Frankie Montas will make his return to the mound on Thursday, as the A’s announced him as the scheduled starter for the second game of a doubleheader against the Tigers. It’ll be the righty’s first appearance since he left his July 3 start due to what the team later announced as shoulder inflammation.
Oakland never placed Montas on the injured list, even as he missed more than what would’ve been the 15-day minimum. The injury wound up costing him a couple starts, but that he’ll be back this week is the most important thing for the A’s. Montas is one of the game’s most obvious trade candidates, and the July 21 return should position him to take the ball twice or three times before the August 2 deadline.
That’s assuming the A’s hold onto Montas right until the deadline, although there’s little reason for the Oakland front office not to be open to moving him at any point. At 32-61, they’re likely headed for a last place finish in any event. Montas has a season and a half of arbitration-eligibility remaining, and the team’s abysmal first half makes it difficult to envision them contending next season either. With no chance the low-spending club signs Montas to a long-term extension, he’s a virtual lock to be flipped before the deadline assuming he’s healthy. The 29-year-old is apparently ready to retake the mound, and pitching-needy contenders will certainly keep a close eye on the quality of his stuff over his next start or two.
Before the minor shoulder flare-up, Montas was off to a second straight excellent season. Through 17 starts, he owns a 3.26 ERA with an above-average 25.8% strikeout rate. He’s walked only 6.2% of opponents and induced grounders on 47.1% of batted balls. Montas has been above-average at virtually everything, missing bats at a 12.9% clip while averaging north of 96 MPH on his fastball.
Over the next two weeks, a trio of controllable starters figure to generate plenty of headlines. Montas joins the Reds’ Luis Castillo as the top two arms likely to change hands. Castillo’s teammate, Tyler Mahle, is also a decent bet to be traded, although he’s dealing with a shoulder issue of his own. The Reds placed Mahle on the injured list on July 6, but indications are that he’ll join Montas in shortly returning to the rotation coming out of the Break.