The New York Yankees traded the offensively gifted Jesus Montero for the Seattle Mariners hard-throwing top-of-the-rotation starter, no not Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda. In an offseason that saw the Yankees stay dormant, they have awoken from their winter slumber and rised up with a blockbuster trade. The exchange of elite young talents saw Yankees trade Montero and right-hander Hector Noesi for 22-year-old Michael Pineda and hard-throwing prospect Jose Campos. Pineda finished with a 3.74 ERA in 28 starts and was fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting last season. Pineda’s fastball averages 94.7 MPH with a dirty slider that misses bats consistently (check out his 9 strikeouts against the Rangers here), and many believe he can be a definite number one starter. With Campos, the Yanks get a 19-year-old pitcher who spent all of the 2011 season in the Low-A Northwest League he started 14 games with a 2.32 ERA, 85 K’s (9.4 K/9 rate) and only walked 13. Campos was ranked the Mariners 7th best prospect and his fastball tops out at 98 MPH and he has baseball in his blood, as he is the cousin of Kelvim Escobar and Alcides Escobar. You can see Campos and his blazing fastball here.
With Montero, the Mariners get the big time bat they desired. The 22-year-old catcher ranked as the top prospect in the Yankees system and 15th in the MLB. Montero’s catching skills have a lot to be desired and some say he’ll never be a full-time major league catcher. Montero got a cup of coffee with the Yankees last year and showed off his amazing bat, belting four home runs in just 69 plate appearances. He hit .328/.406/.590 in his MLB stint, although it was from a small sample size that was aided greatly by a BABIP of .400. In 109 games at Triple-A, Montero hit .288/.348/.467 with 18 home runs and 57 RBI.
In Noesi the Mariners get a potential back of the rotation starter that helps round out a rotation in need of some depth. He pitched 56.1 innings, mostly in relief, for the Yankees in 2011. His arsenal doesn’t wow anyone as his velocity tops out around 92 mph, but he is aggressive and really goes after hitters.
In this trade both teams get exactly what they need and the deal seems exceedingly fair for both sides. The Yankees get a pitcher they can slot behind CC Sabathia in the rotation for the next five years while also getting a high ceiling prospect for the future. Hopefully this trade opens the door for a trade of A.J. Burnett because the Yankees have an overabundance of starters. That’s because besides the trade the Yankees also signed Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda who went 13-16 in 2011, but that was more a reflection of the Dodgers’ awful run support than his performance. He posted a career-best 3.07 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 202 innings. Kuroda has tallied a 41-46 win-loss record with a 3.45 ERA in the last four years. The Yankees will have ace CC Sabathia, who will likely be followed by Pineda, Ivan Nova, Kuroda and then either Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett or Freddy Garcia. With Jorge Posada retired and Montero traded, that leaves the Yankees DH up to their mature stars who will need a break from the field. There are rumors that the Yankees will go after the power-hitting Carlos Pena.
Meanwhile the Mariners get that big time bat they coveted, plus depth starter as they rebuild in a tough division.
As far as which team won this trade, Buster Onley is saying, “Some execs from other AL East teams believe Yankees just made an incredible trade.” So despite not being able to trade Montero to the Mariner for Cliff Lee for three months and/or an extension worth a boat-load of cash, they trade Montero to the Mariners for a legit #1 starter who makes the minimum and is under the Yankees control for the next five years.