This season didn’t go like most seasons. The Cardinals were terrible. I stopped writing here very much, with nothing after the blog anniversary. However, some things must go on and that includes the Exit Interview series! Now in its 12th year, it’s our look back at each player that made an appearance in a game for the St. Louis Cardinals. We’re approaching it a little different this season, a little more literary and a little less statistical, but hopefully you enjoy it just the same. As always, I am grateful that cardinalsgifs has agreed to use his talent for the header image!
Player: Jordan Montgomery
Stats (Cardinals): 6-9, 21 G, 121.0 IP, 116 H, 12 HR, 35 BB, 108 K, 3.42 ERA, 3.73 FIP, 1.248 WHIP, 2.1 bWAR
Statcast (all): 7.5% barrel, 36.3% sweet spot, 114.0 max exit velocity, .298 wOBA, .310 xwOBA, 21.4% K, 6.2% BB
On the one hand, you really wish the Cardinals had been more aggressive in signing Montgomery to an extension in the spring. Granted, he might not have wanted to forgo his chance at free agency, but having a young (he turns 31 two days after Christmas) successful arm in your rotation can go a long way. Montgomery had scuffled in his last four starts of 2022 (6.64 ERA/4.78 FIP in 20.1 innings) so you could understand a little the club wanting to wait and see what they have. They haven’t shown that caution in the past, extending people like Miles Mikolas, Matt Carpenter, Jordan Walden, etc. before they had to make a decision, but it’s fair to assume they didn’t have a full grasp on what Monty was just yet. As the season progressed and he was the one bright spot in the rotation, that decision to pass loomed large.
On the other hand, trading Montgomery brought in one bullpen piece (John King) that isn’t a key or anything but does appear to have value, plus two of the top prospects currently in the Cardinal system (Tekoah Roby and Thomas Saggese). If the club had extended him, it’s unlikely they would have pulled the trigger on shipping him out just a few months later. Indeed, for all their good work at the deadline John Mozeliak and company didn’t trade anyone that still had control, so the restocking of the minors would have had to come another way. Monty also is glad they didn’t extend him because he got a World Series ring out of the deal and, with no qualifying offer, stands to be one of the more notable free agent pitchers on the market.
In between passing Harrison Bader on the way out and King on the way in, Montgomery was a rock for the club. He had a couple of hiccups (including a seven-run beating against the Diamondbacks in April–his game against them in October went slightly better, though with the same result) but for the most part you could count on him to put up a quality start and then see how the game would go south, either a lack of offense or the bullpen being persnickity. If the Cards had had more pitchers like Monty, we’re not talking about a historically bad season.
What’s in store for 2024: Monty is going to get paid. You can’t rule out the Cardinals approaching him this winter, and I always love a trade where eventually both sides of it wind up on the same team, but it also is true the club had their chance and it’s unlikely they’ll have any sort of edge against other suitors during the process. Wherever he winds up, I would expect Montgomery to be a solid #2 in a rotation and have a few more successful seasons.