Cashman steals an ace

First, let’s have an honest look at Montero. Yes, he’s one of the best offensive prospects in baseball and, yes, the Yankees have rather routinely compared his offensive potential to Miguel Cabrera, but he likely won’t stick as a catcher, and that will relegate him to being a first baseman or designated hitter. Now, if he hits like Miguel Cabrera from that position he’ll certainly provide a lot of value to the Mariners, but he’ll provide less value than if he were catching, and he would provide somewhat less marginal value to the Yankees because they already have a first baseman locked into place and useful designated hitters aren’t hard to find at all with the amount of resources Cashman has to go hunting with. That’s not to say you trade him for a role player by any means, but Michael Pineda is far from a role player. Rather, he’s a (soon to be) 23 year old with a full season’s worth of experience under his belt and crazy good stuff. And while designated hitters aren’t hard to find, young starting pitchers with ace potential most certainly are, and that’s even more true if the Yankees are serious about hitting their 2014 payroll target. Indeed, Pineda is basically a perfect return for Montero, excluding the class of pitchers who were never going to get traded for anyone right now.

If anything, I don’t understand what Seattle is thinking in making this trade. After watching Mat Latos fetch four players, including a big league ready first baseman and a near ready catching prospect with a career .303/.401/.488 batting line in the minors, after which Oakland got four of Washington’s top 10 prospects for Gio Gonzalez, Seattle traded a better asset than either of those pitchers for a return of just two players. Yes, Seattle probably got the single best asset returned to any of the “selling” teams in Montero, but a) they probably should expect to get the best player returned in exchange for the best player surrendered and b) in the most likely event, Seattle is getting a designated hitter and fourth starter caliber pitcher. That’s not a bad addition, by any means, but it seems light for a pitcher like Pineda.

But what’s more, Cashman got Seattle to throw in a legitimate pitching prospect for good measure! Jose Campos isn’t some after thought you take back on a whim or maybe hope functions as a suitable second LOOGY for a year or so, he’s a live-armed 19 year old with a 8.8 K/9 in 171 career minor league innings. He’s a long way from the majors yet, but he’s got a high ceiling to be sure, and Jim Callis would rank him 5th on the Yankees’ organizational top 10 list right now, just behind Mason Williams.

I don’t know how many other ways to say it: this was a flat out steal for the Yankees, and probably the best transaction any team has made yet this offseason. Losing Montero will hurt, but Pineda should more than make up for that over the long run. And now, in addition, the Yankees have three high ceiling pitching prospects in their organizational top five, along with another Montero in the making in Gary Sanchez.

Brian Cashman certainly isn’t perfect as a general manager, but when he’s good, he’s very good.

12 thoughts on “Cashman steals an ace

  1. KC1

    I really hate to see montero in another uniform. but i undestand the need for pitching that the yankees had.now my question is what are they going to do with hughes,garcia and burnett there is only one spot available as the 5th starter…im thinking cc.kuroda,nova,pineda and garcia..hughes to the pen and aj for long relief…u tell us….

  2. Ben

    This deal is the type you love to see if you are a Yankee fan praising Cashman for his patient approach to rebuilding their farm system. If this was George Steinbrenner's team still, Montero would have been traded a while ago for a Jeff Weaver type pitcher while Montero would be coming into his own and producing. The Yanks gave up a lot here as did the Mariners. Noesi could thrive in Safeco, making him a number 3 starter in Safeco and probably a number 4 on the road. With the Yanks' current rotation, their first four line up with any in the MLB, with the exception of Tampa and the Angels. What defines who wins this deal to me is if Campos comes up and turns into a mid-rotation starter. If that's the case, and Pineda keeps his status as at the minimum No. 2 and a borderline ace, the Yanks win. But in the long term, both teams win as the Mariners are flush with young pitching while the Yanks have Martin and Romine right now at the catching position, the finances to get a one year deal for a part time DH, and Gary Sanchez developing in the wings with probably added motivation now that Montero is absolutely out of his way to develop into the Yanks future catcher. Great day for the Yanks farm system, their current team, and their fans.

  3. Do DNase all

    What I find too self serving from many Yankee blogsites (the writers not the comment posters) is the about face on Montero's defense and their complete lack of baseball history on what strong hitting catchers become? They usually become 3rd baseman- strong arm, agile movement and ability to get in front of the ball with their plus bat. If I were the Mariners, that's exactly what I would. Even Miguel Cabrera was a 3rd baseman for a few years and Montero's skills have to better than that. While I got to witness Jesus's opposite field power in person (truly an adrenaline rush) I understand the deal but still feel cheated after the past 4 years of hype and glimpses of the future.

  4. John

    Hey Brien. Great article. I think in the second paragraph you meant to say "Jose Campos isn't some after thought" not "is some after thought."

    Really excited and nervous about this trade at the same time. However, I agree that both teams traded a strength to fill a need. Good deal for both sides.

  5. domonic

    Whats the Yankees' 2014 payroll target? I keep seeing it mentioned, can someone tell us what the number is?

  6. the Rev

    $189,000,000

  7. Kevin S.

    "And while designated hitters aren’t hard to find, young starting pitchers with ace potential most certainly are"

    I've been seeing this thought a lot since the trade, and I hate the way it plays on the relative values of Montero and Pineda. Certainly Pineda is indeed a young starting pitcher with ace potential, but Montero is hardly the caliber of DH bat we're talking about that can be easily found. Yes, he can be replaced by a DH who isn't as good, just like Pineda replaces a pitcher who isn't as good.

    • LarryAtIIATMS

      Kevin, I understand what you are saying, but I disagree. VERY good DH candidates are always available in free agency. They are the easiest commodity to find. If the Yankees wanted to spend the money, this year they could have filled the DH role with Pujols or Prince Fielder (they can STILL fill the DH role with Prince Fielder). In my wildest dreams I cannot imagine Montero becoming a better hitter than Pujols, and the chances are slim he'll ever hit like Fielder. At a lower price this year, there's David Ortiz. OK, granted, this is an unusually good crop of free agent DHs. But last year there was Adam Dunne (well, we THOUGHT he'd be good), Paul Konerko, Victor Martinez, and on the cheap side Manny Ramirez (well, we THOUGHT he was available) and Vlad Guerrero. The year before there was Victor Martinez again, Matt Holliday, Manny Ramirez again, Bobby Abreu, Johnny Damon, and on the cheap side Hideki Matsui. Sure, a lot of these guys played primarily in the field, but they could have been DHs.

      In contrast, top of the line pitching is getting harder to find in free agency, and when you find them they are expensive and demand uncomfortably long-term contracts.

      • BrienJackson

        It's also probably a good idea to keep the rest of the roster in perspective as well. The Yankees have quite a bit of offense, and will likely want to move A-Rod to DH more often as early as this year, maybe even primarily by 2013. If that happens and Montero can't catch (though I think he probably could be a nominal catcher for this team if there was no other place for him to play), you start running out of space in the lineup for everyone. On the other hand, they did need high end pitching, and that's very hard to drum up at the minimum salary. Signing Cole Hamels or Matt Cain might get you the talent you want, but it would blow up the budget plan and thus cost them an extra $50 million, give or take, in forfeited savings in 2014.

        Beyond that, the trade just represents some really good value. The Yankees got a young cost controlled front of the rotation caliber pitcher AND another legitimate prospect who becomes one of the top five or six names in the system and they did it without giving two of Montero/Banuelos/Betances. Considering what the asking price for everyone else on the market from Latos to Danks, they basically either had to make a move like this or content themselves to having Hughes/Burnett/Garcia all in the rotation again this year.

        • Kevin S.

          I don't disagree with anything you just said, just the idea that a bat of Montero's caliber is somewhat fungible (and that's probaly not have been what you meant, but it's how it came across).

  8. Mike

    A Jones/Carlos Pena platoon at DH very likely outhits Montero this year.

  9. LarryAtIIATMS

    I couldn't be happier about this trade.

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