Back in January, when Jack Zduriencik and the Seattle Mariners shocked us all by trading away Michael Pineda, there was some doubt as to whether or not it was a smart move.
Pineda put on quite a show last year, especially before the All-Star break, winning over the support of the entire Mariners nation. We were all getting pretty excited about the future of the rotation with Felix Hernandez first, Pineda second and some talented prospects filling in the rest.
While losing Pineda definitely hurt, what the Mariners got in return (Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi) more than made up for it—here are five reasons why.
Jesus Montero is one of the top-ranked hitting prospects in the league this year.
Last season with the New York Yankees, he came up to the majors for just a brief stint at the end of the regular season and absolutely killed the ball; he was smacking doubles and home runs like a veteran.
However, the Yankees aren't currently in need of a catcher since they have Russell Martin, and another promising catching prospect in Gary Sanchez who is under development.
Those circumstances freed Montero up to join the worst offense in the MLB in hopes of restoration.
He was one of the top hitters on the team this spring, and not just because it's the Mariners. A lot of the players in Peoria looked much improved at the plate, but Montero was a stand-out, leading the team in RBI.
The Mariners are already confident enough in Montero to list him as the starting DH for 2012. In other words, they're excited enough about his hitting to not worry about his catching ability behind the plate yet.
It's likely that he'll continue to work on catching, but for now, they're happy to have a fresh bat in the lineup.
When Hector Noesi was thrown in with Jesus Montero in the Michael Pineda trade, I certainly didn't expect him to fall in behind Felix Hernandez and Jason Vargas as the third starter in the Mariners rotation.
However, after an encouraging spring, it's easy to see why manager Eric Wedge chose Noesi for the spot.
He's one of the more refined pitchers in the organization, and he already has some major-league experience.
Noesi will be pitching in a very diverse rotation to start off the season: there's a Cy Young winner, a 37-year-old accomplished veteran, and two other young pitchers who still have things to prove.
The Mariners probably aren't sporting the best rotation in the league, but it's one that will undoubtedly morph into something stronger as the year progresses—whether that means bringing up hot prospects (James Paxton, Danny Hultzen), tugging long relievers out of the bullpen (Hisashi Iwakuma, Erasmo Ramirez) or just switching up the order.
In any case, it's convenient that Noesi could essentially replace Pineda in the rotation.
Like I said before, it was great watching Michael Pineda dominate opposing batters as a rookie last April and May, but as the season wore on and his unseasoned arm grew tired, his efficiency dropped pretty significantly.
It's possible it was just because it was his first year in the majors throwing (almost) a full season, but you could also argue that as Pineda faced more and more batters, they started to figure him out.
It would be a pretty big disappointment if Pineda picked up where he left off at the end of last season, as opposed to resuming his early-season dominance from last year. So the Mariners are, in a small way, glad to have moved Pineda into someone else's hands.
There's also Pineda's injury history and position to consider. In 2009, he missed out on a lot of pitching because of an elbow injury. Not only are pitchers, as a whole, more susceptible to injury, but, again, Pineda already has a history to worry about.
He seems to have recovered fully from his injury in 2009, but it's not something you want to see popping back up after a couple of full seasons in MLB.
Bottom line here is, Seattle got a bit of a safer bet in Montero.
I don't mean to snub Jose Campos—he's got legitimate potential as a starting pitcher—but he has only gone as high as Single-A (short season) in the minors.
For Campos to become a usable major-league pitcher, he can't be rushed through the minors, and the Mariners created a slight need for major-league-ready pitchers by including Pineda in the deal.
Maybe Jack Zduriencik figured that he could start Noesi in the rotation as soon as this year, but even if he didn't, it was clear that Noesi would be ready for that spot before Campos.
So the Yankees got a solid, young prospect, and gave up one that was a bit further along in development. But they already have a set rotation for the next couple of years, so how are the Mariners coming out on top in the deal?
Well, as you move up the baseball ladder from high school to college to minor league to major league, the true talents grow fewer and fewer. In other words, even if Campos looks promising now, it's more valuable to have a more advanced pitcher who looks promising. The odds are better.
Every new season in baseball means the Yankees have to make a run at the playoffs; there's always significant pressure from fans and the baseball community in general for the Yankees to adequately compete in the AL.
What that means for the organization is that they have to have a top-tier team ready at the major-league level. But they also have to ensure that a healthy, consistent flow of prospects and acquisitions is coming in every season.
That gives them twice as many things to worry about every year, and even with their large sums of spending money, it's hard to manage.
A team like the Mariners, on the other hand, isn't expected to win the division or a wild card-spot year after year. The GM has a little more leeway in crafting his team. He can spend a few years rebuilding after, say, a previous GM wreaks havoc on the team so that the team will be ready to take a few consecutive shots at the title.
Perhaps the listed circumstances give Jack Z and the M's an advantage in public perception, but either way, the Mariners did take the cake here.
The Yankees took on a high-risk, high-reward pitcher who was definitely ready to start this year, and a young, unproven pitching prospect who could potentially benefit the team in the future.
The Mariners acquired a proven hitting asset who will contribute to the team for a number of years, and who is developing even more useful tools, as well as a safer pitcher who followed a more conventional path to the majors.
Plenty of talent went both ways in this trade, but the Mariners can already be declared the winners.
Hopefully Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi will back me up this week, as they play a final exhibition match in Japan against the Yomiuri Giants on Monday, and then their season opener against the Oakland Athletics on Wednesday.
If you're dedicated enough to get up and watch the game at 6:10 AM ET (I realize that's 3:10 in the morning for West Coasters—even more dedication), I'll have a live blog going throughout the game with up-to-date analysis and commentary.
The overseas game will be a fitting way to kick off an exciting season for the Mariners.