Let’s break this deal down from a realistic standpoint, by which I mean the way another team would look at things, not from the perspective of fans dreaming big on these kids. In Montero, you have a very highly touted hitting prospect, but also a first baseman who has suddenly lost the ability to hit for power in Triple-A and whom the Yankees clearly don’t like much. (As an aside, the Yankees have really done a bang up job protecting Montero’s trade value. Or not.) In Banuelos, you’ve got a young pitcher who’s been making everyone drool for the past year, but who’s also walking everything in sight this year in his first taste of the high minors. It’s within the realm of possibility that he turns into an ace, but right now he’s just a very young pitcher who hasn’t shown he can consistently get outs in the high minors. With Betances, you’ve got a prospect scouts absolutely love to dream on, but who has never shown an ability to keep the free passes to a minimum (a career 4.2 BB/9 across the minors), and who may well profile as a reliever in the majors. And in Nova, you’ve got a completely average starter who is big league ready.
Now that’s not to sell any of these young guys short. Maybe one of them does hit their ceiling. Heck, maybe all of them do. But right now they’re just uncertain commodities who haven’t shown any (or much) big league ability. Ubaldo, on the other hand, is one of the 15-20 best pitchers in baseball, at a minimum, and the Rockies have him under control for 3 additional seasons at an absurdly affordable rate. In other words, he’s a Ferrari. And just because a Ferrari costs a lot of money doesn’t mean the dealer isn’t asking for a fair market rate for it.
When it comes to these “trade the farm” deals, the ultimate decision is one of risk, and where you want to put your money. In essence, do you think it’s more risky to bet on Ubaldo Jimenez or to bet on a package of young players. There’s no way to answer this question philosophically, it’s always a case by case thing, and the more I think about this question, the more I lean towards closing my eyes and pulling the trigger. It’s been fun to dream on the Yankees’ current top 3 prospects, but when you consider the risk involved with them, and consider that Ubaldo would be signed through 2013 at a very low salary, I’m pretty sure the trade comes out to a fair value for the Yankees. They’ll be getting a very good big league pitcher coming into the prime of his career at a significantly discounted salary, which will save them money they can put somewhere else in the organization. And they’ll certainly get better in the short term, without significantly managing the next few years, thanks to the fact that Ubaldo is only 27 years old.
Montero, Banuelos, Betances, and Nova is a high price to ask, but for Ubaldo Jimenez, it’s probably fair. And if push came to shove, I’d probably make that deal if I were Brian Cashman.