I recently wrote an article praising Brian Cashman for his ability to find all the right pieces to keep the Yankees highly competitive (and division leading) despite new taxes, enormous injuries, and shrinking payroll. Travis Hafner, Lyle Overbay, and Vernon Wells are just some of the players he’s turned to this season for bargain production. Over on Reading Between the Seams, I made the argument that he is one of the few sports figures (albeit front office and not athlete) that has managed to be underrated in the bustling New York media market.
One of the few knocks I laid on Cashman was his trade of Jesus Montero. While I noted that it no longer looked as bad as it initially did with the hype around Montero and the injury to Pineda, I still considered it a disappointment. New information has changed the outlook.
News broke Thursday (5/23/13) that the Seattle Mariners have optioned Jesus Montero down to triple-A Tacoma. Furthermore:
Montero has been a major disappointment this season, batting just .208/.264/.327 with three home runs and nine RBI in 29 games. The Tacoma News Tribune reports Montero “may no longer be viewed as a catcher at the big league level” and is expected play first base and DH in the minors.
Meanwhile, Pineda is throwing 93 MPH and nearing minor league rehabilitation. With such a turn of events it may be time to re-evaluate the previously much discussed Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda. Yes, Hector Noesi and Jose Campos were involved, but the only impact players were these two.
With the conclusion that Jesus Montero cannot catch at the major league level his evaluation gets completely turned on its head. He was never billed as a great defensive catcher, but the thought was that he could hit for a respectable average and eclipse 30 home runs. He has a .258 career average with 22 home runs in 677 career at bats. He hit just .208 en route to losing his starting slot on the Seattle Mariners this season.
Even if his track record is now pointing closer to a .260 25 home run type (being generous), that would make for an above average catcher, but now with a move to first base or DH, that kind of upside puts him more in the territory of a Mitch Moreland with an inferior glove. While I’m not claiming Montero to be a total bust, and most certainly wish him the best, those more modest projections make moving him for an injured pitcher with ace potential much more palatable.
Make no mistake, Michael Pineda still has ace potential. Injuries (shoulder) are all that has derailed him thus far in his career. He’s shown much more than mild success in the minor leagues. He’s dominated major league hitters. Pineda struck out 173 batters in 171 innings with the Mariners in 2011. If fully healthy, one can reasonably expect him to be towards the front-end of the Yankees rotation.
Much remains to be seen, but one thing is clear. Brian Cashman knows his players, and the potential of his draftees. While it seemed he didn’t know enough about the health of Michael Pineda, Jack Zduriencik (Seattle GM) and the rest of the baseball world didn’t know enough about the skill and potential of Jesus Montero. Brian Cashman did.
Here’s to hoping Pineda becomes and ace and Montero rediscovers what made him such a big prospect!
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