When the New York Yankees acquired Frankie Montas at last summer's trade deadline, they thought they were getting the second-best pitcher on the market behind Luis Castillo, a big-bodied hurler whose power sinker would fit in perfectly in the Bronx. Worried about him as a No. 2 starter, due to his road ERA? Fine. But he was supposed to be a No. 3 or 4. Life was good.
At least, that's what the team medical staff told Brian Cashman.
The main concern surrounding Montas, at the time, was a shoulder issue that had barked in early July of 2022. He left a start with shoulder inflammation, then skipped several weeks of action leading up to the deadline (and encompassing the All-Star break) despite a clean MRI.
Were the Yankees trading for a fully-unleashed Montas, or was he coming with potential complications? According to everyone involved, the risk was worth the reward (and, potentially, the acquisition cost was lessened due to the possibility of Shoulder Bust).
We all know what happened next. Montas made eight starts for the 2022 Yankees, mostly subpar, and was shut down in September with recurring shoulder issues. He was activated for the ALCS unexpectedly and allowed a home run to the Astros almost immediately upon entering Game 1. He then suffered a setback in his rehab this offseason, leading to an eventual surgery to clean up the affected area.
And, as Montas made clear speaking with Bryan Hoch this week, he "wasn't 100%" when he arrived in the Bronx. It only got worse from there.
Yankees pitcher Frankie Montas recovery timeline: He'll be back in 2023
What did Cashman know, and when did he know it? Who ordered the Code Red?
As my good friend and cohost Robert Murray said on this week's episode of The Baseball Insiders (plugs don't get more shameless than that), the Yankees should operate this season as if Montas isn't returning. They should make acquisitions and shore up their depth under the assumption that they don't have a former All-Star returning to occupy the fifth starter spot at any point.
Montas, though, seems determined to prove that assumption wrong. After a cleanup procedure that was deemed routine by all involved, he thinks he'll be playing catch in 9-10 weeks and will return sometime in 2023. Based on previous timelines, the best-case scenario for a return would seem to be August.
That means, through no fault of his own, Montas will, at best, have a few months of his Yankees tenure to justify the admitted risk Cashman took by acquiring him. But you knew that even before he told you.