It’s no secret that the Yankees’ biggest woes last year came from inconsistent pitching.
While Gerrit Cole had Cy Young award-winning outings every fifth day, the rest of the starting pitchers didn’t pull their weight. The jab-and-cross promise of Cole and Carlos Rodón didn’t come to life because of Rodón’s injuries, yielding inconsistent starts when he could take the mound. This problem was exacerbated when the other leftie in the rotation, Nestor Cortes, also suffered a shoulder injury.
Fast forward to this winter: The only pitching the Yankees have gone after and secured was Marcus Stroman. He’s back in the American League for the first time since 2019 when he was traded from Toronto to the Mets. After serving two years in Chicago with the Cubs, his home will be the Bronx for the next two years with an option for a third.
This puts the Bronx Bombers’ current starting rotation as such: Cole, Rodón, Stroman, Cortes, and Clarke Schmidt. Schmidt worked his way up from relieving to starting, amassing a 4.64 ERA, 9-9 record, and 149 strikeouts in the 2023 season over 159.0 innings. At one point in September, he was tied for third in the AL amongst pitchers with the most starts (23) while also allowing three runs or less per outing.
So what’s left in the free agency market for other potential starting pitchers? Let’s take a look.
The LHP had a dominant 2023 season, his third year in San Diego: a 2.25 ERA and 234 strikeouts over 180 innings. Snell had the lowest ERA in the majors last season and placed third in strikeouts. His signature pitch? A simple four-seam fastball, that casually averaged in the mid-90s.
The kicker is the drop-off from there to the rest of his arsenal: After his fastball, his most frequently used pitch is his curveball, clocking in the averaging near 80 mph on the radar gun.
Combine those two starkly different pitches, and you get a high whiff percentage: 51.9% whiff rate on his non-fastballs, the second-best single-season rate by a pitcher behind only Spencer Strider of the Atlanta Braves, according to MLB.com.
Also ready at his disposal is his curveball and a tricky high-80s, low-90s slider with a whopping 29 inches of vertical movement.
In conclusion: it’s hard to get a hit off Blake Snell. He held batters to .181 last season, the second
lowest of his career, so his addition to the Bronx certainly makes him an attractive candidate to don the pinstripes.
Montgomery has a complicated past. He knows the Yankees well — he was with the organization from 2017 until 2022 when he and Harrison Bader swapped places at the trade deadline. After making St. Louis his home stadium for a while, he was traded in 2023 to the Rangers, and we all know how that ended for him.
In all that time, Montgomery’s journey to be the pitcher he is now wasn’t easy. In May 2018, elbow surgery took him out for the rest of the season, and elbow problems peaked from behind the curtains in the following season.
But that’s all the past — let’s call it like it is: Montgomery is a left-handed pitcher with a 3.20 ERA in the 2023 season. This past postseason, he had five starts and contributed 31.0 innings of work, picking up
a 3-1 record and a 2.90 ERA.
His best pitch is arguably his sinker, clocking in the low 90s that not only fires right past a batter but also carries over 20 inches of vertical break and over 15 inches of horizontal break.
With multiple ball clubs around the league looking to sign two of the most potent pitchers, if the Yankees want to learn from last season’s woes, Blake Snell and Jordan Montgomery are terrific pieces to fortify a starting rotation.