Prospects in the Mariners/Yankees-Pineda/Montero Trade

Prospects in the Mariners/Yankees-Pineda/Montero Trade

The Seattle Mariners traded pitcher Michael Pineda and pitcher Jose Campos to the New York Yankees on January 13, 2012, in exchange for catcher/DH Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi. Here is a look at the players involved.

Jose Campos, RHP: A Venezuelan signed by the Mariners in 2009, Campos posted a 2.32 ERA with an 85/13 K/BB in 81 innings for Everett in the short-season Northwest League in 2011, allowing 66 hits with a 1.67 GO/AO. This was his North American debut. Listed at 6-4, 200, Campos is a right-handed hitter and thrower, born July 27, 1992.

Campos works at 92-95 MPH. He already throws quality strikes and scouts love his fastball, but his curveball and changeup are works in progress. If his secondary stuff develops properly, he can be at least a mid-rotation starter and possibly much more than that. He's at least two years away, but was remarkably successful given his lack of experience last summer. I am giving him a Grade B in the 2012 Baseball Prospect Book.

Jesus Montero, C-DH: Montero is a right-handed hitter and thrower, listed at 6-4, 235, born November 28, 1989. He hit .288/.348/.467 with 18 homers in 420 at-bats for Triple-A Scranton last year, then hit .328/.406/.590 in 18 major league games. He is a career .308/.366/.501 hitter in the minor leagues.

Montero has been around for awhile and people are quite familiar with him, perhaps overly so. Just for some perspective, if Jesus Montero had gone to a college in North America, 2011 would have been his junior/draft year and he would just now be getting into pro ball. He will hit for power and average. What he did in his 18-game major league trial, while at the upper bounds of expectation, was not a fluke; the guy can simply mash.

Montero has improved as a defensive catcher but is still not very good. He's lowered his passed ball and error rates, but still threw out just 20% of runners last year. He's likely to end up as a DH, but if he hits as he's capable, he'll be an excellent one. He is not just a slugger but has good pure hitting skills as well. I rate him a Grade A prospect despite his defensive limitations.

Hector Noesi, RHP: Noesi is no longer a rookie, having pitched 56 innings for the Yankees in 2011, posting 45/22 K/BB with a 4.47 ERA, 63 hits allowed, and a 99 ERA+. He turns 25 later this month. He's not a spectacular pitcher, but he has some ability and I think he can be useful as an inning-eater type due to his control, especially in an environment like Seattle which favors pitching. He can't replace Pineda in direct talent terms, but the Mariners don't expect him to. At worst he'll be a competent middle reliever or fifth starter.

Michael Pineda, RHP: Like Noesi, Pineda (who turns 23 this month) is no longer a rookie. He came into 2011 as a Grade A prospect and the Number Five pitching prospect in all of baseball on my pre-season list. He posted a 3.74 ERA with a 175/33 K/BB in 171 innings for the Mariners, allowing 133 hits with a 103 ERA+. He has the physical ability to be a number one starter, but of course he'll have to prove he can stay healthy.

In the end, I can understand this trade from both sides. Both sides are gambling that the key chits (Pineda and Montero) are at their peak perceived value on the trade market, before they get too expensive. Montero should become a guy you anchor your lineup around. The Mariners need that. Pineda should become a guy you anchor your rotation around, and the Yankees need one of those.

In theory this will work for both teams, but both of these guys have risks as well: Montero's performance in Triple-A hasn't always been as good as anticipated, and he's got a bad glove. Pineda is a pitcher and he could easily get hurt or otherwise fail.

Baseball history is littered with trades that had unexpected or weird outcomes. In this case, an unexpected outcome would be Campos or (especially) Noesi turning out to be the most valuable player involved. Stranger things have happened.

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