Yankees Offseason Talks: Seven Pitchers Worth Swapping for Montero
Jesus Montero may be the most exciting prospect the Yankees have had in many years. Though very early in his career, the 20-year-old catcher has proven he can compete in big spots for the most scrutinized team in baseball. He did not stumble and fall in big games against the Red Sox late in the season, showing his resolve moving forward as a young star.
The major leagues, however, are becoming more of a pitcher’s league every year, and the Yankees are among the teams in need of good pitching to succeed in the postseason. Assuming C.C. Sabathia returns in 2012, the Bombers will be in pursuit of a very good wingman for their ace, and Montero could be the key to getting him. Here are 10 starters worthy of the swap.
If there’s a pitcher the Yankees would like to see somewhere else, it would have to be Boston Red Sox stud Jon Lester, a left-handed ace who has shut down New York time and time again over the years.
Still only 27, Lester has developed into one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball, producing four consecutive 15-plus win and fewer-than-10 loss seasons in Boston’s hostile pressure-cooker. He has stayed relatively injury-free as well, something Yankees’ pitchers have been plagued with over the years.
If Lester were slotted in behind Sabathia, the Yankees would have a rotation comparable to any in the league. Granted, this trade would go against the laws of nature, but it would benefit both teams, as the Red Sox could use a young catcher. Also, with Lester’s recent involvement with a shady clubhouse in 2011, a fresh start could be just what he’s looking for. It would be a perfect fit for Lester and the Yankees, and maybe a possibility over the winter.
There are reasonable trades, and then there are dream trades. Seattle Mariners’ wonder-ace Felix Hernandez has been as immovable as Mt. Rainier over recent years, but it seems his availability has become less dormant and more active of late.
It’s becoming clear the Mariners are spinning into oblivion, losing every prospect and good player short of Ichiro. So it’s time for Seattle to make a move. Even if they ask for another player along with Montero, the Yankees should definitely consider the option. King Felix’s record is not stellar, but he has not had an ERA above 4.00 since 2006, and has started 30 games or more in every season but his rookie year.
The 25-year-old has not disappointed in rare big games he has pitched in, including a two-hit shutout in the Bronx. This is a no-brainer move for both teams: one whose aspirations require that of a front-end starter, and the other who needs a new set of young talent.
Of all the pitchers in the major leagues, Clayton Kershaw may be the hardest to move. No pitcher has looked so impressive at such a young age as the Claw, posting a tremendous 21-5 record and a 2.28 ERA on a mediocre Los Angeles Dodgers team in 2011.
The 23-year-old could possibly be drawn away from Tinseltown by the best prospect in baseball. With new ownership coming for the Dodgers, they may be looking for a fresh start for such a prestigious franchise. One thing they can always do is find pitching, but it has been their inability to draw in a huge offensive prospect that has weighed them down.
Montero would be a great fit for them, complimenting Matt Kemp in the lineup. It would also fill a San Francisco Giants rivalry against Buster Posey, their excellent young catcher. This trade would be an obvious fit for the Yankees, and a good one for the Dodgers.
Though the sample size for this very young talent is small, it is a similar one to Montero’s. It is extremely impressive. Matt Moore’s only regular season start for the Tampa Bay Rays was against the Yankees, where he simply dominated them. His encore was a similar performance against the Texas Rangers in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Both Moore and Montero are can’t-miss prospects, and each could use the other’s gem. The Rays are in dire need of another bat, and the Yankees are need of a great young arm. The two teams share the same division, but it would be a very sensible swap for both teams.
Hidden somewhere in Moneyball are the gems Billy Beane and the Oakland Athletics continue to produce, but do not get the recognition they deserve because of consistent team failure. Lefty Gio Gonzalez is another example, compiling a nice 2010 and 2011 line, but with nothing to show for it.
Though he is not a true ace, he has been very good, and would prove valuable in the Yankees’ rotation. The Bombers may ask for a little more than Gonzalez if they were to offer up Montero, but it would be good trade for both teams if it were to happen.
Unlike his older brother, Jeff, Jered Weaver has become a top-end starter in this league, turning in year-in and year-out seasons of ten-plus wins and under-4.00 ERA’s for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. His shining moment was 2011, where he obtained an 18-8 record and a very small 2.47 ERA.
He would be a no-brainer for the Yankees, fitting in right behind Sabathia as a good, hard-throwing righty to compliment the big left-hander. The Angels wouldn’t mind seeing a big bat in their lineup as well. Their most recent catcher, Jeff Mathis, has posted below-average offensive numbers for many years now.
In fact, Montero hit more home runs (4) in 18 games than Mathis hit (3) in 93 games this past season. Though it may seem unlikely, Weaver could be headed eastward if the Yankees make a good enough Montero package for the Angels.
Of all the tests the Yankees couldn’t pass in offseason trades and free agency, biting the bullet to bring back one of their own would take the cake. To get Ian Kennedy back, a pitcher they let go to help get Curtis Granderson, they may need to give up a prospect of similar caliber to Kennedy to do it.
He has proven in 2011 that he can handle the pressure, bringing the Arizona Diamondbacks to a playoff appearance in which Kennedy pitched fairly well. He may win the Cy Young for his 21-4, 2.88 ERA performance during the regular season. Will the Yankees give in and bring home the last piece to the “big three”? (The “big three” refers to Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and Ian Kennedy, all of which came through the Yankees’ farm system at the same time.)