The Yankees are expected to be without starter Frankie Montas for the first month of the season as he deals with shoulder inflammation, per a report from Jon Heyman of the New York Post. Heyman reports that Montas is about 8-10 weeks behind in his off-season training. Montas and the Yankees avoided arbitration by agreeing to a $7.5MM contract for 2023, a number which Heyman notes would have been higher were it not for the shoulder concerns.
While there’s no indication that any sort of surgery is on the cards for Montas, there’s nonetheless a fair degree of concern here, particularly given Montas struggled down the stretch last summer and ultimately went on the IL with shoulder inflammation to finish the season. The Yankees activated him ahead of the ALCS, and he pitched one inning of relief in that series.
Montas, 30 in March, was one of New York’s big deadline additions last summer, but he struggled mightily after coming over from Oakland. He’d been a highly effective starter on the rebuilding A’s, working to a 3.18 ERA over 104 2/3 innings (19 starts) for Oakland. That came with strong peripherals, as Montas walked just 6.6% of batters while maintaining an above-average 25.8% strikeout rate.
It was a different story in pinstripes though, as Montas was rocked for six earned runs in his debut against the Cardinals and finished with a 6.35 ERA across eight starts with the Yankees. Most notably, Montas saw his strikeout rate plummet to 17.8%, while also experiencing an uptick in walks from earlier in the season.
Prior to joining the Yankees, Montas had been an ever-reliable starter in Oakland. Across 401 innings between 2018-21 he worked to a 3.57 ERA, maintaining strong walk and strikeout rates. That also included a difficult pandemic-shortened season where Montas struggled, like many major league players, to the tune of a 5.60 ERA over 11 starts.
With a number of quality seasons under his belt, and with one-and-a-half seasons of team control remaining, Montas was one of the most sought-after trade targets last summer. The A’s, in the midst of a rebuild, were happy to take offers, and wound up agreeing to a deal with the Yankees, acquiring Ken Waldichuk, JP Sears, Luis Medina and Cooper Bowman for Montas and reliever Lou Trivino.
For the Yankees part, they saw Montas as an effective starter who could deepen their rotation ahead of a playoff run, and also contribute in 2023. While a May return for Montas still affords him plenty of time to be a major contributor to the Yankees in 2023, it is concerning that he doesn’t seem to have been able to shake the shoulder problems, and there would have to be fears of this lasting deeper into the season.
For now, the Yankees rotation is still in solid shape. They have a formidable front four of Gerrit Cole, Carlos Rodon, Nestor Cortes and Luis Severino. Domingo German and Clarke Schmidt are the obvious internal candidates to handle Montas’ starts in the meantime. German worked to a 3.61 ERA over 72 1/3 innings last season, while Schmidt was used largely as a reliever in the big leagues, working to a 3.12 ERA over 29 appearances. He made eight starts at Triple-A in 2022, pitching to a 3.27 ERA in that time.