Jesus Montero and Michael Pineda each rated among MLB's top 25 prospects entering the 2011 season, and after the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners swapped them as part of a four-player deal Friday, their profiles are not shrinking anytime soon.
This was a big deal unto itself, but even bigger ones could now be on the way. In a market taking seemingly forever to fully develop, this deal might be the catalyst to kick many teams and players into gear.
The Yankees added Pineda and free-agent hurler Hiroki Kuroda to their rotation, but now, they may be in the market for a designated hitter. Meanwhile, the Boston Red Sox, Texas Rangers and other elite teams throughout the league will try to answer the Yankees' shot across their bows. Here are the next five big moves this deal could incite.
It always felt like the Yankees and Red Sox would end up splitting one-year commits Kuroda and Roy Oswalt, but the Yankees raised the stakes by adding Pineda as well. Fueled by a need to keep up with New York, Boston will make their play and land Oswalt in the coming days.
It should be a good move. Oswalt had an excellent career in Houston, pitching in a ballpark as closely modeled in terms of dimensions on Fenway Park as any in the game. Back problems might limit his innings, but the Red Sox have depth and always seem to have the means to get more if they need it.
With Oswalt in the fold, the Sox will boast a rotation of Jon Lester, Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, Oswalt and Daniel Bard. That matches up in an eerily parallel way with the Yankees' collection of CC Sabathia, Kuroda, Pineda, Freddy Garcia and Ivan Nova. The Sox, however, will not stop there.
Despite the availability of Matt Garza, Wandy Rodriguez and others by trade, the Red Sox would be best-served by simply signing free-agent Edwin Jackson. With prices dropping fast in the free-agent pool, Jackson could be a major bargain, not least because he was worth what he and agent Scott Boras demanded earlier this winter.
Boston's farm system is a bit too thin for them to gas it with a deal for Garza, but they do need more depth than the five players listed on the previous slide. Jackson would make their rotation as solid as New York's, and in all likelihood, it would facilitate Daniel Bard's return to the bullpen before the disastrous experiment of having him start even began.
Three cheers for more intriguing trades of young players.
Butler will not turn 26 until April, but he already has 185 career doubles. That's his bread and butter, in fact. A whole lot of his value derives from his ability to bang the baseball into the corners and deep alleys of Kauffman Stadium on a regular basis, so far that even he (perhaps the slowest regular in MLB) can reach second base easily.
Butler would be a terrific fit for the Yankees lineup and for their home park. Over the last three years, he has 140 doubles and 55 home runs. If he called Yankee Stadium home, those numbers might be 120 and 75, and that's a much more valuable-looking DH.
If New York would take on Butler's three remaining years at $24 million (the Royals signed him to that deal last winter), the Royals would probably do that deal. They would be able to plug minor league masher Clint Robinson into the void left by Butler, and Robinson (though unlikely to be 30 percent better than the average batter like Butler) should be fine in that role.
For the downgrade at DH, though, the Royals would get a nifty bump in the middle of their starting rotation. Phil Hughes had a nightmarish first half in 2011, but despite that, he has yet the upside of a No. 2 starter. More realistically, he could simply be a co-anchor to a Royals rotation without a true ace. He, Felipe Paulino, Jonathan Sanchez, Aaron Crow and Danny Duffy would make a very interesting rotation.
The Texas Rangers have sat atop the heap in the American League two years in a row, but given the moves their top competitors have made this winter, they will have to get very aggressive to make a third straight pennant happen. Signing Prince Fielder would be aggressive.
Money should not be a major issue for Texas here. Fielder and Yu Darvish can both fit into their budget. With their rich new TV rights contract kicking in for 2014 and revenue flood waters still flowing after two deep October runs, the team can afford an upgrade at first base, their biggest weakness.
Right now, they probably remain the favorites of the AL West, but they trail the Yankees (and possibly Boston or Tampa) in the general race to the top of the AL. The Rangers need to make a splash after the Yankees' big additions, and this would certainly register.
It seems the Blue Jays still think they are a year away from realistically emerging as a playoff contender, and that's probably true. Thankfully, they have an avenue through which to acquire someone who will help them make that 2013 playoff push without giving up the farm.
Matt Garza remains on the block, though the Cubs insist (and I believe them) that they are not actively shopping him. He can be had for the right price, and with Boston and New York adding long-term pitching assets, the Jays are going to want to follow suit. Their best bet is Garza.
Putting together the right package for both sides should not be a problem in this case. The Cubs' competitive timeline begins in 2014, and realistically, Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Company are willing to wait a year or two longer in order to get it right.
Still, they must field a team in the meantime, so a pitcher who can fill a void in the near future will be a linchpin to this deal. The real impact talent should be concentrated in players years away, though, so that Toronto does not feel they are losing someone critical to that eventual contending club.
Kyle Drabek is a good starting point for the deal. He would hardly be the centerpiece from the Cubs' perspective, as he has become more reclamation project than prospect. However, he should be able to throw MLB innings beginning in 2012, which makes him valuable to the Cubs as a secondary piece.
After that, the Jays can start throwing their system's weight around. They have depth and some very high ceilings up and down the system, and they could easily interest the Cubs in Noah Syndergaard, Asher Wojciechowski and/or other players far from the big leagues but with major upside.
The deal is out there; the Cubs and Jays simply need to find it.