The Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals have agreed to a five-player trade built around left-handed starter Jordan Montgomery. The Rangers will also receive right-handed reliever Chris Stratton, while the Cardinals gain left-hander John King, right-hander Tekoah Roby, and infielder Thomas Saggese. The teams announced the trade on Sunday afternoon.
Montgomery, 30, is an impending free agent who was arguably the best starting pitcher remaining on the market. He'll join the Rangers having amassed a 3.42 ERA (126 ERA+) and a 3.09 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 21 starts. Montgomery's addition completes an eventful 24 hours for the Rangers rotation: Texas acquired Max Scherzer from the New York Mets on Saturday, and placed ace right-hander Nathan Eovaldi on the injured list earlier Sunday. (You can read our trade grades on the Scherzer deal here.)
We here at CBS Sports are the judgmental type. As such, we contribute to the Deadline Discourse by handing out instant analysis in the form of trade grades. We make no bones about these aging well, but if you take them for what they are -- snapshots in time -- then you should find them agreeable enough. Plus, would you rather think about all the existential horrors abound?
Before we begin, here's a recap of the trade in its full glory:
- Rangers receive: LHP Jordan Montgomery and RHP Chris Stratton
- Cardinals receive: LHP John King, RHP Tekoah Roby and INF Thomas Saggese
Now, onto the gasbaggery.
Rangers grade: A
Give Chris Young credit. He seems determined to make the most of this season. The Rangers might be the year's most surprising team, and rather than settle for making their first trip to the postseason since 2016, Young is doing what he can do to deliver the organization's first World Series title. If that means trading from the second and third tiers of the farm system, so be it. No one wakes up from a champagne hangover thinking about prospect rankings.
Besides, Young seems to understand this much: you don't go out and sign Corey Seager, Marcus Semien, Jacob deGrom, and others only to chicken out at the deadline. In a year like this, with a team like this, you should take your swings. You don't have to burn the ships -- Young has held onto top prospect Evan Carter, as well as promising teenage shortstop Sebastian Walcott -- but you owe it to your clubhouse and your fan base to be responsibly aggressive. The first step toward building a dynasty is winning World Series ring No. 1. Too many executives seem to forget that around this time of the year.
Compared to some of the other additions the Rangers have made to their rotation over the past year -- ahem, Scherzer and deGrom -- Montgomery isn't particularly flashy. He doesn't throw hard, he doesn't miss a high rate of bats, and he isn't an elite contact suppressor. Montgomery has developed into a fairly reliable quantity in a few key respects, though, and that makes him valuable. He throws strikes, he works deep into games (he's lasted six innings or more in 13 of his 21 starts), and he's required just a single IL stint (lasting two weeks) since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2019.
Montgomery raises the floor of the Rangers rotation in more ways than one. He'll serve as an insurance policy in case Eovaldi's injury is worse than suspected, or someone else goes down (physically or statistically) between now and October. And just how will the Rangers sort out their postseason rotation if everyone is hearty and hale come playoff time? You would think it would be some combination of Scherzer, Eovaldi, Jon Gray, and Montgomery -- no disrespect to Dane Dunning, Andrew Heaney, or Martín Pérez -- but that's why you make a deal like this in the first place. After all, when's the last time the Rangers were worried about having too many good starters?
Stratton, for his part, has failed to build upon the impressive 20-outing stretch he enjoyed last season upon joining the Cardinals. He generates impressive extension and spin on his pitches -- a low-90s fastball and pair of breaking balls -- but he's on his third organization since Opening Day 2022 for a reason. Stratton has had his moments. The Rangers will see if they can get him on the sunny side of league-average relief again before he heads off into free agency.
Cardinals grade: B
We're unaccustomed to seeing the Cardinals serve as a deadline seller. They seem to have chosen an optimal year to be bad, however, since this past week's trades hint that the lack of supply has helped increase returns across the board. That remains the case here, with the Cardinals fetching a few interesting players in exchange for two veteran pitchers nearing their free agency dates.
We'll begin with King, a 28-year-old lefty reliever who has already sampled the big-league brew. In 87 career appearances, he's compiled a 4.27 ERA (100 ERA+) and a 2.62 strikeout-to-walk ratio. King is a sidearmer who does most of his work with a low-to-mid-90s sinker and changeup combination. He's generated more than 60% ground balls for his career, and has performed markedly better when he's had the platoon advantage. There's nothing stopping King from slotting right into the Cardinals bullpen. Serving as the spiritual successor to T.J. McFarland isn't a glamorous life, but it pays the bills.
While King will provide the most immediate impact, he's clearly the least important member of this deal for the Cardinals.
Roby, 21, has been sidelined since early June with a shoulder issue. He'd started 10 times before then, accumulating a 5.05 ERA and a 4.17 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Roby has a starter's arsenal, led by a low-to-mid-90s fastball and three secondaries that could grade as at least above-average: a low-80s changeup, high-spin curveball, and fairly new slider. He's drawn acclaim for his competitive nature on the mound dating back to his amateur days. Provided he makes a full recovery from what ails him, he profiles as a mid-rotation starter.
Saggese, 21, has also spent the season in Double-A, where he's hit .314/.380/.514 with 15 home runs and eight stolen bases (on 10 tries). He doesn't project to be that level of offensive threat in the majors, but it's within the realm of possibility that he produces at average or better levels. Defensively, he's seen action at each of the skill infield positions this season: mostly second and third, with a few cameos at shortstop. Saggese's likeliest outcome is as a spare infielder, but it's possible he continues to overachieve.
The Cardinals moved Montgomery, Stratton, and Jordan Hicks on Sunday. Expect them to remain aggressive, with both Jack Flaherty and Paul DeJong potentially being on the move ahead of Tuesday night's deadline.