Montas grinding to give the Reds a full season of work

January 29th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Mark Sheldon’s Reds Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

DAYTON, Ohio -- No lofty predictions, no extravagant chasing of numbers. 

One of the Reds' more critical free-agent acquisitions this winter, starting pitcher is keeping his 2024 aspirations very simple. 

“Just being able to make every start, that would be a win for me," Montas told on Saturday. "To go out there every five days and do my best. For me, that’s my main goal.”

Montas was among members of the club who appeared at the north leg of the Reds Caravan stop at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton. Also part of the group was manager David Bell. 

On Jan. 2, Cincinnati signed Montas to a one-year, $16 million contract with a $20 million mutual option for '25 that has a $2 million buyout. The deal came with some risk since Montas spent the past two seasons dealing with right shoulder issues. 

In February 2023 with the Yankees, Montas had arthroscopic surgery on his right shoulder and was limited to one relief appearance for 1 1/3 innings in September.

Hence, the modest expectations. But Montas, who turns 31 on March 21, has maintained multiple times this offseason that he's fully recovered. He noted on Saturday that he's been throwing to hitters in live batting practice without issue at a facility in Arizona to get ready for Spring Training. 

“It’s going pretty good," Montas said. “It feels good just to throw the ball and see it coming out nice and feeling good the day after.”

Cincinnati saw plenty of potential upside before adding Montas, especially when looking at his 2021 season for the A's. That year, he was 13-9 with a 3.37 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP and 207 strikeouts in 32 starts and 187 innings. Oakland moved him to the Yankees at the 2022 Trade Deadline. 

Before the trade, Montas had a 3.18 ERA and a 1.14 WHIP in 19 starts for the A's. In eight starts for New York, he had a 6.35 ERA and 1.54 WHIP before going on the injured list with right shoulder inflammation. 

The Reds, who are focused on making the postseason following an 82-win season in 2023 that saw their rotation depth decimated by injuries, also viewed Montas as someone who could take pressure off its stable of young starters.

As the club spent north of $108 million on free agents this winter, Bell felt the Reds focused on adding quality people to the clubhouse and considered that as critical as talent. 

“I think that is something you can’t always put your finger on, but it’s just something I know in my gut that it’s really important to our success. Frankie is another guy that fits in that way, from a character standpoint," Bell said. "He’s had a lot of success in his career. We know if he’s healthy, he’s a really good pitcher. We feel good about his health. He provides some of that veteran presence to our rotation.”

Montas is ready to pitch, and do whatever he can to make the younger guys better.

“I feel like with the talent they have, it will be easy to go out there," he said. "My main goal is to go out there, perform and pitch. If I can help the other pitchers -- in any way and any type of area -- I am willing to help.”