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It is remarkable how news is delivered and digested in the Twitter Era. It comes at us in a flurry–rumors, confirmations, reactions, analysis. There is little time for reflection and an overload of hyperactive reaction.

Last night, the trade of Jesus Montero to the Mariners for Michael Pineda, prompted conflicting feelings for Yankee fans. Many are disappointed to see Montero leave. Here is a player that was nurtured by the organization–even though they dangled him a year-and-a-half ago to Seattle for Cliff Lee–a guy who looked more than promising when he arrived in the Bronx late last year. Montero was hyped, of course, this being New York, but he was also a player that many of us felt would be a pleasure to watch in pinstripes for the next decade. And now that is gone–whoosh.

Montero is being replaced by the another promising player, a young pitcher with a great fastball and an effective silder, but Pineda is not our guy. We’ve got no attachment to him yet. He’s just a face, a stat line. He’s not The Jesus.

The arguments run both ways–hitters aren’t as risky as pitchers, a starting pitcher is more valuable than a DH, a great hitter catcher is even more important than a good starting pitcher–and they are all valid. Yankee fans are experiencing duel emotions but there is room to mourn the loss of Montero and to be eager about the addition of Pineda. The risk involved in trading something as precious as Montero and Pineda makes this all the more unsettling. So we’re anxious, and that’s what makes this exciting and gives us baseball nerds something to keep  our engines going in the middle of winter.

Here are reactions around the web from: David Waldstein (The Times)Cliff Corcoran (SI); Paul Swydan (Fangraphs)Steven Goldman (Pinstriped Bible); William J (The Captain’s Blog); can’t forget No Maas, and over at It’s about the Money Stupid, check out this fine collection of links from around the web.

Finally, here’s Dave Cameron with a scouting report on Pineda over at Fangraphs:

Among qualified AL starting pitchers last year, only Brandon Morrow and Justin Verlander posted a higher strikeout rate than Pineda, who whiffed 24.9% of the batters he faced. His K% was better than David Price, CC Sabathia, and yes, even Felix. Pineda’s live fastball and willingness to live up in the strike zone led to a lot of swinging strikes, and that had nothing to do with the park he played in.

Lots of young pitchers can throw hard and rack up strikeouts, however. What sets Pineda apart is his impeccable command at such a young age. 66 percent of the pitches he threw last year were strikes, and his 7.9% BB% was below the league average. It is highly uncommon to see a kid with that kind of live arm arrive in the Major Leagues pounding the zone, but that’s exactly what Pineda did. 94-97 MPH fastballs to get ahead, and then an out-pitch slider or a fastball out of the zone with two strikes to get the K. It was a recipe for success, and Pineda used his command of those two pitches to establish himself as one of the game’s best young starting pitchers.

So, while he’s not perfect (his change-up is lousy and left-handers can still jump on him from time to time), Yankees fans should be thrilled with their new addition. And, given the price that other young arms have been fetching this winter, they should be even more thrilled with the cost.

Pineda is the third quality young arm to get traded this winter, following the trades that shipped Gio Gonzalez to Washington and Mat Latos to Cincinnati. Given that both pitchers come with one fewer year of team control and lack Pineda’s dominating fastball, a strong case could be made that the Yankees new starter is the most valuable asset of the three guys that were moved. However, compared to the other two packages surrendered, the Yankees didn’t really pay much of a premium to get Pineda, and one could even make an argument that they gave up less value overall than what the Reds surrendered to get Latos.


[Photo Credits: DanytumblogPhillipe Reichert, Attimi Rubati x2,electric feeling, Studio Museum in Harlem]

Categories:  1: Featured  Hot Stove  Yankees

Tags:  jesus montero  michael pineda

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1 monkeypants   ~  Jan 14, 2012 9:26 am

My reaction: as indicated on the previous thread, I am emotionally (though not necessarily intellectually) disappointed. That and I added the following bit of pessimism:

103 ERA+, lots of Ks, few walks, excellent WHIP, but also lots of fly balls and HRs. He's only 23. That means he is still of the age for the Yankees to somehow unlearn all of his pitching ability. On the other hand, Pineda was not bound by the Yankees organizational innings limits rules, so he managed to pitch 170 INN last year. That means 200 INN is a real possibility this year. It will take Phil Hughes until he's 37 to get up to 200 INN.

All this is to say, I am really not confident about the Yankees ability to make good on an investment in a young pitcher, though in this case Pineda may be Yankee-proof.

2 Sliced Bread   ~  Jan 14, 2012 9:30 am

Great post, Alex, and thanks for the links. I have a fresh cup of coffee and plenty of reading to do until I take my boys for haircuts in an hour.

3 horace_clarke_era   ~  Jan 14, 2012 9:34 am

I'm reposting in the new thread, have memories of thread shift last year!

After a quiet (too quiet!) winter, I was a happy man last night. This was a strength for strength and Montero, as many have noted, was utterly blocked if he wasn't going to be a starting C. In this I will absolutely trust several years of Yankee braintrust watching him. It makes no sense to do otherwise.

The fun factor of watching him bat is balanced by the sheer pleasure of a deep, strong rotation, now very possible, even probable. People are saying shoulda got Felix ... it wasn't going to happen or it would have. And the people saying get Fielder now ... are ignoring the economic realities of adding a $20,000,000 plus DH forever.

We can't own everyone! (I know some will say 'Why not??' but really...) Kuroda, by the way, costs us more like $14 million given our cap penalty. The Steins opened the wallet for this, in a year when BoSox are rebuilding.

I agree that Phil is likely to pen now, if Garcia can hang in as #5, and can see Cash eating most of AJ's salary to get a serviceable DH from the NL. In a year one or two of the baby starters may arrive.

This was a very good deal. Ninja country, yes.

4 horace_clarke_era   ~  Jan 14, 2012 9:41 am

The No Maas movie poster is brilliant.

5 monkeypants   ~  Jan 14, 2012 9:41 am

Jayson Stark tweeted: Montero-Pineda is one of most fascinating deals in years. Two young studs with star power. No money factor. A pure, old-time baseball trade.

That's true. And for that the trade is pretty cool, regardless of my emotional disappointment.

6 monkeypants   ~  Jan 14, 2012 9:44 am

[3] This was a strength for strength and Montero, as many have noted, was utterly blocked if he wasn't going to be a starting C.

Yep. This is going to be very interesting to consider in the future. If Montero ends up as a credible C for the Mariners for at least the next few years, that will raise some real question marks about the Yankees ability to evaluate their own talent. If not, then the organization had it right all along and pretty much sold high.

7 Sliced Bread   ~  Jan 14, 2012 9:50 am

great stuff from Cliff, and William, and the NoMaas "Friday the 13th" thing is brilliant.

I'm warming to the deal, but I'm not at all buying the bottomline argument that the Yankees traded Montero because they believe he can't catch.

There's a lot more to it than that, and I'm sticking to my prediction that Montero WILL catch. Will he be a great catcher? No. Will he be serviceable enough to counter his missed plays with his bat, and still be a plus? I think so, and I'm fairly confident he'll prove me right in the long-run.

If the Yankees were only planning to use him 30 times behind the plate this year Montero is much better off with Seattle, and I'm very sorry to see him go.

8 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 14, 2012 9:58 am

I agreed with you in the last thread, MP. And I also agree with the assessment of the impact on the roster compared to other clubs making similar exchanges. I mentioned two threads ago that the Yanks scored a lot of runs even without Montero in the lineup, and what he gave us in a small sample size stretched over a whole season is really easy to replace (and may not be necessary if the starters play to norm). I'm far better with this today than yesterday given the analysis that's been done so far.

9 monkeypants   ~  Jan 14, 2012 10:01 am

From MLBtraderumors:

Yankees GM Brian Cashman feels he took a "huge risk" with the trade, reports The Record's Bob Klapisch (via Twitter). "I gave up a ton (for Pineda)," Cashman said. "To me, Montero is Mike Piazza. He's Miguel Cabrera."

If Cashman is being honest and accurate, and Montero = Piazza/Cabrera, is this a good trade?

10 horace_clarke_era   ~  Jan 14, 2012 10:03 am

I'm not even sure if he was going to get 30 behind the plate! May not have been our #2 C. In Seattle, Olivo has (I think) one more year and will catch 120 games. I suspect they WILL give Montero a good look as back-up, to see if NY was wrong.

Kid for kid trades are always anxiety provoking, and there's the old psych theory about overvaluing what you hold (stocks, a used car, ballplayers in real life and fantasy), but this remains a strength for strength trade. I'm also not discounting that Cash 'won' the 3rd and 4th players, too, it seems.

I'm also high on Kuroda for a year at that price (even with the luxury tax). It was quite a night. We need a DH/extra OF now. I think we need to stay tuned.

11 The Hawk   ~  Jan 14, 2012 10:03 am

I've heard a lot about people finding Jesus but this is the first case I've heard where someone lost him.

Yeah immediately I thought it was a good trade and as per [5] a fun, interesting trade. But also disappointing losing a homegrown guy who we'd all been hearing and talking about for a few years now. And I think that's a legitimate reaction too, I mean sports is entertainment and rooting is an emotional business after all.

William's piece was great, made me feel better.

The silver lining I've come up with regarding Montero is that the Yanks didn't/couldn't know exactly what to do with him and can't afford to experiment. So give him to Seattle for a few years and let them figure it out. Depending on the results, the Yanks can sign him back when he's a free agent!

12 horace_clarke_era   ~  Jan 14, 2012 10:05 am

[9] Just saw this. Frankly, if he's Mike Piazza, no it is NOT a good trade. But if he really thought he was, the trade doesn't happen. They just sign Kuroda. This feels like making nice to the guys you undressed on poker night.

13 monkeypants   ~  Jan 14, 2012 10:08 am

[12] I asked only as a hypothetical.

14 horace_clarke_era   ~  Jan 14, 2012 10:17 am

Hi, MP, I know: but it is a good hypothetical, and my answer's essentially in the same vein - that the trade can only be made if Cash and Co really do NOT think he's a HoF catcher or even a really fine career one at that position.

15 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 14, 2012 10:26 am

[6] But that doesn't necessarily mean that if any one of three options (Russell Martin, Austin Romine, Gary Sanchez) turn out to be more than serviceable over the same period of time.

It could mean that they had higher hopes with Romine and Sanchez long term for their defense and ability to handle the staff; offense at the catcher position is more often a luxury, their defense is more integral. I'd look at his defense before his offense and decide if the Yanks gave up on him too quick; given what they got from him so far, they are somewhat justified to trade him high based primarily on his bat. And if he does advance defensively, how much credit are you really willing to give they Yanks for that?

Btw, do the M's still have Justin Smoak, who they chose over Montero in trading Cliff Lee? That little comp bears watching as well, unless Smoak is already, um, smoked...

16 horace_clarke_era   ~  Jan 14, 2012 10:34 am

Smoak is their 1st baseman, and apparently decent there. Montero is unlikely to play 1st in Seattle except in emergencies.

17 Jon DeRosa   ~  Jan 14, 2012 10:46 am

[13] As a hypothetical, if Montero turns out to be Mike Piazza, it would hard to think of this as a good trade unless Pineda is a stud pitcher for a long time, a Cy Young candidate multiple times.

18 monkeypants   ~  Jan 14, 2012 10:52 am

[16] Smoak hit about .720 OPS with an SLG under .400. That's pretty aweful for 1B. Smoak is still very young and was a highly valued prospect, so the Mariners will be patient with him, presumably. But if his performance doesn't improve, he shouldn't block anybody.

19 Alex Belth   ~  Jan 14, 2012 10:56 am

Montero might be that good. But I also think Cashman is putting on a good face. He's not going to trash the guy. No, praise him--and again, the praise could be accurate--but make it clear how much you gave up. Good for Pineda too, to know what's expected of him. Takes is high.

20 flycaster   ~  Jan 14, 2012 10:57 am

I don't pretend to be a professional talent evaluator, but I distinctly recall watching Montero catch in spring training last year and he was astonishingly, indescribably poor. That said, he could certainly improve, and we of all fans should have a warm place in our hearts for a good hit/poor field catcher. I would say his best-bet upside would be as Edgar Martinez II, which is saying a lot. I like the trade even though I was looking forward to watching Jesus play for the Yanks. Dominant pitching wins.

21 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 14, 2012 11:15 am

Here's another hypothetical question: if Texas signs Fielder and Darvish to long term deals, would you trade for Josh Hamilton (who would not likely get a long-term deal under those set of circumstances)?

22 Jon DeRosa   ~  Jan 14, 2012 11:21 am

What I also liked about Montero from what I saw was how easily he could exploit the short porch in right field. Seemed tailor made for our park, as much as any right handed hitter could be.

23 Jon DeRosa   ~  Jan 14, 2012 11:22 am

[21] Why would the Rangers trade the guy? The Rangers are in the pole position in the AL. Seems to me they are not going to do anything that would have a negative impact on their major league team.

24 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 14, 2012 11:45 am

[23] That's assuming they can afford to keep them all (and Nelson Cruz, Neftali Feliz, Elvis Andrus, et al) long term together like the Yanks did with their core guys in the 90's. If they can't or don't wish to (cheaper replacements on the farm), why wouldn't they try to get value for someone they can replace or can't afford to keep in the first place?

25 seamus   ~  Jan 14, 2012 11:48 am

wow, just wow! saw the news this morning and read through the last three threads and am still somewhat stunned. like many have said, sad to see jesus go. i now lose the opportunity to play this song after huge homers. i do think it's a fair deal though and we'll have to see how players pan out.

but i am relieved as well. going into this season needing aj in the rotation and with Hughes mixed results thus far made me nervous. we now have incredible starting pitching depth. i am sad that this might bump Hughes from the rotation as he's one of those home grown guys i really want to succeed. Not sure what happens now for sure but two guys get bumped so who?


bye bye aj? hughes to pen? is pen an option for garcia? well, if nothing else, my excitement for the season jumps a notch with a more serviceable rotation.

26 monkeypants   ~  Jan 14, 2012 11:56 am

[25] I am completely certain that it's going to be Hughes-to-the-pen or Hughes-traded.

27 Chyll Will   ~  Jan 14, 2012 12:22 pm

I see AJ being traded for whatever. Hughes is traded if he's less than lights out by mid season or is lights out during Spring training for depth (based on what the rest of the rotation is doing). They'd probably want to keep Hughes around as a hedge on any of Pineda, Kuroda or Garcia and especially is Nova takes a giant step backwards.

28 horace_clarke_era   ~  Jan 14, 2012 1:04 pm

For sure they need six starters, not just for steps backwards but because there are ALWAYS injuries. They may well keep all 7, two in the pen, but then they add payroll for the everyday DH (or platoon) they need.

Or, does anyone think they might rotate DJ/Alex/Swisher/Tex through and around DH?

I think AJ CAN be dealt, it is just a matter of how much of his crazy contract we'll cover. If we want a good player back, we cover a lot of it, if we take lunch money, less.

29 William Juliano   ~  Jan 14, 2012 1:10 pm

Twitter can definitely be a write first, think later medium. My initial reaction was very negative because I had visions of Montero's opposite field power dancing in my head (i.e., Cabrera, Manny, Piazza), but upon further reflection, the move makes more sense.

Ultimately, the wisdom of the deal hinges on Montero's defensive ability. If he can catch adequately, Pineda would have to be an ace of aces to justify the deal. However, as a 1B/DH, his offense would still be very good, but those players are a lot easier to find. Almost every season, a top bat at that position comes available, so ultimately, this was a trade based on greater need and scarcity.

As for Cash's glowing assessment of Montero, I am sure he believes it because I do as well. However, that's the ceiling, and there are no guarantees Montero will actually be that good (although I am certain he will at least be a well above average major league hitter over a long career).

30 Mr OK Jazz Tokyo   ~  Jan 14, 2012 8:07 pm

[24] I'm not sure about signing Hamilton long-term..guy can't stay healthy. For all the concerns about Prince Fielder's "body type", guy never misses a game. I'd sign him 5-125 easily as the contract will end when he's 33, that's perfect.

31 horace_clarke_era   ~  Jan 14, 2012 8:53 pm

Guys, we can't AFFORD 5/125 right now, we have the richest payroll, but are not a bottomless bank account going forward. Target is 192 million or something. Yes, some guys will come off in couple of years (Jeter, AJ) but others will become 20 million players (Cano, for one).

32 Jose Sarduy   ~  Jan 14, 2012 9:23 pm

Thanks for those links Alex.

Most of these columnist mention trading Jesus will give "DH at-bats to aging and oft-injured veterans" which is a good idea but I still think and hope they'll get a hitter.

33 monkeypants   ~  Jan 15, 2012 2:43 am

[30] I doubt Fielder signs for fewer than 7 years.

34 OldYanksFan   ~  Jan 15, 2012 1:54 pm

[3] Hoss...? Hoss....? Is that You? is that REALLY YOU???

35 OldYanksFan   ~  Jan 15, 2012 2:18 pm

Out next 'DH' should be a non-1Bman player... who can play the field when needed and gives us some flexibility.

Montero was horrible behind the plate. Of everything I've read, only people affiliated with the Yankees thought he could Catch. Coincidence?

Frankly, with Mauer breaking down already, I'm not sure you take a potential .900+ OPS player and put him behind the plate. Jesus is big and sluggish. He can BUC if needed, but the guy (much as I love him) probably won't Catch. Seattle has no hitting. They might be better making Montero a pure DH, ala Big Papi, and just build around him and Smoak. The Yankees didn't have that luxury, but Seattle does.

36 monkeypants   ~  Jan 15, 2012 2:34 pm

[35] Montero was horrible behind the plate. Of everything I've read, only people affiliated with the Yankees thought he could Catch. Coincidence?

Of course it's not a coincidence---it was in the interest of most others to downplay his catching ability, right? Anyway, Piazza was terrible behind the plate but that still worked out ok.

I guarantee Montero catches with Seattle.

37 monkeypants   ~  Jan 15, 2012 4:18 pm

Let's push the Mauer comparison further. Mauer has begun to break down at age 28 after about 5 or 6 monster seasons as a catcher. That's the same number of seasons that Montero will likely play for the Mariners before he leaves as a very costly free agent. If I am in the Mariner's organization, why would I worry significantly about Montero breaking down early after catching? Rather, my strategy would be to extract maximum value from him for the duration of his almost-certain limited tenure with the team.

38 horace_clarke_era   ~  Jan 16, 2012 8:49 am

OYF, old timer, yes, 'tis the Hoss, shambling out of his stall into the pasture, at the news of a big Cashmoney move. Much has changed here, much remains the same (A Rod's contract!).

I was medium happy with the HoF voting. Not a big Jack Morris fan but he won't be the worst P in the Hall. Still think Tim Raines gets way too little love.

I think the Friday Night Lights moves were very strong. Obviously when you deal a top prospect for a top prospect there's risk, but the positional alignment makes this a really smart move, I think.

I agree with you that the next DH, ideally, will also be a semi-decent OF. Money is tight now, though. The 10 million for Kuroda was a one-time extension, a breaking of current policy. Cash needs to unload some contract to find room for a DH, or the 'policy' is a sham. Only obvious place is to try to dump half of AJs contract and get back an 8-9 million DH type. But who wants to do that with us? Who wants AJ at even 9 million? Not based on last year, that's for sure.

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