For most of the offseason, both the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners have been relatively silent. It is often that the public hears very little from Yankees general manager Brian Cashman himself- as of late he has opted more for a Teddy Roosevelt approach to acquisitions than that of George Steinbrenner style.
Speak softly, and carry a big stick. With the deal that these teams completed Friday night, this ideology has been put into practice.
After well over a year of being adamant that it would take “the right deal” to deal star catching prospect Jesus Montero, the Yankees did just that by dealing him across the Breadbasket of America to the west coast. Montero, alongside young-gun pitcher Hector Noesi will now find themselves in Mariner green and white, while Rookie of the Year candidate and stud pitcher Michael Pineda and highly-touted prospect Jose Campos head to the Bronx.
What took many by surprise was the suddenness of the deal, as grumblings of a trade between the two broke just hours before its completion. While it should come as no surprise to many that these two teams would be doing business together, it certainly was somewhat shocking that a deal of this magnitude came together in public so quickly. Both Cashman and Mariners GM Jake Zduriencik have been in discussions with one another several times over the past year over various trades that would have involved Seattle acquiring Montero, including a Cliff Lee trade that fell through at the last moment in 2010.
Ultimately though, what allowed these two teams to pull the trigger on this swap was the stability it provides for both squads, which, in essence, makes it one of the truest baseball trades the league has seen in a long time.
In this deal, the Mariners pick up one of the best hitting youngsters in all of baseball. Even in his short tenure as a Yankee during the latter part of the 2011 season, Montero was extremely impressive as the Yankees DH. The Venezuelan-native hit .328 with four homers and 12 RBI’s in 18 games played, and even batted in a run during the postseason as well. Even with limited catching ability, at 22-years-old, he will only improve as a complete baseball player, and certainly has the ability to be an All-Star relatively soon.
The Mariners, however, must understand that their ballpark is known to be a pitchers’ park by all accords, and putting ginormous expectations on a guy who’s played in less than 20 games in his entire career could be a bit much at first. What made Montero so deadly for the Yankees last season was his ability to go opposite field and take advantage of the short porch that is right field at Yankee Stadium, something that may be a little more difficult at Safeco Field where it is 326 feet to right.
Alongside Montero, Seattle picks up a 24 year-old righty in Hector Noesi, who had a streaky start to his Yankee career. Noesi did manage to strikeout 45 guys in 56.1 innings pitched in 2011, but struggled somewhat in serving up 28 earned runs in relief. He has tremendous upside if used correctly, which will be a testament to how Eric Wedge can manage him early on in his career. It will be interesting to see what he can do, but he is certainly more ready for the big leagues than his counterpart with whom he was swapped for.
Even though Cashman has been quoted as calling Montero his own Mike Piazza, this was a trade he needed to go through with. It addresses the Yankees glaring need for another starter, and he fixes just that with Michael Pineda.
Pineda, 22, was an All-Star in his rookie campaign that saw him go 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA in 171 innings pitched. While the record is only reflected by the team he played for, it is his strikeout total that interests New York undoubtedly. He struck out 173 batters in 2011, but moreover, sported a 9.1 K/9 line, a number surpassed only by David Cone and Roger Clemens in Yankees lore.
While the deal does wreak some havoc within rotation placement, as Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett or Freddy Garcia could find themselves on the outside looking in, Pineda should have a solidified spot in it. Expect the right-handed Pineda to fill in as a no. 3 guy behind Ivan Nova at first, but could potentially even move up to backing up CC Sabathia.
Also, the Yankees bring in Jose Campos with this trade, who is viewed as one of the better young arms in the minors for what he is worth. While he is still trying to develop as a complete pitcher, the belief is that Campos arm will be good enough to simply overpower hitters. In 14 games in the Northwest League in 2011, Campos sported a 2.32 ERA, with a K/9 line of 9.4. If he can eventually find himself a spot in the Yankees already powerful bullpen, he could be an X factor in this trade.
As mentioned earlier, this trade is almost as split down the middle as it can possibly be. Both teams addressed their pressing needs immediately, which should start paying dividends fast. The Mariners acquire a guy who could potentially be one of the deadliest hitters in baseball down the line, and the Yankees get a pitcher, who if he plays out to his full potential, could even be a Cy Young candidate one day.
SB Nation released a graph that utilizes the predicted WAR of the players involved in the deal for the next three years to determine who will have won the trade. Their graph shows that the combined WAR of Montero/Noesi is slightly higher than that of Pineda/Campos, even though Pineda outscores Montero. The wild-card in this is undoubtedly Campos, who must surface as a presence in the Yankees bullpen in years to come.
From a strictly objective view, however, the argument can be made that the Yankees come away with more of a satisfied positional outcome. Baseball 101 states that pitching wins championships, and when the Yankees are involved, finding a hitter is of little regard. Additionally, the Yankees added former Dodgers starter Hiroki Kuroda Friday night, which will furthermore aid in the starting rotation.
Even so however, if there is a winner in this deal, it is of a small margin. New York fills their pitching need, while Seattle gets their hitter that they hope they can build a lineup around. It is an old-fashioned baseball trade, and both front offices of these squads deserve much credit for getting it done. It will be incredibly exciting to see how this one plays out, not only in 2012, but for years to come.