The New York Yankees dealt Jordan Montgomery away at the 2022 MLB trade deadline for homegrown, defense-first center fielder Harrison Bader, who was in a walking boot at the time of the trade.
Any time you can acquire a speed-dependent player who cannot walk without medical-grade footwear, you simply have to do it.
But, regardless of the acquisition target, Montgomery was a non-factor in the Yankees' minds. Brian Cashman seemed happy to upend his clubhouse midseason and get anything for Monty, who he and the team's brass had determined would not be receiving a playoff start.
Predictably, nearly everything that has happened since that moment in time has piled on top of the last embarrassing story, tidbit, or factoid, creating a gigantic, towering middle finger that evokes the seminal pile at Burning Man. And Montgomery might've put the capper on that flipped bird with his brilliant Game 1 playoff start on Tuesday -- on the road in Tampa, a house of horrors in which the Yankees have historically been dominated.
Yankees shouldn't have let Jordan Montgomery, "non-playoff factor," go
Even if Montgomery peaked in Tuesday's spotlight, that singular start -- as well as the innings he would've been able to soak up down the stretch in 2022 -- would've been more valuable to the Yankees than Bader's playoff spurt and subsequent partial campaign. Yes, Bader did return in late September, once the division had already been decided and crisis had been averted. Yes, he did drill three homers in the ALDS and two in the ALCS -- and thank goodness. Otherwise, the Yankees might've been swept by the Astros in three games instead of four, somehow. Bader's October heater only saved the Yankees from an 11-out-of-10 pantsing rather than the 10-out-of-10 variety they actually delivered (and one of his DS homers came in a disastrous Game 3 loss).
Did Bader's skills "translate in a short series," as Jack Curry communicated the team believed they might last summer? Absolutely. But nothing the rest of the team tried translated whatsoever, as Nestor Cortes, Jameson Taillon, Luis Severino, and even Gerrit Cole failed to keep the Astros at bay. Is it "hindsight" to call this trade a failure? Sure, but ... isn't that how you evaluate things? The Bader swap looked redeemable for one brief twinkle last October. Otherwise, it represented exactly what we'd feared it would be at the time of the trade: a chemistry killer and a subtraction of valuable innings via unforced error (Severino and Cortes immediately got hurt following the deadline).
Even we didn't know Montgomery could do this, though. And you know why we didn't know it? Because the Yankees had him all wrong, deemphasizing his fastball by design until Cardinals pitching guru Mike Maddux unlocked it. The Yankees liked his offspeed; the Cards liked the total package, immediately lowering his ERA by a half-run and piloting him to a complete-game shutout at Wrigley, lengthening his leash along the way.
When St. Louis face-planted in 2023, they sent him to Texas midseason, where he continued to earn himself a thick contract, punctuating it with seven shutout innings -- and a cat-like diving play on a bunt attempt that belongs in the MLB version of "One Shining Moment" -- at the dimly-lit Floridian balloon where the Yankees never win.
The only consolation we have is in our collective imagination, but it does feel pretty good to think about Cashman claiming Montgomery wouldn't be a playoff contributor, then being shown footage of an outing that would qualify as a top-five Yankees playoff start since 2009. Unfortunately, the 2022 Yankees "pulled a Giancarlo Stanton" (misjudged a fastball) and let Monty escape their grasp.