New York Yankees Risking Catching Future In Trading Jesús Montero For Cliff Lee

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New York Yankees Risking Catching Future In Trading Jesús Montero For Cliff Lee
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The New York Yankees already possess an incredible rotation and acquiring Cliff Lee would surely give them an even greater edge when it comes to winning their 28th World Series. 

The addition of Lee would give them an almost unbeatable playoff rotation of CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Phil Hughes and Andy Pettitte, but are the Yankees making a mistake in potentially giving up their top catching prospect Jesús Montero?

When acquiring Curtis Granderson this winter, the Yankees sacrificed top farm prospect Austin Jackson.  Granderson has had a rough first half in the Bronx hitting a paltry .235, while Jackson's average currently stands at .306.  Jackson has also scored 18 more runs, gotten 12 more doubles and stolen twice as many bases as the Yankees' struggling center fielder.

Jorge Posada's days behind the plate are dwindling and the Yankees will soon need to come up with his successor.  Francisco Cervelli has shown that he can handle the defensive side of the position but his hitting ability isn't that of a solid major leaguer.  He makes for a decent stopgap option but it is clear he isn't a useful everyday catcher and is better suited as a backup.

Montero is rated by Baseball America as the best catching prospect in all of baseball and fourth overall out all farmhands in their February list.  His combined numbers at single-A and double-AA in 2009 were impressive hitting a combined .337 with 17 home runs, 70 RBI and an OBP of .389. 

In 2010, his triple-AAA stats show that Montero isn't ready for the big-time yet but could be in the majors sooner rather than later.  His hitting abilities are almost major league ready and if he can improve his defense, he could break Spring Training 2011 as a full-time starter.

The Yankees own another highly-rated catching prospect in Austin Romine who has a pretty good bat himself, hitting .281 with six homers in double-AA Trenton this year. 

Like Montero though, Romine needs to work on his defense but his strong throwing arm impresses scouts.  He has been projected to be an average-skilled everyday catcher but doesn't have nearly as high of a ceiling as Montero.

In adding Lee to their rotation, the Yankees will attempt deal away Javier Vázquez who has been rumored to involved in a potential swap with Phillies outfielder Jayson Werth. 

A.J. Burnett has struggled with his confidence but has ended his rough streak of starts by having strong performances against the Blue Jays and Athletics.  Burnett will be looking over his shoulder if Lee were to arrive knowing that he will be used out of the bullpen come playoff time.  He could begin to press and again revert to being a shaky starter during the last few months of the season. 

Do the Yankees really want to damage the mental makeup of a pitcher they owe $16.5M annually until 2013?

The Yankees already own enough starting pitching talent to repeat as champions in the 2010 playoffs.  Cliff Lee could choose to walk away and sign with another club as a free agent after season's end.  Surely a long list of suitors will be fighting over the talented lefty in free agency along with the Yanks. 

GM Brian Cashman will have to scramble over the next few months to secure Lee to a long-term contract, otherwise the Yanks will have given up their top organizational prospect for a three month "rent-a-player."  Should the Bombers take this risk in giving up their ready-made heir to Posada's catching throne?

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