The initial shock has worn off and I’m beginning to see the Yankees trade of Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos as a move that certainly comes with a bit of risk, but one that the Yankees had to make.
In dealing for Pineda, the Yankees got a soon to be 23-year-old with ace potential who is under team control for the next five years. That helps them upgrade the rotation and helps to keep them under a $189 million payroll by 2014.
The deal is almost the opposite of the Javier Vazquez trade. Instead of landing a pitcher past his prime that makes a good amount of money while losing Arodys Vizcaino, a low level pitching prospect with a high ceiling, they landed a young pitcher who hasn’t even begun to scratch the surface of his talent while also grabbing a young prospect with a high ceiling.
The risks are real, but it isn’t like the Yankees can’t overcome them. If Pineda flops, this will look bad, but realistically the Yankees don’t like Montero as a catcher. They could have used him behind the plate last September when Francisco Cervelli got hurt, but they went out of their way to call up Austin Romine instead. If Montero is seen as strictly a DH, then he is replaceable no matter how good his bat is.
Meanwhile, the Yankees needed to upgrade their rotation. Hiroki Kuroda, whom they signed yesterday, is somewhat an improvement, but a year from now they would just need to replace him anyway and there is no guarantee they will be able to land any of the big name free agents expected to hit the open market next year. Pineda is a long-term solution so they won’t have to keep addressing the same issue year after year.
The Yankees had a very good team last year, but ultimately didn’t have enough to get past the first round. Now they have a pitcher who could fill in behind CC Sabathia as a strong No. 2 and with Kuroda in the fold they also have a marginal upgrade at No. 3 as well.
Pineda could flop. His second half ERA last season was scary, but as one commenter on this site has already pointed out, his second half FIP wasn’t nearly as ugly. His GB% was an ugly 36.3 percent, which could come back to hurt him in Yankee Stadium, but he does well against lefties (limiting the effects of the short porch) and he strikes out a ton. Those strikeouts will help make up for all of the fly balls. So while he certainly could flop (any pitcher could), he has the tools to do very well also.
Like I wrote yesterday, losing Noesi in this deal is no small thing. But the Yankees did have a problem where they viewed him strictly as a starting pitcher. That’s not the problem, the problem is that Brian Cashman said that he was going to start no matter what, even if it were in Triple-A. The problem is that Triple-A has a filled rotation with Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, David Phelps, Adam Warren, and D.J. Mitchell. Somebody had to move somewhere. In dealing Noesi, the Yankees were dealing from an area of depth, a smart move.
Campos also helps cushion the blow of losing Noesi. Noesi projected as a middle of the rotation type at best. Campos comes with a high ceiling. He will also start lower down in the minors, helping to avoid the Triple-A rotation crunch.
Like I’ve said, it certainly comes with risks. Montero’s bat seems like it has a pretty good chance to make him a memorable player, but the Yankees can replace him, they have had a lot of trouble finding a young starter. So the Montero-for-Pineda portion of the deal makes sense. Noesi was a nice piece to have, but at this point Campos is probably the better option for the Yankees, making that portion of the deal make sense as well.
So it’s a good trade. One that is even better when considering the packages teams gave up for Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez. Realistically, Pineda seems like at least as good an option as either of those two and perhaps even better. Meanwhile the Yankees didn’t have to unload the prospect cabinet to land Pineda. Montero plus Noesi is no small haul for the Mariners, but the Yankees managed to hold on to the Killer B’s and even add a very strong pitching prospect all while upgrading the major league rotation.
Hopefully I don’t have to come back and eat my words, but this looks like a job very well done by Cashman.