As I’m sure most of you have heard already, Michael Pineda has a torn labrum, and is set to have season-ending surgery on May 1st. This is quite a blow to the Yankees, who traded their top prospect, catcher/DH Jesus Montero, for Pineda in the offseason. Now, with Pineda out until at least next May, and possibly done for good, we may be tempted to blame Cashman for ruining the Yankees franchise and giving up the next great young hitter for nothing. But not only do I think that the trade was a good idea at the time, I think it could still end up helping the Yankees more than it hurts them.
Why it was a good idea at the time
1. It fit the needs of the team.
Despite the complaints of some fringe fans, there’s no denying that the Yankees offense was superb last year, and with basically the same lineup, albeit a bit of aging, there was no reason to think that they would be lacking in that department. And although the pitching in 2011 was surprisingly good, much of it was because of surprising and unsustainable performances from Bartolo Colon and Freddy Garcia. Behind Sabathia, the Yankees’ starting pitching was full of uncertainties, which is why they needed a solid young #2 starter to back up CC for years to come. Montero was no doubt extremely talented, but because of his bad defense, he would have needed to play either first, which was occupied for the foreseeable future, or DH, which was a perfect place to rest aging A-rod and Jeter. There’s no doubt that losing Montero was a blow, but the potential for Pineda to hold down the #2 spot in the rotation under team control for years to come was too good to pass up
2. The extra players
The true strength of the deal for the Yanks, in my opinion, came not from Montero or Pineda, but from the extra addition of Jose Campos for Hector Noesi. Noesi, while a potentially solid 4/5 starter, had very little upside, and the Yankees’ farm system was already full of high-floor starters like David Phelps, DJ Mitchell, and Adam Warren. With Campos, a 19-year-old flamethrower from Venezuela, the Yankees got a potential ace, with as much or more upside than Pineda. He’s young and raw, of course, but even at 19 he was ranked very highly by scouts. Even at the time of the trade, there was a possibility that Campos could become the best player in the deal.
Why it might still be good for the Yankees
1. Pineda is only 23 years old
Yes, Pineda is out for at least a year, and yes, injuries like his often ruin a pitcher’s career. However, the article I linked to earlier was written 8 years ago, and who know to what extent medicine has improved in that time? The trade was not made for 2012, or even 2013, but for the long term future of the organization, and Pineda can still offer that potential #2 stuff. It may just take a little longer that we first thought.
2. Montero isn’t proven
I know it’s easy to get excited about a young hitting prospect like Montero, but it’s important to remember that he is by no means a proven player in the Majors either. So far this season, he has done very little offensively for the Mariners, and although it is a small sample size, it does remind us that we can’t expect prospects to produce right away. Yes, Montero may end up as the next Edgar Martinez or Miguel Cabrera, but I’ve also heard comparisons to Carlos Lee, who has been a solid, yet unspectacular, player in his career. Being a DH will significantly hurt Montero’s value, and even if he becomes a well-above average hitter, he will not be nearly as valuable as he would be if he could play defense.
Like I said before, Jose Campos may very well be the real deal, and though he probably won’t contribute to the Yankees for a long time, he has the potential to be an ace behind Sabathia. Though he is less proven than Pineda, he is also 4 years younger, and has a lot of time to hone his skills and become an elite pitcher.
The injury to Pineda is obviously a huge blow, and we should be worried as fans. However, let’s not panic and call the trade a bust yet. Not only may Pineda come back and pitch at the level we hoped he would, but Jose Campos could be even better. Imagine a rotation in 4 years of Sabathia, Hughes, Nova, Pineda, and Campos (and that’s not including Banuelos of Betances). If this were the case, the Yankees, and the fans, would be thrilled with the Montero trade, even if it took a while to help the team. And remember that Montero hasn’t proven himself in the majors either. The Yankees are a playoff-worthy team this year, even without Montero and Pineda, so let’s wait before we call either side of the trade a winner.