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.