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.