January 14, 2013 by Matt Musico
It only happened on this date last year, but it was still a significant trade, nontheless. The Yankees wanted to get another young arm for their rotation, while the Mariners were hurting to get some more power in their lineup (which seems to be a yearly occurrence), so they hooked up to complete the following trade (excerpt from National Pastime):
The Yankees deal Jesus Montero, considered to be the top catching prospect in the major leagues, to the Mariners to obtain Michael Pineda, a promising 22-year-old starting pitcher. Having given up their prized backstop, the Bronx Bombers add to their rotation an All-star righhander, who posted a 9-10 record along with an ERA of 3.03, averaging nearly a strikeout per frame in 171 inning of work last season.
On the surface, this looked like a fantastic deal for both sides; although it must have been hard for Yankee fans to watch Montero leave the Bronx after posting an impressive .328/.406/.590 line with 4 homers and 12 RBI in just 69 plate appearances, they were getting a soon-to-be 23-year-old pitcher (at the time) that was coming off a fantastic rookie season. He not only formed an incredible one-two punch with Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, but he was also selected to his first All-Star game as well. By the end of 2011, Pineda posted a 9-10 record with a 3.74 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, and 173 strikeouts in 171 innings pitched. Having a 95 mph fastball didn’t hurt, either.
So, fans of neither team wanted to watch their respective player get traded away, but to help fill a need, a GM has to unfortunately give up someone they don’t want to give up. In this case, the pitching-rich Seattle Mariners felt it was a worthy risk to ship out Pineda to acquire Montero, which was considered to be one of the top catching prospects in the game. As Mets fans will soon find out (they hope), being able to acquire a catcher that has 20+ HR potential like Montero or Travis d’Arnaud doesn’t happen all that often, and they must jump on the opportunity while the iron is hot.
As for the Yankees, they could have used Montero in the designated hitter position, but with an older team and the combination of Andruw Jones and Raul Ibanez to be used by manager Joe Girardi at that spot in the lineup, there was no room for the young slugger to get at-bats, especially with Russell Martin having a stronghold of the primary catching duties. So, Brian Cashman felt it was best to trade from their strength to acquire some legit pitching to support CC Sabathia and the newly acquired Hiroki Kuroda.
How has this trade turned out for each team a year later? Well, if you’re a fan of either the Mariners or the Yankees, you know exactly who has won and who has lost at this point. Montero spent 2012 in the Majors with Seattle, posting a .260/.298/.386 line with 15 homers and 62 RBI. It’s a far cry from the stats he put up during his cup of coffee in the Bronx, but for a 22-year-old in his first full season in the Bigs with virtually no protection around him, he had a fantastic year. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik has been desperate to find more offense to build around Montero, and he’s added Kendrys Morales to the mix. Zduriencik would like to add more, but he’s been unsuccessful in his courtship of Josh Hamilton and pursuit of Justin Upton.
For the Yankees, this trade couldn’t have worked out worse. Pineda tore the labrum during Spring Training last year, and missed 2012 in its entirety. Reports immediately after New York’s season ended said he may not be ready to contribute until the second half of 2013, when it was first speculated that he’d be good to go sometime early in the year.
Russell Martin hit a paltry .211/.311/.403 last year in the Bronx, but supplied some clutch at-bats, including his 21 homers and 53 RBI. The catcher wanted to talk about a contract extension last Spring, but the front office nixed that request, opting to watch the season play out. Instead of a four-year deal, Martin was looking at a two-year deal on the open market. Cashman and company offered two-years and approximately $14 million, but the Canadian decided to leave New York and sign with the Pittsburgh Pirates for two-years and $17 million. So, not only do the Yankees have to continue waiting for Pineda to be healthy, they don’t even have Montero to take over catching duties now that Martin has left the organization.
This trade looked very fair when it was made a year ago today, but now it looks lopsided in favor of the Mariners. That’s why making trades are risky; it’s unknown how a player will pan out with a new team. However, a GM can’t use that fear as an excuse for not pulling the trigger on something that could make a lot of sense for his team, which is why I don’t fault Brian Cashman for making this deal, but I’m sure he’d take it back if he had the chance to.
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