Cardinals left-hander Jordan Montgomery was forced to leave yesterday’s game after 4 1/3 innings due to a right hamstring injury. The problem arose on the 65th of Montgomery’s 66 pitches, as “I just kind of slipped on the mound and I guess my body tried to catch myself,” the southpaw told reporters, including Lynn Worthy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. After making one more pitch as something of a test, Montgomery left the mound.
More will be known about Montgomery’s status after he undergoes testing, and with the All-Star break looming, Montgomery could have as many as nine days of rest before his next start. That would essentially serve as a skipped start without technically missing any action, allowing Montgomery some extra recovery time with the possibility of avoiding the injured list together. If a 15-day IL stint is deemed necessary, the All-Star break still helps limit the time lost, as Montgomery would miss two starts if he is able to return in a minimal amount of time.
Of course, there is another prominent timing issue at play in the form of the August 1 trade deadline. With the Cardinals floundering to a 36-52 record, it is looking increasingly likely that St. Louis will be sellers in some regard on deadline day. MLBTR recently ranked Montgomery and fellow St. Louis starter Jack Flaherty fourth and fifth on our list of the top 50 deadline trade candidates, as both are set for free agency this winter. Montgomery is the more valuable of the two since he is having a much more consistent season than Flaherty, yet this hamstring injury could obviously change the equation significantly.
Over 18 starts and 103 innings, Montgomery has a 3.23 ERA and a solid 6.3% walk rate. His SIERA is a less impressive 4.04 and his Statcast metrics are more middling than good, but the lefty has been trending upwards, with a 1.70 ERA over his last 47 2/3 innings. Montgomery has posted generally solid numbers over his seven MLB seasons and he has already been part of a headline-grabbing deadline trade. It was just last August that the Yankees sent Montgomery to St. Louis in a one-for-one swap for Harrison Bader.
Montgomery’s 2023 trade value is already somewhat limited since he’s a rental player, and naturally a serious injury would likely prevent St. Louis from dealing him whatsoever. A more nebulous recovery timeframe wouldn’t necessarily preclude a trade — for instance, if Montgomery does hit the IL and is projected to miss a month of time, a team might still be willing to roll the dice on a trade if they would still get Montgomery in the rotation by early August.
That said, the Cardinals will issue Montgomery a qualifying offer this winter, and in the very likely circumstance that Montgomery rejects the QO, St. Louis would get a compensatory draft pick if he signed elsewhere. As such, the Cards aren’t likely to trade the left-hander unless they get an offer they believe is superior to the value of a compensatory pick, and if offers are diminished in the event of a Montgomery injury, the Cardinals might prefer to just keep him.
An ill-timed injury to a premium trade chip might be just another setback in what has been an increasingly nightmarish season for the Cardinals. The perennial contenders are on pace for their worst season in over a century, leaving the Cards in the unexpected position of having to gauge just how big of a retool is needed at the deadline. President of baseball operations John Mozeliak has already ruled out a full rebuild, but “some changes” are certainly coming as the Cardinals try to get back on track for 2024.