Friday, January 13, 2012

Yankees and Mariners Swap Montero and Pineda...Why?

When I first heard that Jesus Montero was headed to Seattle, I was shocked.  I was even more surprised when I found out that Michael Pineda--last year's 5th place finisher in Rookie of the Year voting--was going the other way.  My first thought was: this is an interesting deal...I wonder if any other players are involved.  When I discovered that Hector Noesi and Jose Campos were also switching teams, I changed my opinion from "interesting deal" to "WHAT?!"

Here is a breakdown of the trade:

Seattle gets:

Jesus Montero:  Montero, a catcher, was one of the Yankees' top prospects since 2009, when he listed as Baseball America's #38 prospect.  He followed this up with #4 and #3 ratings in 2010 and 2011 respectively.  In 489 total minor league games he belted 76 home runs with a .308 batting average.  In triple-A last season, he posted a .288 BA with 18 HRs--statistics comparable to those of his 2010 campaign.  He also put up solid defensive numbers: he threw out 23% and 20% of baserunners in 2010 and 2011 respectively and had a .997 fielding percentage this season.  There were only really two major stat categories in which he had somewhat significant changes between 2010 and '11.  These were in walks--which were down this year--and strikeouts--which were up.  Despite this slight regression, he was called up to the Majors at the end of the year.  He put up 4 home runs and 12 RBI and a .328 BA in 61 ABs.  He also spent quite a bit of time as a designated hitter.  Montero is currently 22-years old.

Hector Noesi: This 24-year old right-hander has been in the Yankees' system since he was 19.  In six minor league seasons he had a 25-15 record with a 3.17 ERA.  In triple-A this year and last year he went 2-2 with a 3.95 ERA.  2011, however was significantly better for Noesi than 2010.  He had a 3.28 ERA in 24.2 innings before he was called up to the Majors.  With the Yankees he went 2-2 with a 4.47 ERA.  His two starts at the end of the year did not go so well, either.  In 4.2 innings he gave up 5 runs and 9 hits over these two appearances.  Nevertheless, Noesi was considered to be one of the Yankees' better Major League ready prospects.  His stellar May and July performances and solid August proved why this was so.  July was by far his best full month--1-0, 2.57 ERA.

The Yankees acquire:

Michael Pineda: As was previously mentioned, the 6'7" 22-year old righty finished 5th in Rookie of the Year voting this past season.  He finished the year 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.10 WHIP is 28 starts.  He also represented the Mariners at the 2011 All-Star Game.  While his numbers turned out fairly average, this could be attributed partially to fatigue and to the league finally figuring him out.  His April, May, and June ERAs, respectively were 2.01, 2.81, and 3.03.  It is also important to remember that Pineda's velocity can reach up to around 95 MPH.  Baseball America's #17 prospect prior to 2011 put up a 3-3 record with a 4.76 ERA in the ever-difficult Pacific Coast League in 2010.  His 2010 double-A numbers were much better--8-1, 2.22 ERA, 1.09 WHIP.  Pineda had been in the Mariners' system since he was 17.

Jose Campos: This 6'4" right-hander in now 19-years old.  He started in the Mariners' system at 16 three seasons ago.  In those three minor league seasons he posted a combined 14-10 record with a 3.26 ERA.  Last year in low-A he went 5-5 with a 2.32 ERA in 14 starts.  He also posted 85 strikeouts and a 0.97 WHIP.  Campos, being so young and inexperienced, is still a few years away from being Major League ready, but expect him to get as high as double-A next season.

Montero looked to be the Yankees' catcher of the future and Pineda the Mariners' next ace--now that flips around.  That trade on its own was intriguing.  Throwing in Noesi and Campos makes it even more so.  The Yankees' rotation prior to the trade was weak.  After CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova appears to have good potential...then there is nothing.  Phil Hughes has disappointed, Freddy Garcia is nothing more than a solid number 5, and I do not believe that I need to go in to the AJ Burnett issue.  Pineda now slots in behind Sabathia and the newly signed Hiroki Kuroda.  It will be interesting to see how he will cope in the AL East.  Save for giving up five runs to the Blue Jays in each of two of his starts against Toronto he did not give up more than 3 runs against an AL East opponent all of last season.  This is a positive for the Yankees.

Montero's solid hitting to date looks to be a plus for the rebuilding Mariners.  He will likely be the starting catcher for Seattle next year and will have veteran Miguel Olivo behind him to ensure that he does not get overworked.  Noesi may fit in to the Mariners' rotation or bullpen--whichever needs more help.  Either way he will not be very important to Seattle next season as he still needs a bit of seasoning before he will be effective at the Major League level.  In a year or two he should be ready for the rotation.

The most interesting piece in this deal is Campos.  He has the potential to be a very good Major League pitcher if he continues at his current rate.  The biggest issue with him is that his minor league service time may force the Yankees' hand in a couple of years--they may have to call him up before he is ready so as not to lose him to another team.

When I first found out about the full details of this trade, I thought that the Yankees were crazy.  The more I read about it, I realize that this may not be the worst trade for either team.  Pineda and Campos will both be significant parts of the Yankees' future (note that Baseball America lists only two pitchers [Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances] on the list of the Yankees' top ten prospects).  The Yanks always have the money to sign a big-name catcher if the need arises.  Montero will be a major player in the Mariners' near future and Noesi is a solid add.

Overall, I do not think that this is an unfair trade.  It fills a hole for both teams and takes from positions of strength (the Yankees have three other catching prospects in their top 10 and Seattle is full of star-calibre pitchers).  This is a deal which cannot be properly judged until the players have played for their new teams.  They are all young and unpredictable.  Right now I am going to give the Yankees a slight edge because Pineda has the potential to be a top-of-the-rotation guy and Campos looks to have a bright future ahead of him.  Yankees fans will not be happy about losing Montero, but I am certain they will get over it fairly quickly if these players reach their full potentials.  As for the Mariners, this is a good trade for a rebuilding team that has a plethora of pitchers.  I think this trade will work out for both sides.

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