Many Rangers fans have thought throughout the offseason that an eventual reunion with left-hander Jordan Montgomery made good sense and would represent the team’s big splash in free agency this winter. Reporting connecting the two sides has been sparse, however, outside of general speculation on the strength of the fit and the Rangers’ need for durable innings. Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News casts even more doubt on the Rangers’ chances of re-signing Montgomery in his latest mailbag column.
Grant has written previously that a deal between the two sides doesn’t seem likely, though some Rangers fans might’ve hoped that the recent resolution of the team’s television situation for the 2024 season might bring about a long-awaited agreement. A deal still feels like a reach, Grant suggests, rightly pointing out that given the team’s current luxury tax status, Montgomery would likely cost the Rangers more than $30MM this season. Texas will be a second-time luxury payor this season and already has $243MM of projected luxury obligations, per Roster Resource. They’ll pay a 30% tax on any dollars up to $257MM, plus a 42% tax on the next $20MM they spend.
That outlook doesn’t necessarily mean the Rangers can’t bring in Montgomery under any circumstances, but the team has operated with a good bit of financial restraint throughout the winter. Signing Montgomery would mean pushing their 2025 contractual commitments to around $160MM a full year in advance and would give the Rangers well over $100MM in guarantees on the books as far out as 2027. (Currently, they have $94.5MM committed to the 2027 roster.)
Furthermore, WEEI’s Rob Bradford reports that the Rangers haven’t been “actively involved” in Montgomery’s market for some time now due to the lefty’s price tag. Again, that doesn’t close the door entirely, but it’s another indicator that a Rangers/Montgomery reunion is hardly the fait accompli that some have suggested it to be.
If not Texas, there are a handful of other teams that have been connected to Montgomery — the Giants, Angels, Yankees, Red Sox and Phillies among them. Jon Heyman of the New York Post writes that the Angels remain in contact with Montgomery and agent Scott Boras (who also reps Blake Snell). The Angels currently project for a $173MM payroll — about $40MM shy of last year’s franchise-record mark — and are nearly $50MM from the first luxury tax threshold. Owner Arte Moreno has historically avoided long-term deals for pitchers, however, and Heyman suggests he’s yet to green-light his front office on the addition of a pitcher of this caliber.
On the Phillies, specifically, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale wrote recently that several executives around the league suspect the Phillies may be waiting to see if the price point on any of the remaining top-tier free agents drops to the point where they can make an opportunistic addition.
That’s largely speculative from what seems like a series of non-Phillies sources, but it’s worth noting that Philadelphia president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski at least alluded to something along those lines in a radio appearance on Wednesday. Dombrowski noted that he’s happy with his rotation and with his lineup but also wouldn’t definitively rule out making another addition if the circumstances become favorable enough: “I can’t tell you that somebody doesn’t fall into your lap at some point where you say, ’Gee, that’s an opportunity we can’t turn down,’” the Phillies’ president stated on 94 WIP.
As with the Rangers, the Phillies are projected luxury tax payors. They’re $5MM from the second threshold and, as a third-time payor, would pay a 50% tax on their next roughly $5MM and then 62% on the next $20MM after that. Signing Montgomery at a $25MM AAV, for instance, would cost the Phils $14.9MM in taxes (nearly $40MM in total for this season alone, assuming an even distribution of the yearly salaries in that theoretical scenario). Perhaps if Montgomery’s price drops and the Phillies begin to lose confidence in their ability to extend Zack Wheeler, that might begin to sound more palatable, but signing him would be a rather costly endeavor at the moment, given the team’s tax outlook.
Montgomery, 31, has made at least 30 starts in each of the past three seasons. In that time, he’s pitched 524 1/3 innings of 3.48 ERA ball with a 22.5% strikeout rate, a 6.2% walk rate, a 44.5% ground-ball rate and just 1.00 HR/9. His 2023 campaign was arguably the finest of his career, featuring a personal-best 188 2/3 innings of 3.20 ERA ball, plus another 31 innings of 2.90 ERA ball in the postseason — a strong performance that helped push the Rangers to their first-ever World Series title.