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Thoughts on the Scherzer and Montgomery trades

Texas adds more pitchers to the mix

Miami Marlins v St. Louis Cardinals Photo by Scott Kane/Getty Images

That was an exciting weekend for the Texas Rangers — off the field, anyway. While the Rangers were getting swept in San Diego, the front office was busy shoring up the pitching staff, making a couple of big trades that landed two starters and a reliever.

With the trio of Max Scherzer, Jordan Montgomery and Chris Stratton expected to be activated tomorrow, there will need to be three moves made to clear roster spots on the active roster. With that caveat, here’s what I would expect the pitching staff to look like when the Rangers play the White Sox on Tuesday:


Max Scherzer

Jordan Montgomery

Jon Gray

Martin Perez

Andrew Heaney or Dane Dunning


Will Smith

Aroldis Chapman

Brock Burke

Josh Sborz

Chris Stratton

Jose Leclerc

Andrew Heaney or Dane Dunning

Grant Anderson


Spencer Howard

Yerry Rodriguez

Cody Bradford

This is my best guess. Maybe Martin Perez goes to the bullpen instead of Heaney or Dunning. Maybe Anderson gets sent down and one of the three guys I have optioned stays up. Maybe someone ends up on the injured list unexpectedly.

But for now, that would be my assumption. I’ve seen folks argue for keeping Cody Bradford up, but it seems like he would be better served going to AAA and staying stretched out in case he is needed for a spot start, rather than being a swingman in the pen. Dunning or Heaney would seem to be in a place to fill the role Bradford has had in the pen the past month or so.

During the offseason after all these pitcher signings we were saying, well, at least we won’t have to worry about being buyers for starting pitching at the deadline. That ended up not working out as we expected. That being said, I think one of the issues that we all acknowledged was that there were health and durability issues around the starting pitchers the Rangers added. Jacob deGrom is Jacob deGrom. Nathan Eovaldi has thrown 160 innings in a season once, and is already at his fifth highest single season inning total in the majors. Andrew Heaney has totaled 130 innings just once in his major league career, and is already at his fourth highest single season innings total.

So we knew we weren’t getting a group of Sandy Alcantaras. And that’s why the Rangers had Jake Odorizzi on board as well, with an eye towards him filling a swingman/spot starter role in the pen. That’s why they hung onto Dane Dunning, figuring him for the seventh starter, and Glenn Otto behind him. The Rangers knew they were going to need starting pitching depth.

We know what happened from there. deGrom was great for six starts, went on the injured list in late April, and is now out until late next year. Jake Odorizzi never threw a pitch for the Rangers and is out for the year. Glenn Otto started the season on the 60 day injured list. Jack Leiter and Cole Winn did not rebound from disappointing 2022 campaigns, as was hoped.

So the rotation became Eovaldi, Gray, Perez, Heaney and Dunning. Perez and Heaney have disappointed. Gray has struggled with consistency and health issues. Eovaldi had his start against Houston skipped, and now has just landed on the injured list with a sore elbow. Suddenly, fortifications for the rotation became an area of need.

Enter Max Scherzer and Jordan Montgomery.

Montgomery is the pitcher who I have had at the top of my wish list for a while now. He is a perfectly acceptable #3 starter for a playoff team. Since the start of the 2021 season, he has put up a 3.59 ERA — good for a 115 ERA+ — and a 3.67 FIP. And critically, given the reliability questions that so many members of the Rangers rotation have, he makes his starts. Montgomery had 30 starts in 2021 for 157 innings, 32 starts for 178 innings last year, and 21 starts for 121 innings so far this year.

In Montgomery, you have someone who, based on his recent track record, will take the ball every fifth day and give you six innings. Its a stabilizing presence for the Rangers’ rotation.

Then there’s Max Scherzer. While Montgomery is the boring if reliable addition to the rotation, Scherzer is the wild card. After putting up a scintillating 2.29 ERA for the Mets in 23 starts last year, Father Time appears to have caught up with Scherzer, who turned 39 last week. His 4.01 ERA gives him a basically league average 102 ERA+ on the year. His 4.72 FIP is worse. His walk rate is up, and his home run rate is way up.

But he’s also Max Scherzer, Future Hall of Famer, veteran of 27 postseason appearances over 18 postseason series. He may be a lion in winter, but he’s still a damn lion. Thrust into a playoff race, he may well get back on track and be, if not Peak Scherzer, at least Really Good Scherzer.

Or Scherzer could strain an oblique and miss the rest of the year. There’s just no telling!

I do think its clear that the Rangers value Max Scherzer’s presence, on the roster and in the clubhouse, beyond just what he does on the mound. Much like the aggressive early signing of Jacob deGrom made a statement that The Rangers Aren’t Fucking Around this past offseason, going and getting Scherzer, and ensuring he will be around in 2024, is intended to send a message, both inside the clubhouse and to the rest of the league (particularly come free agent time this offseason).

With Scherzer having exercised his player option for 2024, the Rangers now are in a position where they can look at their 2024 rotation thusly:






With Cody Bradford and Owen White behind them, and deGrom, hopefully, back for the final month or two of the 2024 regular season.

It doesn’t mean that the Rangers aren’t going out and adding to that group, even if all five of those guys make it to the end of 2023 in one piece. But it at least puts you in a position where you’ve got established pieces potentially in place for all five spots, rather than having to get someone just so you can fill a gaping hole.

Meanwhile, the bullpen has been the big point of concern for much of the season. The only reliever added in these deals is Chris Stratton, another rental who is just a guy rather than an impact bullpen piece. I’d go so far to say that, if the Rangers make a move for an impact bullpen guy, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Stratton flipped to another team today.

However, in adding Scherzer and Montgomery, the Rangers are able to move one current member of the rotation to the bullpen, with another going to the pen once Nathan Eovaldi returns. If the bullpen gets Dane Dunning back in the role he had early in the year, that would be a shot in the arm, I would think. Aside from the fact that, if Montgomery and Scherzer can consistently give you six innings apiece, you take some pressure off the pen.

In giving up Luisangel Acuna, Thomas Saggese, T.K. Roby and John King, the Rangers paid a not insignificant price to bolster their rotation. Acuna, in particular, seems a steep price for the Scherzer cypher.

But Acuna and Saggese had no clear paths to future playing time in the majors. There are questions about whether Acuna will stick at shortstop, or whether he will move to second base, which would make him less valuable. There are questions about where Saggese will play, period, in what seems somewhat reminiscent of the Nick Solak conundrum once upon a time. These are guys whose value to the Rangers, given the makeup of the team, was almost assuredly going to be in what they could bring back via a trade, rather than what they would do in the majors for Texas.

Roby could come back to haunt Texas. He could be a solid major league starter, the type of guy the Rangers never seem to be able to develop. He’s also been dogged by injuries, and one of a number of arms the Rangers have in the upper minors.

The Rangers gave up a lot to get two months of Jordan Montgomery and Chris Stratton and one year and two months of Max Scherzer. That’s always the case when you’re buying at the deadline. But a big part of why you build up your farm system is so that you can afford to pay these prices when you’re a playoff contender and you are looking at add at the trade deadline. And the system is far from gutted as a result of these moves.

It was an interesting weekend. It should be an interesting final two months. Let’s strap in.