A Savior in Seattle?

Yesterday, the Ms traded fireballer Michael Pineda and single-A pitching prospect Jose Campos to the Yankees for C/DH Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi. Even though Michael Pineda had such a promising first year in the bigs, Montero has the potential to be a great hitter, and oh boy do we need (any) hitters.

Let’s meet the cast.

What we lost:

Michael Pineda started the 2011 season in Seattle and impressed right away, posting a 2.01 ERA in the first month with 30 Ks and 12 walks. His average fastball velocity checked in at 4th most fastester in the league, and he finished the season with a 3.42FIP/ 3.53 xFIP. He is gooder than most.

Jose Campos pitched well in Rookie and low-A ball for 138 innings. He racked up 144 Ks versus just 32 walks. He is good, but untested.

What we got:

Jesus Montero has been compared to Miguel Cabrera, and that’s enough right there to excite my loins. His .328/.406/.590 in 68 PAs with the Yankees last season is not the best projection for his first full major league season, but the guy can hit. In AAA he slashed .288/.351/.493, hitting dingers 4% of time—well above the league clip. One knock on his game has been his contact. He struck out 20% of the time in AAA, and 25% of the time with the Yankees. A more appropriate comp for hitting might be Nelson Cruz, who struck out 22% of the time last season but took a free pass just 6% of all PAs. Cruz’s minor league K and BB rates were similar to Montero’s, and they both derive their value from power. I have no problems with a cost-controlled Nelson Cruz, especially if he catches.

Fangraphs rated Hector Noesi as the Yankees’ 9th best prospect going into last season. He was bumped up to the majors after just 24 innings at AAA Rochester, and pitched mostly from the bullpen. Throughout much of his minor league career, he started, so the hope is obviously that he can become a back-end starter. His ceiling is not high, but he is major-league ready, and he is versatile.

I really like this trade for a few important reasons: Pineda is a pitcher, and Montero has an additional year before arbitration.

The Mariners have a built-in advantage playing in Safeco Field. They can acquire low-cost southpaws to fill their rotation out, and get a lot more out of those guys that most other teams could, thanks to the way Safeco plays. With Felix leading the charge, James Paxton and Danny Hultzen waiting in the minors, and that home-field advantage, the Mariners were smart to swap pitching for hitting. On top of that, pitchers are more volatile that hitters. There are far more Mark Prior and Rich Harden stories than there are stories of great young hitters being hampered by injury. The Mariners effectively traded away some risk, but arguably received equal upside in return.

Another perk comes in the form of Montero’s contract. Because he did not play much for the Yankees last season, he still has three full seasons before he hits arbitration. Pineda has just two such years remaining. If hypothetically both players produce the same value on the field, Montero will be doing so for significantly less money. Example:


Pineda ($M)

Montero ($M)






























While the figures are somewhat arbitrary, with Pineda hitting arbitration and free agency* a year earlier, the Ms would have to pay him something like $10M more than Montero for the same number of years. Team control keeps the costs of Montero down, the surplus value high, and extra cap room free for signing other free agents. If they perform equally-ish on the field, advantage Mariners.

Obviously a lot of Montero’s value is tied up in whether or not he will catch. Even if he DHes, it makes sense to trade pitching for hitting, and the mariners definitely got a good hitter.




One Response to A Savior in Seattle?

  1. Will the Thrill says:

    I was ambivalent before; now I’m convinced. But I still wish that Anthopolous had taken that Pineda-for-Lawrie swap. (*kicks dirt*)

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