Count me among the people who thought that Brian Cashman had pulled a heist at the time of the Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos deal. Hindsight is 20/20, but knowing what we know now it makes less sense. The Yankees went on to sign Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte, Noesi has been lights out in Spring Training and Montero has been Montero. Phil Hughes has come to camp in the best shape of his life and is poised for a big season.
If the Yankees hadn’t made this trade, they would still have seven excellent pitchers for five spots; CC Sabathia, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova, Freddy Garcia, Andy Pettitte, and Hector Noesi.
Noesi was showing improved stuff over the winter before the trade. Would it have been so bad to have him under team control for four or so more years? The question becomes whether or not the extra production Pineda will provide over Noesi for the next four to five years is worth Montero. At this point Noesi could actually be better than Pineda during that span. If that’s the case, this trade can and will be considered a failure.
We can’t forget about Jose Campos in all of this. He’s got great stuff, throws hard, and has impressive control. He doesn’t yet have a third pitch. Without that pitch, he’s a late inning reliever. Campos has time to learn, so don’t mistake this for an attack. The point is he’s young and talented, but still really far away. A lot can happen that will change his career course.
Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez are taking up roster spots. Jesus Montero is a better, cheaper DH option. Jones could be relegated to the fourth outfielder, and Raul Ibanez would not be needed. Jesus could have even caught some games for the team, allowing Russ Martin to DH or take a day off.
Seattle is willing to let Montero catch. Maybe he’d be our backup catcher, and then Cervelli’s roster spot is up for grabs. Clay Rapada, Cesar Cabral, and Justin Maxwell are fighting for one spot. If Montero was still here the team could keep two. Maxwell has been phenomenal this spring, and was great in Triple-A last season. He looks ready. It is going to hurt to watch him go somewhere else and produce. With Cabral’s injury it’s actually possible that all three could have stayed with the team.
Some injuries have occurred that make this trade seem worse. Austin Romine‘s back injury means that the organizational depth at catcher is lacking. Pineda’s shoulder could just be rest and rehab, or it could be more ominous. If the shoulder injury to Pineda is serious the trade will unjustly be considered a failure. While it’s not a fair judgment, I think it is safe to say that most New York fans would be upset that Cashman gave up Montero for a pitcher who got injured before he ever pitched Bronx and was never the same. It’s most likely just some inflammation and time will heal it. He can spend some time in Triple-A while it heals and can finally get into game shape. I’m going to assume that none of these injuries took place, since that is not a fair argument to evaluate this trade.
ESPN New York refers to Montero as Babe Jeteriguez, because fans made him out to be a future hall of famer before proving anything. While this is true, the team would be in better position now if Cashman never made the trade. The lineup is not currently in need of help. They scored the second most runs in the league last season, and this was mostly without Montero. At this point the rotation doesn’t need any help either though. With aging players such as A-rod, Jeter, and Teixeira, and the contracts of Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher, Robinson Cano, and Russell Martin expiring within the next two years, the future of the offense is a concern. Couple that with the fact that the team has many pitchers who are close to the majors and almost no major league ready bats.
I’m not suggesting that the Yankees are in trouble, or that the team will not contend in three years. I am optimistic about the team’s ability to compete, even with the austerity budget, for years to come. I am suggesting that this trade might have been a bad idea. The whole premise of the trade was for the future, not for 2012. That has become more apparent as it becomes obvious that Pineda is heading for the DL. The future of the pitching staff without Pineda currently looks better than the future of the lineup without Montero. As far as maximizing the team’s future success, the team may have been better off keeping Montero and Noesi.
The Yankees are financially capable of staying within the constraints of the austerity budget, re-signing one or two of the expiring contracts, and trading some excess pitching for a young cheap hitter or two. This is why the team will always be a contender. After this trade though, those tasks became necessary. Before the trade, there were much more attainable offensive goals, since Montero was sure to provide the team with some good offense.
This is a retrospective analysis, which means I have had the benefit of looking at the events that occurred after the trade. Panic is a strong word, but the front office was clearly concerned about the pitching staff and made the decision to go through with a drastic trade to alleviate that concern. It remains to be seen whether this trade will be deemed a success or a failure. The trade was nothing if not a substantial risk taken on the part of Brian Cashman, and hopefully that risk will pay off for the team and the fans.