Photo credit: Sports Illustrated
In an effort to stockpile cheap, young, talented pitching for the future – mostly due to the goal of reaching a payroll of $189 million by 2014 – the Yankees decided to trade their top offensive prospect in Jesus Montero for top pitching prospect Michael Pineda in 2011. Before the phenom pitcher could even appear in a regular season game with the Yankees, many fans jumped the gun in anointing the Mariners as the winners of the deal.
Pineda suffered a serious shoulder injury and went under the knife, while Montero appeared in 135 games for Seattle last season – posting a .260 average with 15 homers, 20 doubles and 63 RBIs – respectable numbers for a rookie. The only way Montero could go from there was up, it seemed like. Now, he’s being sent down to Triple-A Tacoma after hitting .208/.264/.327 with three homers and nine RBIs.
The verdict is still out on the trade.
The Yankees never saw Montero as a catcher; instead, they projected him to be a career designated hitter or corner infield/outfield guy. Well, the Mariners are now expected to move him to DH or first base, as their top prospect, Mike Zunino, is already the starting catcher at Tacoma. With top catching prospects such as Gary Sanchez, Austin Romine and J.R. Murphy already in the system, New York felt they could withstand parting ways with Montero. After all, finding young pitchers with high potential at a cheap price like Pineda are few and far between.
Pineda, 24, threw 50 pitches in a simulated game last Friday, topping out at 95 mph. The Yankees hope to build him back up to 100 pitches in consecutive outings before he gets called up, as he will appear in rehab games soon. But he is on the way, and he is still projected to be a force in the rotation. Standing at 6’7″ and 255 lbs, Pineda possesses nasty stuff. He started the All-Star game for the American League in 2011, going 9-10, 3.74 ERA with 173 strikeouts in 171 IP.
It’s realistic that Pineda will get called up in June or sometime in July. There is no telling when Montero will be recalled. It’ll be very interesting to see how Montero, a highly touted prospect who has been a disappointment thus far, handles being sent down. It can either crush him or serve as a wake-up call. Regardless, the roles are switched from 2012. Montero is the one heading down to the minors to find himself, Pineda is working his way back to the top. The same old debate hasn’t been settled. It’s going to take a few more years to definitively say who got the better end of the deal.
What do you think, Yankees fans? Years down the road, who will benefit most from this trade?