experience, and Sánchez will become a swingman.

However, the Phillies prefer having steady starters at the top, thus Montgomery—not Snell—is a better match for the team. Snell has never thrown more than 130 innings in a season, with the exception of his two Cy Young Award seasons in 2018 and 2023. It doesn’t seem like the Phillies would provide $200 million to a player who can’t be counted on to play 180–200 innings.

Although Montgomery’s ceiling may not be as high as Snell’s, the Phillies may be interested in his combination of postseason performance and regular season reliability.

Wheeler, Nola, and Suárez have all been fortunate enough to remain healthy during the Phillies’ two postseason runs. Since none of the three is likely to be healthy come October for a third straight season, it would be wise to adopt Texas’ tactic of hoarding elite starting pitchers.

But it appears that Montgomery will most likely end up with the Rangers. Montgomery would much rather return to Texas, according to a Sunday article by Bob Nightengale of USA Today. The Rangers’ indefinite television contract with Diamond Sports Group is the only thing standing in the way of Montgomery’s re-signing. It expires in 2024. If a prompt resolution isn’t reached, Montgomery might sign with another team.

While the Phillies don’t seem likely to add another expensive free agent pitcher, it doesn’t hurt to keep an eye on the market.

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