Maybe there were no household names involved, but Michael Pineda-for-Jesus Montero is a huge trade, one that, at first inspection, appears to have been won by the Yankees.
The Mariners picked up Montero after originally passing on him in a Cliff Lee deal in the summer of 2010. They chose the Rangers’ package headed by Justin Smoak instead of a Montero-centered trade with the Yankees then, a mistake that they may well have compounded tonight. While Montero is likely to be a terrific hitter for the next 10 or 15 years, that’s probably all he’s going to be. His catching hasn’t progressed to the point at which he can serve as a major league regular, and if he’s simply a DH, then his upside doesn’t match Pineda’s.
Pineda, who turns 23 next week, didn’t overwhelm with a 3.74 ERA as a rookie, but it came with a 173/55 K/BB ratio in 171 innings. He was that good despite having just 25 starts in the upper minors under his belt. With his mid-90s fastball, he has a great chance of serving as a top-of-the-rotation starter for a good long time. Of course, he’s a young pitcher and there’s always the possibility that he’ll run into elbow or shoulder problems. Still, with no sign of them so far, the Yankees were smart to jump. Arms like Pineda’s are so rarely available. Given his ceiling and the fact that he has five years left before free agency, he was worth significantly more than the other talented pitchers traded this winter, Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez included.
The deal, which also includes right-handers Hector Noesi going to Seattle and Jose Campos to New York, brings to mind the Josh Hamilton-for-Edinson Volquez swap the Reds and Rangers pulled off four years ago. Both teams were happy with their returns after one year, but Volquez blew out his arm in 2009 and struggled to make it back. The Yankees will hope it’s the pitcher who prevails this time. With Pineda behind CC Sabathia in the rotation and a free agent designated hitter (Johnny Damon? Vladimir Guerrero?) replacing Montero, they certainly seem to be in a better position to make a postseason run this year than they did a day ago.
The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.
The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.
For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.
The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.
St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.
The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.
Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?
Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.