The Cincinnati Reds knew they needed to add another starting pitcher to their rotation this offseason. They made they move on Saturday when they agreed to terms with Frankie Montas.
The veteran is reportedly signing a one-year, $16 million contract with Cincinnati. Montas brings talent to the rotation, but unanswered questions remain.
He doesn’t exactly check the box of a reliable starter. He could be, but Montas must answer the all important question: “is he healthy?” He’s shown talent in the past, but underwent right shoulder surgery on his labrum during Spring Training last year.
Montas also admitted that when the Yankees acquired him he wasn’t 100% healthy. Is he healthy now? He’ll have to pass a physical for the deal to become official. Can he still pitch at the level he reached before the injury? He will have to prove that. If he can be his old self, the Reds may have gotten a steal, in more ways than one.
Montas led the American League in games started in 2021 (32). He posted a 3.37 ERA and even had 3.37 FIP, meaning he wasn’t lucky in his good performance. He had 10 strikeouts per nine innings, while walking just 2.7 per nine. He finished sixth in the Cy Young voting in 2021.
He also has a solid ground ball rate at 43.7% for his career. Ground ball pitchers are a requirement at Great American Ballpark.
He also has a five pitch mix. Montas mainly throws his four-seam fastball, split finger, and sinking fastball. He also mixes in a slider and cut fastball. His four-seamer and sinker average around 96 miles-per-hour when he was healthy, but his out pitch is his splitter. He had a 36% whiff rate on that pitch in 2022.
If he is healthy and can get back to his 2021 form, Nick Krall will look like a genius by avoiding a long-term contract with a player that has had an injury history and is on the wrong side of 30. He also avoided any potential overlap when the Reds need to start paying their young core in arbitration.
It’s been clear from the moves the Reds have made that they are avoiding any contracts that are longer than four years. It’s also highly likely that any of the top free agent pitchers were exclusively looking for contracts longer than four years.
There’s talent for pitching coach Derek Johnson to work with, but Montas needs to be healthy.
If that proves to be the case and he can regain his old form, then this move will be an A-plus. As for right now, this move is a solid B-minus.