When the Texas Rangers got their hands on left-handed pitcher Jordan Montgomery from the St. Louis Cardinals, they deployed him in a manner unthinkable to the Cardinals staff: The Rangers let Montgomery pitch deep into games.
In Montgomery's 32 starts with the Cardinals, he went seven innings only three times. After the trade to the Rangers, he pitched seven innings four times in only 11 starts. The long leash the Rangers have given Montgomery has paid off handsomely: He has a 2.79 ERA in 67.2 innings and a career-low walk rate of 1.7 batters per nine innings. In the postseason this year, he has thrown 17.1 innings and given up four earned runs.
The Cardinals have been criticized of late for being behind the times when it comes to pitching analytics, but with Montgomery, the team's relatively new-school approach of limiting a starting pitcher's workload may have cost them.
Montgomery was the Cardinals' de facto ace during his time with the team, and it appears that the Rangers have put more trust in Montgomery than the Cardinals did. Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux might have something to do with that. Maddux was the pitching coach for the Cardinals last season and became acquainted with Montgomery, so it's possible that Maddux was familiar with Montgomery's potential and Rangers manager Bruce Bochy allowed Montgomery to pitch longer outings.
The Cardinals might have fumbled by letting Montgomery walk in free agency. Although he is a client of Scott Boras, an agent notorious for persuading his clients to pursue free agency, Montgomery made it clear before Spring Training in 2023 that he was open to an extension. With precious few rotation spots filled for 2024, the Cardinals would have benefited from taking the chance.
If the Cardinals choose to re-sign Montgomery after he likely seeks free agency once the postseason wraps up, he will command a large contract — one the Cardinals will likely deem too expensive and risky, especially after their poor record with free-agent pitchers in recent years.
Although this postseason is suggesting that the Cardinals missed an opportunity, there is a silver lining to trading him to Texas, which is the return the Cardinals received for him. Thomas Saggese was dominant during his time in Double-A Springfield after the Cardinals acquired him, and while he was more pedestrian in Triple-A, the Cardinals should still be high on the youngster, as they should with the other prospect they received, Tekoah Roby.
The Cardinals' treatment of Montgomery throughout his tenure in St. Louis was often frustrating given his clear talent. Perhaps this will be another learning opportunity in a time where the Cardinals have been exposed to a host of rude awakenings.