Jordan Montgomery Vests 2025 Player Option

Jordan Montgomery took the ball for the Diamondbacks tonight in their series opener against the Angels. It’s the tenth start of the season for the left-hander, an expected but notable threshold. It officially unlocks a 2025 player option in his contract with a base value of $20MM.

Montgomery had a disappointing first trip through free agency last winter. While he reportedly set out in search of a deal approaching or exceeding the seven years and $172MM which Aaron Nola received from the Phillies, that didn’t materialize. Montgomery lingered on the market longer than any other top free agent before agreeing to terms with the Diamondbacks just before Opening Day. He signed a one-year guarantee with a $25MM salary and the conditional player option.

That triggers at $20MM with his tenth start. Its value would escalate to $22.5MM at 18 starts and max out at $25MM if he starts 23 games. Montgomery wasn’t equipped to make his team debut until April 19. He needed a couple Triple-A appearances to build his workload after sitting out during Spring Training. He’ll still have plenty of time to get to 23 starts and maximize the option value if he stays healthy.

At signing, the conditional player option looked more like injury protection than anything else. Montgomery certainly anticipated declining it and heading back to free agency in search of the long-term deal that eluded him last offseason. Yet his early-season performance hasn’t positioned him well for a return trip to the market.

After tossing 5 2/3 innings of three-run ball tonight, Montomgery carries a 6.58 earned run average across 52 innings. He has punched out just 13.7% of batters faced — easily the lowest rate of his career and nearly eight percentage points below last season’s 21.4% mark. His 8.2% walk rate is a couple points above its typical level. Montgomery entered tonight’s outing averaging roughly 92 MPH on both his sinker and four-seam fastball. Each pitch sat north of 93 MPH last year.

It’s difficult to say how much of that drop-off is attributable to Montgomery’s late signing and atypical preparation for the season. Perhaps he’ll find the extra tick of velocity and more closely resemble his old self as the year progresses. Before his stint in the desert, Montgomery had been the picture of consistency. He reached the 30-start threshold in each season between 2021-23. The southpaw allowed between three and four earned runs per nine with solid strikeout and walk rates in all three years.

Signing Montgomery punctuated an aggressive offseason for an Arizona team looking to build off its Cinderella pennant run. The Snakes had already brought back Lourdes Gurriel Jr., acquired Eugenio Suárez and landed Eduardo Rodriguez on a four-year deal to stabilize the rotation. None of those transactions is off to an auspicious start. Gurriel is hitting at a league average level. Montgomery has struggled. Suárez has hit poorly enough that the Snakes are reportedly considering alternatives at third base and could try to offload some of his $12MM salary. Rodriguez suffered a lat strain during Spring Training and has been on the injured list all season.

That has contributed to a disappointing 31-35 start that has Arizona sitting in fourth place in the NL West. The prevailing mediocrity beyond the top four teams in the National League nevertheless provides hope for everyone other than the Rockies and Marlins. The final two Wild Card spots are currently held by teams at or below .500. Despite being four games under, the Snakes are one game out of the postseason picture.

Along with Rodriguez’s absence, the D-Backs have been without Zac Gallen and Merrill Kelly for the past few weeks. Montgomery is the most established member of a rotation that also includes Brandon PfaadtRyne Nelson and Slade Cecconi at the moment. Gallen and Kelly have begun throwing programs.

Since Montgomery opened the season on an assignment to Triple-A, he will not be eligible for a qualifying offer if he hits free agency next winter. His slow start and the player option would complicate any efforts to trade him if Arizona falls out of the playoff race. The D-Backs have roughly $64MM in guaranteed commitments for next season, as calculated by RosterResource.

Montgomery’s option could push that into the $84-89MM range depending on how many starts he makes. The D-Backs will almost certainly exercise a $7MM option to retain Kelly and would owe Gallen a raise on this year’s $10.011MM salary for his final year of arbitration. Christian WalkerJoc Pederson and Paul Sewald are their top impending free agents. Montgomery could still join them, but it’d take a better second half than he has managed thus far. If he does retest the market, he’ll be doing so with new representation. Montgomery switched from the Boras Corporation to Wasserman in April.

Image courtesy of USA Today Sports.

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