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Soft free agent market helps D-backs find angle to land Jordan Montgomery on $25M, 1-year deal

PHOENIX (AP) — The Arizona Diamondbacks didn't believe they were in a lofty enough financial stratosphere to chase a free agent the caliber of left-hander Jordan Montgomery.

A soft market this offseason changed their mind.

Montgomery and the D-backs finalized their $25 million, one-year deal on Friday that includes a vesting option for 2025. The 31-year-old pitched for the Texas Rangers against Arizona in the World Series last year, and his addition bulks up the defending National League champions' rotation.

“You watch the market evolve, and it moved more slowly than I think any of us would have expected with the top-of-the-line free agents, which he clearly was one,” D-backs owner Ken Kendrick said. “We're down to the end of spring and he's still available. We thought it was worth making an effort to approach them, we did, and it worked out for both of us.”

Montgomery is a client of agent Scott Boras, who negotiated several similar short-term deals for his top free agents in recent weeks.

Former MVP Cody Bellinger re-signed with the Cubs on an $80 million, three-year deal in late February. Four-time Gold Glove third baseman Matt Chapman signed a $54 million, three-year deal with the Giants on March 3. Two-time Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell inked a $62 million, two-year deal, also with the Giants, on March 19.

On Friday, it was Montgomery's turn.

If Montgomery makes at least 10 starts this season, the 2025 vesting option would become guaranteed at $20 million and the left-hander also would gain the right to opt out. The option price would escalate to $22.5 million if he makes 18 starts and to $25 million if he makes 23 starts — a figure he has reached in three straight seasons.

Boras said that Montgomery's main request was to sign with a contender and he'd take a short-term deal to do it.

The agent attributed the slow pace of free agency to a few factors, including normal market fluctuation and the uncertainty of team revenue from regional sports networks.

“We've had a dramatic difference in the competitveness and aggressiveness of owners to win,” Boras said.

Boras' criticism was not directed at the Diamondbacks, whom he praised after a busy offseason. They signed left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez to an $80 million, four-year deal, brought back All-Star outfielder Lourdes Gurriel Jr. on an $42 million, three-year contract and signed Joc Pederson and Randal Grichuk to smaller agreements.

Montgomery should slide into the No. 3 or No. 4 spot once he’s ready for game action, joining Zac Gallen, Merrill Kelly and Rodríguez. He was optioned to Triple-A Reno and will make a few minor league starts before his target Diamondbacks debut in mid-to-late April.

Montgomery was 10-11 last season with a 3.20 ERA last season for the St. Louis Cardinals and Rangers. He was even better in the playoffs for Texas, winning two games in the AL Championship Series over the Houston Astros.

Now he hopes to do it for the team the Rangers beat in the World Series.

“Super talented group of guys,” Montgomery said. “You could tell just by the way they were playing through the playoffs that they were a tight-knit group, good winning culture, so I wanted to be a part of it.”

Because Montgomery was not in the organization on opening day, the Diamondbacks cannot make a qualifying offer to him as a free agent and would not be eligible to get an additional pick in the 2025 amateur draft if he leaves Arizona at the end of the season and signs with another team.

“They agreed, as a concession to us, to sign the day after opening day,” Boras said.

Montgomery's signing is an even bigger signal that the Diamondbacks could be a contender in the NL West for several seasons. On top of their impressive pitching staff, they have the reigning NL Rookie of the Year in outfielder Corbin Carroll, highlighting a young, speedy and powerful lineup.

There's little doubt Arizona's surprise run to the World Series last year boosted fan interest. The D-backs drew an opening night sellout of 49,011 on Thursday for a 16-1 win over the Colorado Rockies.

Kendrick — who occassionally has been criticized for tight spending — said it's put the franchise in a better spot to chase free agents.

“We've done very well already with tickets,” Kendrick said. "So we look at our revenue stream. How is any business run? You have to determine as a businessman, what is your revenue going to be, then you can define what your expenses can be.

“Our revenues have become more robust. I've tried to say over the years, as the revenue is there, we're going to invest in the team. Thankfully, we're able to do that.”

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AP MLB: https://apnews.com/MLB