Oakland Athletics: Breaking down the impact of Frankie Montas’ suspension

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 15: Frankie Montas #47 of the Oakland Athletics pitches in the top of the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Ring Central Coliseum on June 15, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 15: Frankie Montas #47 of the Oakland Athletics pitches in the top of the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Ring Central Coliseum on June 15, 2019 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images) /

Oakland Athletics promising young starter Frankie Montas has officially been suspended 80 games for performance-enhancing drugs. Here is the impact that could have on the A’s.

Sometimes it just feels like the Oakland Athletics can’t have nice things. The A’s were winners of four straight including a thrilling comeback victory Thursday night against the Tampa Bay Rays when the found out the news about promising young starter Frankie Montas.

It was reported on Friday by MLB Network’s Jon Heyman that Montas had been suspended 80 games for the use of performance-enhancing drugs. While Montas maintains his innocence, his pleas have fallen on deaf ears and the suspension will be enforced.

There are no two ways about it — this is terrible news for the A’s who had seen Montas blossom into the team’s de-facto ace this season in a breakout year for the young starter.

Through 15 starts this season, Montas had posted a 2.70 ERA with 97 strikeouts in 90.0 innings pitched. His 2.86 FIP indicated no signs of regression and that mark actually led the league at the time of his suspension.

But now all of that is gone.

Montas will be suspended for all but the last five games of the season and will be ineligible for the postseason if the A’s make it there. For all intents and purposes, his 2019 season is over.

This is a massive blow for both Montas and the Athletics alike.

Montas was enjoying a breakout campaign as after looking shaky during the first few seasons of his career, he had finally harnessed his natural talent and put it all together. And for the A’s this leaves a gaping hole in a rotation that has exceeded everyone’s expectations this year.

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The A’s went into the 2019 season expecting the starting rotation to be one of the biggest weaknesses on the team. Instead, the rotation has perhaps been the glue that has held the team together with the bullpen often struggling to close out games and the offense lacking consistency.

Montas was chief among the surprises this season. Without him, the rotation looks a lot less intimidating.

The Athletics will now have to lean on the foursome of Brett Anderson, Chris Bassitt, Mike Fiers, and Tanner Anderson to get the job done for the time being. Reliever J.B. Wendelken was recalled to take Montas’ roster spot but he isn’t going to be taking his spot in the rotation too.

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In the short-term, the A’s could look at recalling either Daniel Mengden or Paul Blackburn from Triple-A or giving right-hander Aaron Brooks another crack at it. However, none of those are particularly exciting options.

The A’s are still waiting on the returns of top prospects Jesus Luzardo and A.J. Puk who both appear close to returning. On top of that, 2018 standout Sean Manaea should hopefully be returning soon as well as the 27-year-old will be sent out on rehab assignment next week.

Any of those three players would be much better options than the combination of Mengden, Blackburn, and Brooks. Fortunately, the A’s might not have to force anyone into the starting rotation just yet as their off-day on Monday allows them to roll with their four starters at least for the time being.

Oakland could also look at making a possible trade for a starter down the line — although fitting it in their budget has always been an issue for the A’s.

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They still have a month to decide if they’re buyers or sellers but sitting just two games out of the final wild-card slot in the American League, you’d hope that they’d be buyers.

But after this Montas suspension, who knows how management views this team and where they’ll even be a month from now. After all, a lot could change in the course of a month.

At the end of the day, Montas’ suspension is a major blow to the A’s playoff hopes as well as Montas’ reputation with the team. You have to wonder how much of his 2019 success could have been impacted by his PED usage and that is something that will hang over his head until he hopefully gets the chance to prove everyone wrong next season.

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It’s a shame that this had to come at a time when spirits were high and the Athletics were riding a wave of momentum. But the A’s have come back from adversity before — last year anyone?

And they could certainly do it again.