No American League starter with at least 200 innings pitched over the last two seasons has a lower ERA than Chris Bassitt. Even then, the most intriguing starter for the Athletics is Frankie Montas.
Montas, 28, is coming off a terrific season where he posted a 3.37 ERA (121 ERA+) and 3.37 FIP in an AL-leading 32 starts. Montas bounced back from a forgettable 2020 to set career highs in innings (187), strikeouts (207), and Wins Above Replacement (3.7).
Traded three times in as many years, Montas is no stranger to changing organizations. The Red Sox signed him as a teenager out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 and traded him to the White Sox in 2013.
Chicago then moved him to the Dodgers in a three-team deal to acquire Todd Frazier in 2015. Finally, Montas settled in with Oakland after another deal just eight months later. Jharel Cotton, whom the Twins just claimed, was also a part of that deal.
After a tumultuous start to his career, Montas finally hit his stride in 2019 with a terrific 2.70 ERA and 2.90 through his first 15 starts. Then, more adversity. MLB suspended Montas for 80 games after he tested positive for a performance-enhancing substance. He returned for one start in September but was ineligible for the postseason.
Montas has a high-spin, upper 90s fastball that he could work up in the zone more. Like Bassitt, he overuses a mediocre-to-poor sinker. His splitter is terrific, with an expected batting average of .134 at a whiff rate over 50%.
Montas’ splitter was the fourth-best in baseball in 2021 and produced the highest swing-and-miss rate among starters. Lefties destroyed his sinker, hinting that he needs to up the usage of that nasty split.
He’s already excellent against right-handed hitters, holding them to a .295 On-Base Percentage and .660 OPS in 2021. There’s more to unlock here.
Montas is under contract for two more seasons with an estimated salary of $5.2 million in his second year of arbitration. With a raise in 2023, Montas is probably holding a two-year, $13-15M price tag.
Unlike Sean Manaea and Bassitt, who are free agents after 2022, Montas’ two remaining arbitration years theoretically double his value. If the Athletics are serious about resetting, it’s fair to assume they’d be looking for close-to-the-majors players in return.
According to MLB Trade Simulators, an imperfect tool, the Twins would need to part with a value that equates to a package of Ryan Jeffers and Trevor Larnach. If Montas replicates his 2021 season for the next two years, that’s a fair price to pay.
The enticing part of this deal is the upside. Montas, like Luis Castillo, is in his prime and harnesses some of the best stuff in the majors. With a few tweaks, the Twins could oversee a complete breakout from the promising right-hander.
What do you think? Should the Twins pursue Frankie Montas? Comment below!