For one, if the Yankees were going to move a premier hitting piece for a pitcher, I’d have preferred it have been for more of a sure thing. There’s no question Pineda had a great 2011, and while the oft-cited supposed “second-half decline” has been debunked, and I’m aware of the fact that were he still a prospect, he’d be at the top of the Yankees’ top ten list, the fact that he is primarily a righthanded two-pitch pitcher with a bit of a flyball problem coming to Yankee Stadium concerns me. I understand that many feel that Pineda has #1 starter upside, but that upside can only be realized if he is able to develop a functional changeup to help him combat lefties, and as we’ve seen from several of the Yankees’ own starters, the change is one of the hardest pitches to learn.
It’s not I think the substance is wrong here, but I think there’s a double standard being applied to the two players here. Does Montero have the potential to become the second-coming of Edgar Martinez? Sure he does. But as Dave Cameron wrote at Fangraphs yesterday, that’s not a sure thing by any means, and in order to do that Montero will likely need to improve his plate discipline and command of the strikezone. To an extent, Montero is very much the hitting equivalent of…Michael Pineda. Both have the sort of tools that should allow them to be good players in the big leagues for some time and the potential to be great players, but both players need to continue to develop certain skills in order to become great major league players.
On this level, what the Yankees are doing is basically just swapping hitting for pitching, a strategy that makes a lot of sense. Not only do the Yankees need pitching in the short term, over the long term the problem of scarcity makes the pitcher more valuable than the hitter, especially given the Yankees’ financial resources. If the Yankees truly want to add a hitter, they will rarely, if ever, have trouble doing so because hitters are always in comparatively high supply compared to pitchers.
I guess this is also as good a time as any to say that I think some people are really ignoring the issues posed over the next 2-4 years by a non-catching Montero. Yes, a heavy hitting DH is still a valuable thing to have in a lineup, especially when they’re not making very much money, but what was going to happen in, say, 2014 when the Yankees decide Alex Rodriguez needs to be made a primary DH? So even beyond from the relative value of the two assets in a general sense, the Yankees’ particular roster issues even further marginalized Montero’s marginal value to them in the interim, assuming he won’t be able to remain a catcher in the majors.
And frankly, it’s probably time to admit that that’s not going to happen. I was willing to give Montero the benefit of the doubt as long as anyone, but you can’t keep doing that forever. I haven’t seen a single independent talent evaluator voice even the slightest amount of belief that Montero is a future catcher since the trade, and the only people who have claimed to believe Montero can catch are the Yankees themselves. However, this begs a pretty obvious question: if the Yankees thought Montero could catch, why did they have him slated to be their primary DH in 2012, rather than they’re starting catcher? Actions speak louder than words, as it were, and at no point in the last year have the Yankees shown any inclination to put action behind their protestations that Montero can-so be a big league catcher.
So that’s what we’re left with; a young 1B/DH with tremendous upside and a high floor on a team with preexisting commitments at those positions, and another team offering a young starting pitcher with tremendous upside and a high floor in exchange for that player. This is a no-brainer from the standpoint of resource allocation.