Frankie Montas has been on the trade block so long, he put up four houses and a hotel there. Fortunately for everyone concerned, he’s got a new home, as the Yankees sent a four-player package to Oakland for Montas and reliever Lou Trivino, a deal that feels like Oakland sold low and didn’t get enough for a year-plus of a viable major-league starter plus a competent reliever who was quite good just a year ago.
Montas didn’t have a full, healthy season as a starter in the majors until 2021, when he was worth 3.6 WAR, a year in which he also didn’t show a huge home/road split for a change. Since the start of 2020, Montas has a 4.70 ERA away from Oakland, allowing 57 percent of his homers in 40 percent of his innings. He has big velocity and a plus splitter, allowing him to get hitters on both sides out, with a short slider that’s more effective because he doesn’t overuse it. He has above-average control but fringy command, especially of the fastball. He’s an above-average starter, as long as he’s healthy, because of the pure stuff. But I worry about him moving away from one of the most forgiving ballparks in baseball. He gives the Yankees a solid replacement for Luis Severino, who was moved to the 60-day IL on Monday. But Montas also left his July 3 start with a sore shoulder, and while he has made two starts since skipping a pair, it’s one small reason to question Montas’ reliability for the rest of the year.
The Yankees also added right-handed reliever Lou Trivino, who was worth over 1 WAR in 73 innings last year but has been hit much harder this year, especially on his four-seamer and sinker, a combination of bad luck and bad location. They did need another right-handed reliever after Michael King went down for the year, and Trivino could fill that gap.
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Oakland did not do well here, although it’s possible Montas’ injuries just became too much for buyers. Left-hander Ken Waldichuk is a big strikeout guy, working heavily off a mid-90s fastball with high spin and movement, and pairing it with an above-average slider. He has below-average command, his changeup isn’t very good, and he shows a large platoon split, enough that I think he’s much more likely to end up a reliever — and that’s before we talk about the very long arm action.
Right-hander Luis Medina is the big wild card in the deal, as he’s been up to 100 mph and can show the makings of four above-average pitches with a good delivery, but he has always had trouble throwing strikes. He’s at a 13 percent walk rate this year, which is his career-best for a season; back in 2018 he walked one in every four batters he faced, so he’s cut his walk rate by half. If you just watched him warm up, or throw a sim game, you’d think he was a future No. 1 starter. Maybe he can still get there, but he has to figure it out soon, as he’s got one option left and thus will likely have to clear waivers to go back to the minors after 2023.
JP Sears is a left-handed reliever who gets some carry on the fastball from a low slot and has an above-average slider, so he’s really effective against left-handed batters, but is probably a last-man-on-a-staff reliever on a decent team. Cooper Bowman was the Yankees’ fourth-round pick last year out of the University of Louisville but isn’t producing in High A and has no clear position — he can’t play the middle infield, at least, and if he doesn’t do something besides draw walks, it doesn’t really matter where he plays. This is a really underwhelming return after months of Montas trade rumors. The A’s could end up getting enough value here in the end, but someone is going to have to well exceed reasonable expectations for that to happen.
The Yankees did also make a modest trade with the Cubs, dealing right-handed pitching prospect Hayden Wesneski for right-handed reliever Scott Effross. Effross is 28 and has developed a slider that’s an out pitch for him in one-inning looks. He throws a ton of strikes, but given his age and the volatility of middle relievers, I’m trading that type of guy for Wesneski every time. Wesneski is a three-pitch starter who’s had success all the way up to Triple A, with an above-average slider and a changeup that has more disappointment than I’d expect just from the pitch’s velocity and shape. I worry that the fastball is too true and major-league hitters will square it up, but he goes from 93-96 mph as a starter to 95-100 mph in relief, and that gives the Cubs a nice floor on the acquisition. He could easily be as good as Effross in a year or two.
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