Image credit: Tekoah Roby #21 of the Frisco RoughRiders delivers a pitch during a game against the Amarillo Sod Poodles at Riders Field on May 16, 2023 in Frisco, Texas. (Photo by Ben Ludeman/Texas Rangers/Getty Images)
Texas has led the league in runs per game for most of the 2023 season. With a potent and deep lineup, the Rangers are busy making sure they have a rotation to match for the postseason. A day after acquiring righthander Max Scherzer from the Mets, Texas added lefthander Jordan Montgomery from St. Louis, further deepening the team’s rotation that has lost Jacob deGrom and Nate Eovaldi to injuries. The Rangers also acquired Aroldis Chapman from the Royals earlier in the season to bolster the bullpen.
The Rangers have managed to make these moves without gutting a solid farm system. While the prospect cost for Scherzer was a Top 100 prospect in Luisangel Acuna (largely because of the salary the Mets were willing to eat in the deal), the acquisition of Montgomery, a free agent at the end of the season, cost a pair of promising prospects from the middle of the Rangers Top 30 as well as a lower-leverage reliever from the big league roster.
For St. Louis, the trade of Montgomery, as well as Sunday’s trade of Jordan Hicks to Toronto, is an acknowledgement of a season that has gone astray. Both pitchers will be free agents at the end of this season.
The Rangers also received bonus pool allotment in the trade.
Jordan Montgomery, LHP
Montgomery immediately slots into the middle of the Rangers’ rotation and should make playoff starts, helping deepen the Rangers rotation. A fourth-round pick of the Yankees out of South Carolina, Montgomery was swapped to the Cardinals at last year’s trade deadline in exchange for Harrison Bader.
Montgomery has lived up to the Cardinals’ expectations as a reliable and durable starter. He’s on pace to make 30 starts for a third consecutive season. He’s worked at least five innings in 18 of his 21 starts this year, and he’s done an excellent job of limiting damage. He’s allowed more than three runs only five times in 21 starts.
Montgomery doesn’t blow hitters away, but with the Cardinals he relied more and more heavily on his effective 92-94 mph sinker. Because of his sinker, curveball and changeup, he’s generally able to handle righthanded hitters with a North-South approach that isn’t particularly platoon dependent. He can change eye levels and will sneak in a four-seam fastball at the top of the zone as well.
Chris Stratton, RHP
Once a top prospect in the Giants’ organization, Stratton has refashioned himself into a durable middle reliever/setup man. He’ll help deepen the Rangers’ bullpen, and has shown that he can take the ball on back-to-back days or work multiple innings as needed. He’s more likely to pitch the sixth or seventh than later innings, but he is generally effective thanks to a starter’s arsenal of pitches in a reliever role. He mixes a 92-94 mph fastball, 78-82 mph downer curveball, a harder, mid-80s slider and an occasional changeup.
Tekoah Roby, RHP
Roby climbed to 13th on the recently updated Rangers Top 30 Prospects list. He’s currently on the injured list with a shoulder injury, but he’s shown signs of being a back-end starter or power reliever. Roby sits 94-97 mph with his fastball. That heater is key to Roby’s arsenal, because everything else he throws is more of a chase pitch than something he regularly locates in the zone. Roby’s low-80s downer curveball is a potentially above-average pitch. He has also added a mid-80s power slider that tunnels well with his fastball, but has modest movement. The Cardinals will have to watch Roby’s health. In addition to this year’s shoulder injury, Roby missed time in 2021 with an elbow strain.
Thomas Saggese, 2B/3B
Ranked 15th on the recently updated Rangers Top 30 Prospects list, Saggese is an impressive hitter with good hands and a knack for squaring balls up. He’s a career .299 minor league hitter, and he leads the Texas League with 115 hits to go with a .314 batting average this year that ranks fifth best in the league. Saggese is an aggressive hitter, but he’s shown better decision making this year. As a hitter, he has a chance to be fringe-average to average with fringe-average power. He’s also a fringe-average runner. The Cardinals have had a knack over the years of helping players with questionable gloves improve. If they can do that with Saggese, they could have something here. Saggese has played everywhere in the infield, but his hands, actions and average arm are best suited for second base, with third base another option.
John King, LHP
King is a lefthanded reliever who fits into the Cardinals’ bullpen as a lower-leverage option. He relied heavily on a sinker and changeup, with a slider that he breaks out almost exclusively against lefties. King is arbitration-eligible for the first time this offseason, and barring some improvements with his new team, could be a non-tender candidate either this offseason or next.