Jesus Montero Traded for Michael Pineda: Why Both Teams Come out Winners

Rick Weiner@RickWeinerNYFeatured ColumnistJanuary 14, 2012

Jesus Montero Traded for Michael Pineda: Why Both Teams Come out Winners

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    So much for Brian Cashman being asleep at the wheel.

    Not enthralled with any of the starting pitching left on the market, the New York Yankees decided to dip into their deep farm system to strengthen their starting rotation.

    In a move that has sent shock waves through the Bronx, the Yankees have traded ûber-prospect Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for starting pitchers Michael Pineda and Jose Campos.

    This deal puts both the Mariners and Yankees in better positions than they were this morning and in the long run.

    Let's take a look at the pieces involved and how they all fit into the puzzle.

Jesus Montero to the Mariners

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    Jesus Montero may not have a firm position on the field, but one thing he can do is hit, and that is something that the Mariners have sorely needed for some time.

    A catcher coming up through the Yankees' minor league system, the 21-year-old right-handed batter has improved his defense behind the plate, though, whether it is good enough to handle major league pitching on an everyday basis remains to be seen.

    What is for sure, however, is that Montero has the potential to be a big-time offensive force. In 18 games with the Yankees this past September, Montero hit .328 with four home runs and 12 RBI. Eight of his 20 hits went for extra bases and Montero exhibited the ability to drive the ball with authority to all fields.

    In Seattle's lineup, Montero seems like a natural fit for the cleanup spot, hitting between second baseman Dustin Ackley and first baseman Justin Smoak, a left-handed bat and a switch-hitter, respectively.

Michael Pineda to the Yankees

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    Since coming to the realization that A.J. Burnett simply was not capable of handling the responsibility of being a No. 2 starter behind CC Sabathia, the Yankees have desperately been seeking a legitimate arm to slot behind the perennial Cy Young candidate.

    Enter Michael Pineda, the 22-year-old flame-throwing righty that, for the first half of the 2011 season, looked to be the runaway favorite to take home AL Rookie of the Year honors as he made his All-Star debut in his rookie season after going 8-6 with a 3.03 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 113 strikeouts in as many innings pitched.

    Pineda would falter in the second half, appearing in only 10 games and going 1-4 with a 5.12 ERA, 1.22 WHIP and 60 strikeouts in 58 innings pitched. Even with his subpar post-All-Star break performance, he still had solid numbers at the end of the season, finishing 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA and 1.09 WHIP.

    Pineda gives the Yankees a potent front end of their rotation, pushes Ivan Nova to the No. 3 spot—one he is better suited for—and also allows the team to keep their top pitching prospects—Manny Banuelos and Delin Betances—in Triple-A for the majority of the 2012 season as they continue their development.

Hector Noesi to the Mariners

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    Named the Yankees' seventh best prospect in 2011 by Baseball America, 24-year-old righty Hector Noesi brings versatility to the Mariners' pitching staff.

    A starting pitcher throughout his minor league career, Noesi was primarily used as a long reliever by the Yankees in 2011. He would appear in 30 games, only two as a starter, and post a 4-4 record with a 4.50 ERA, 1.51 WHIP and 45 strikeouts in 56.1 innings pitched.

    While his numbers in his rookie season were not impressive, Noesi has an excellent fastball that sits in the low-to-mid 90s and a changeup. Both pitches have some run to them. His slider is still a work in progress, though, he had his moments where it has been effective.

    Noesi has outstanding control of his pitches, something he exhibited in the minor leagues. Over the course of the 2009 and 2010 seasons, Noesi threw 277 innings. He walked only 43.

    Whether he is slotted into the back end of the Mariners' rotation or is utilized as a long reliever out of the bullpen, Noesi gives the Mariners some options.

Jose Campos to the Yankees

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    Of the four players involved in this trade, Campos is the only one who has yet to make his major league debut.

    Only 19, Campos is a big, right-handed pitcher who spent 2011 with Seattle's Low-A affiliate in Everett, WA. He would go 5-5 with a 2.32 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and 85 strikeouts in 81.1 innings pitched.

    His arsenal is primarily comprised of a heavy fastball that sits in the low 90s and a late-breaking slider. Campos has a curveball that he struggles to locate, but when it was in the strike zone in 2011, hitters, especially left-handers, looked foolish swinging at it.

    He has all the upside to become a legitimate No. 2 starter in the majors.

    Still years away from making an impact in the Bronx, Campos will likely start the season in High-A Tampa as the Yankees look to continue his development.

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Final Thoughts

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    Seattle gets the big bat that they need, and while the loss of Pineda does leave a hole at the front of their rotation, this potentially opens up a spot for two of their own ûber-pitching prospects, Danny Hultzen and Taijuan Walker, to potentially make the huge jump from the minors to the majors in 2012.

    Montero is a special bat and, paired with Dustin Ackley, gives the Mariners a solid foundation to build their lineup around.

    Pineda immediately strengthens the Yankees' most glaring weakness and while the loss of Montero will sting some, the reality of the situation is that unless Montero proved himself as a catcher, he likely would have been pushed out of New York by former Mariner Alex Rodriguez, who at 36 is breaking down and will likely need more time at designated hitter as his career continues.

    Noesi and Campos are wild cards, though, Campos could have the bigger upside.

    When we look back at this trade in a few years, it will become clear that, yes, both teams benefited from making this deal, something that happens less and less these days.