Why Phillies won't make last-ditch effort for Montgomery even with Walker going on IL

Even with Taijuan Walker starting the new season on the injured list, the Phillies aren't chasing free agent Jordan Montgomery.
Championship Series - Texas Rangers v Houston Astros - Game Seven
Championship Series - Texas Rangers v Houston Astros - Game Seven / Carmen Mandato/GettyImages

When news of Taijuan Walker's shoulder issue emerged this past weekend, it didn't come as much of a surprise to Philadelphia Phillies fans who had already been alarmed by the veteran right-hander's sudden drop in fastball velocity this spring. Walker's two appearances in Grapefruit League action can best be described as disastrous following two early exits from exhibition play.

Walker's poor performance on the mound came on the heels of falling behind schedule when camp began with an initial bout of knee soreness that delayed his first spring training start into mid-March. The news that Walker would miss the start of the regular season reopened the discussion that the Phillies should consider signing free agent starter Jordan Montgomery, especially after Blake Snell signed with the San Francisco Giants on a much shorter deal than many baseball insiders were expecting.

A recent story from MLB.com's Todd Zolecki was the first to pour cold water on any talk of the Phillies making a last-ditch effort to sign Montgomery.

"The Phillies had expressed some interest earlier this year in free-agent left-hander Jordan Montgomery on a one-year deal, but that interest cooled as camp got going," wrote Zolecki. "It is unclear if Walker’s shoulder issue might change their thinking, although sources said earlier that the club always felt it would need to clear payroll to keep from crossing the third luxury tax threshold."

To break that down, the Phillies have spent a decent chunk of change by re-signing Aaron Nola, signing Whit Merrifield, and extending Zack Wheeler and Matt Strahm recently during spring training. Another large contract, such as signing or trading for a player of Montgomery's caliber, would have forced the Phillies into the third luxury tax threshold. The tax on that payroll could have a crippling effect on how the team does business over the next couple of offseasons. The New York Mets are the most recent example of what that type of luxury tax bill could look like.

The team will rely on organizational pitching depth with Walker on IL

Following a number of offseason moves to address starting pitching depth, the Phillies will enter the 2024 season with plenty of options to fill an open rotation spot. While many Phillies fans would like the team to give top prospect Mick Abel a chance to start in the wake of Walker's injury, the Phillies will turn to Spencer Turnbull. The team signed the veteran starter to a minor league deal earlier this spring.

The Phillies will push back the fifth starter spot one day, and give Wheeler an extra turn before Turnbull will toe the rubber against the Cincinnati Reds on April 3.

According to a recent social media post by Marcus Hayes from The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Phillies are not likely to seek rotation help by reentering what remains of the free agent market.

While we wait for a timetable for Walker's return, it's clear that the Phillies are looking to stay the course and will rely on the stockpile of organizational pitching depth they signed over the offseason instead of making a more drastic move such as signing a free agent or acquiring a pitcher via trade. Of course, that could change, but the Phillies seem likely to give Turnbull a spot in the rotation when the season begins this Thursday.