Rangers add lefty Montgomery for playoff push: 'We're in a great spot'

July 31st, 2023

SAN DIEGO -- A day after getting Max Scherzer from the Mets, and the same day Nathan Eovaldi went on the 15-day injured list with a right forearm strain, the Rangers made another big pitching move on Sunday during their 5-3 loss to the Padres at Petco Park. This time, Texas landed lefty starter from the Cardinals.

The Rangers also acquired right-handed reliever , with Texas sending two Top 30 prospects -- righty Tekoah Roby and infielder Thomas Saggese -- and lefty pitcher to St. Louis. Roby and Saggese were the No. 11 and No. 14 prospects, respectively, in the Rangers' system, per MLB Pipeline.

Rangers get: LHP Jordan Montgomery, RHP Chris Stratton, international bonus pool money
Cardinals get: INF prospect Thomas Saggese, RHP prospect Tekoah Roby, LHP John King

“We had an opportunity to acquire another starting pitcher and a veteran reliever that we think will both help us,” Rangers GM Chris Young said. “Jordan Montgomery is having a tremendous year. We felt like he was one of the better starters on the market. And given where we are, that we needed to continue to upgrade our rotation. We addressed that. 

“Chris Stratton is going to slide right into the bullpen, and I think that it's going to take a little pressure off some of the young guys that we've been depending on. We're excited to get them both.”

The Rangers continued to make improvements to the roster, and specially the pitching staff, over the weekend as they were swept in the three-game series. It was only the second time Texas has been swept this season. 

“I like where we are right now,” Young said. “I think that by improving our starting pitching, we're going to make our bullpen better. I think today is a perfect example of just relying on too many outs from the bullpen early in the game. In the last month, we've been doing that too often. So now can we back those guys up, put them in the right roles and is it going to make the bullpen better?”

Both Montgomery and Stratton were in St. Louis during Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux’s tenure with the Cardinals. Montgomery told the St. Louis media on Sunday that he was excited to reconnect with Maddux in Texas. 

“I think [the familiarity] builds an instant trust, to some degree,” Young said of Maddux’s connection to the players. “There's going to be times where you can't get players that you're perfectly familiar with, but we've done our research. We think they're both great people, they're going to fit right in our clubhouse and they're going to make us better as a team. And we're excited to get involved.”

Montgomery, who pitched for the Yankees over five-plus seasons before being sent to St. Louis last year for Harrison Bader, can become a free agent at the end of this season after signing a one-year, $10 million deal with the Cardinals for 2023. He has a 3.42 ERA (126 ERA+) and 108 strikeouts over 21 starts this year.

The 30-year-old was one of the best on the market before Tuesday’s Trade Deadline and bolsters a rotation that was in need of more quality innings.

Stratton has posted a 4.36 ERA for the Cardinals this season but would still be an upgrade in the bullpen. He has 59 strikeouts and 17 walks in 53 2/3 innings. Entering Sunday, the Rangers’ bullpen had a 4.80 ERA, the fourth-worst in MLB. The Rangers earlier bolstered the bullpen with another trade acquisition in Aroldis Chapman.

When Eovaldi returns, which the club expects shouldn't be long, the Rangers will have seven starting pitchers after the additions of Scherzer and Montgomery. Two of Dane Dunning, Andrew Heaney and Martín Pérez will be options to move to the bullpen.

Pitching was the obvious need for the Rangers, but the sweep at the hands of the Padres accentuated the struggles of the offense without injured All-Stars Corey Seager and Jonah Heim. Seager is progressing well, but Texas could be without Heim for several weeks.

“Getting Corey back will be huge,” Young said. “Our offense is very good. We have versatility, we have depth and we’ll stay open minded on the best ways to improve the club. We have internal options too. There's some guys playing very well in [Triple-A) Round Rock that could come up and provide a spark or a boost at some point.

“That said, I love the group we have. I like the moves we've made. I think that we're in a great spot, and I'm excited to continue to move forward.”