Chalk this one up in the “didn’t see it coming” category. At 7:30 PM EST reports started circulating that the Mariners were closing in on a trade for a “young impact hitter.” A mere 12 minutes later it was confirmed that the Yankees and Mariners had come to a deal involving several players, the centerpieces of which are the Yankees #1 prospect Jesus Montero and young Mariners pitching phenom Michael Pineda. 19-year old pitching prospect Jose Campos will also head to New York while Hector Noesi will join Montero in Seattle.
To say that this deal came out of nowhere in the deafening silence that has been the Yankees’ offseason is an understatement, and Twitter is abuzz with reactions. Right now, it looks as though Yankees fans are pretty evenly split on absolutely loving the deal or wanting to throw their laptops out the window in rage. Personally, I feel great about this deal, and I’m not one to ever feel comfortable with trades.
For the Yankees fans who are upset with the deal, their concern stems largely from the loss of Montero’s power bat. He has long been the most exciting in the Yankees farm system, and he put on quite a show in his 18 games with the Yankees at the end of 2011 (.328/.406/.590 with 4 HR and 12 RBI). Montero was unquestionably the Yankees #1 prospect going into the 2012 season, and he is likely to have an incredible career at the plate. However, his defense is lacking, and that is why I believe this was a good deal for the Yankees. Montero was not going to be an everyday catcher in the Bronx. Instead, those duties will be left to Russell Martin and likely Austin Romine. Brian Cashman shot down the idea of converting Montero to an outfielder, and outside of that the options were first base or DH. The Yankees are set at 1B with Mark Teixeira locked up through 2016, and there is no shortage of DH candidates in the aging Yankees lineup. With the current roster, there was simply nowhere to put Montero. Besides, the Yankees lineup is stellar even without Montero’s bat, and the rotation was what needed a strong piece to solidify it. As for Noesi, I was able to see him pitch 6 strong innings in relief at Yankee Stadium against the Red Sox last June, and I absolutely loved what I saw. However, despite his flashes of brilliance, I don’t believe Noesi could ever be a top-of-the-rotation guy for the Yanks.
Pineda, on the other hand, is the number 2 starter that Yankees fans have been clamoring for all offseason. The 22-year old righty is a massive 6’7″ 260 pound stud. He’ll be working for next to nothing (he made $414K last year) and won’t be a free agent until 2017. On an aging Yankees team, he provides some much needed youth. Last year was his first season at the major league level and he put up a 3.74 ERA in 171.0 IP. He allowed 71 ER, 18 HR, 55 BB, and struck out 173 batters. His 2011 effort was enough to earn him a 5th place finish in AL Rookie of the Year voting (right behind Ivan Nova). Campos is still a few years away from the big leagues (he spent 2011 in low-A), but if he pitches anywhere near the level he projects to, he’ll be a solid addition to the rotation or another alluring trade piece somewhere down the road.