Jordan Montgomery's contract would have been a hefty deal
Again, it's hard to know exactly what Montgomery would have asked for in extension talks, but there is a contract from the 2021-2022 offseason that should give a pretty good framework for Montgomery's deal: Marcus Stroman.
Stroman received a three-year, $71 million deal from the Chicago Cubs with an opt-out after the second season last offseason. Stroman was coming off of a great season, where he posted a 3.02 ERA in 33 starts with the New York Mets. Stroman's career ERA up until that point was 3.63, just a little bit better than Montgomery's current career ERA of 3.82.
$23.6 million annual value on a deal seems about right for what Montgomery would have desired in a deal, but he may have preferred something a bit longer than 3 years as well. Let's say he got $23 million a year over five years, that would have been a contract totaling $115 million for the 30-year-old southpaw.
$7 million or so more a year for Montgomery doesn't sound like a huge jump, but the years required may have made the Cardinals nervous. They just signed Steven Matz to a four-year, $44 million deal, and that's already looking like a disaster. But I think we can all agree that Montgomery is in a different class than Matz, even at the time of Matz's deal.
The tough part to defend for the Cardinals here too is that they didn't have to extend either player during Spring Training. For as much complaining as there was from fans about the lack of clarity in the 2024 rotation, I was not a huge fan of them signing someone now just to provide that certainty.
While I think the Mikolas deal will still look a lot better than it does now, and I liked the deal in a vacuum, the club still needs to go out and get an ace at some point, and has names like Matthew Liberatore, Zack Thompson, Gordon Graceffo, Michael McGreevy, and even Jake Woodford vying for rotation spots next year. Not to mention Tink Hence and Cooper Hjerpe are not far behind. Already guaranteeing spots to Mikolas and Matz makes it difficult to go and get an ace and have opportunities for their young arms, let alone if they were to resign Montgomery.
Did the Cardinals make a mistake extending Mikolas over Montgomery? Well without knowing what Montgomery was asking for, it's hard to say. And even with how rough the start of the year has been for Mikolas, I don't believe he's a bad pitcher now. But a few more months of this and we may have another bad extension on our hands.