When New York Yankees GM Brian Cashman agreed to trade Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos in January of 2012, many Yankee fans were skeptical. After Pineda suffered a torn right labrum before ever throwing a pitch in the Bronx, these same fans declared the trade a categorical loss. However, there are many reasons to believe the Yankees and Cashman will someday be viewed as the winners of that prospect mega-deal, and they were all along.
Almost 14 months removed from his injury, Pineda is now throwing in extended spring training games at a velocity(93-95 mph) similar to that of his great 2011 rookie campaign which resulted in an All-Star appearance. With the 6-foot-7-inch right hander closing in on a rehab assignment, this puts a pitcher who was once regarded as one of baseball’s best young arms just a month away from making his Bronx debut.
Assuming he is healthy, this is as good of a young pitcher as the Yankees have had in quite some time. In 2011, Pineda had a WHIP(walks+hits/innings pitched) of 1.09 and struck out over a batter an inning, punching out 173 in 171 innings. To put this in context, Yankees pitcher C.C. Sabathia has never struck out over a batter an inning and has never recorded a WHIP at or below 1.09 in any of his 13 seasons in the bigs. Pineda did both in his first season in the majors at the age of just 22. Impressive.
On the other hand, Montero, whose bat was also once highly touted, has struggled. With an average just above .200 while providing very little power, Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has sent down the struggling Montero to AAA Tacoma.
Along with his slow start with the bat, Montero has proven he’s not a MLB-caliber defender at a crucial defensive position. The 6-foot-3-inch 230 pound catcher has shown inadequate side to side mobility, while also having a very inconsistent throwing arm and slow release, something Cashman was aware of years ago.
One of the major reasons Cashman decided to deal Montero was because of these deficiencies. While many organizations have neglected the importance of a strong defensive catcher in order to put an elite bat at the position, Cashman has remained consistent with his philosophy that he’s not willing to sacrifice defensively at that position for an extended period of time.
This, in effect, projected Montero as a designated hitter with the Yankees, a position which doesn’t carry nearly enough value to turn down a deal for an elite starting pitching prospect of Pineda’s caliber.
It just so happens that both of these young players, who will forever be linked, are moving in such opposite directions at the same time. However, the philosophy behind the trade was correct on the part of Cashman all along, and we’re beginning to see why.