In January before the 2012 season the Yankees went all-in on their rotation. They announced the signing of free-agent pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, a move that was largely expected, and, in bigger news, they announced they had acquired Michael Pineda in exchange for Jesus Montero. Yankee fans knew Montero well. For several seasons he was heralded as the middle of the order bat waiting in the farm system for his chance to impact the Yankees. All of baseball knew Pineda, who had just come off a successful, if uneven, rookie season. The trade was controversial. Montero had raked in his cup of coffee the year prior, but it was clear the Yankees wanted to improve the team through the rotation.
Of course the trade had exactly zero impact on the Yankee season. Pineda suffered a career threatening injury in spring training and will be back in the beginning of the 2013 season at the earliest. Montero, meanwhile, struggled in Seattle. After hitting .328/.406/.590 over an exciting 69 plate appearances with the Yankees in 2011, Montero managed a measly .260/.298/.386 over a full season with the Mariners. His power fell off a cliff, managing just a .126 ISO and only 15 homers. Net total, if fWAR is a reliable estimate, the Yankees got the better half of the deal. Pineda gave the Bombers zero fWAR, but Montero measures as a drag on the 2012 M’s, giving them -0.2 fWAR.
No one knows if Montero would have put together such a bad season if he’d stayed in Pinstripes. The Yankee lineup certainly would have offered him more protection and perhaps a better opportunity to develop further as a hitter. Then again, it was also possible that a full season in the big leagues would have exposed him as needing more development no matter what uniform he wore. The net result was that the Yankees got a pass on trading the team’s best offensive prospect since Derek Jeter, for at least one season. Neither team got what it wanted. Pineda’s injury is such that there is a legitimate risk he won’t have much of an impact on the Yankees in 2013 either. If Montero turns into an average hitter at least then the assessment of the trade will suddenly favor the Mariners.