The emotion of a big trade

Prospect Profile: Branden Pinder
The most interesting item left this winter

We goofed with the scheduling last night, and this was quickly buried by Larry’s post on the big trade. Just so nobody misses it, we’re bumping it back up top this afternoon.

Once upon a time, charting prospects took a lot of work. In the days before instant access to last night’s Charleston stats, Gameday at every Minor League park and Down on the Farm, devoted fanatics could subscribe to Baseball America and receive stats two weeks stale. The Yankees featured an “On The Way Up” section in their annual yearbook, but the names would come and go. Dave Silvestri, anyone?

Today, prospect hugging is a national pastime for better or worse. We can follow a player from the day he signs as an international free agent to the day his Visa clears to the day he makes his states-side debut. We chart the ins and outs and ups and downs of our favorite youngsters. We latch onto players we know only through reputation, a line in the box score, some scouting reports and, lately, Twitter feeds. Most, as a glimpse as one of our early DOTFs shows, do not pan out. Yet, we hug and hug and hug anyway.

Jesus Montero had been one of those players Yankee fans loved to hug. From a system fairly barren of impact bats over the past 15 years, Montero had been heralded as the Next Big Thing since he arrived from Venezuela as a 16-year-old. He couldn’t catch then, and he likely can’t catch now. But he was a big boy and could he hit. With a solid core and quick, strong hands, he can flick balls the opposite way and pull them deep into the night. If he clicks right, he’ll be great.

When Montero arrived in the Bronx this past summer, he put on a show. At a game I had the privilege of attending, he lasered two balls into the right field seats against the Orioles, and it seemed to be a glimpse of things to come. Until a few days ago, we had grown accustomed to the idea of having Montero as the everyday designated hitter in a lineup filled with guys otherwise nearing the tail end of their 20s. Maybe some even believed he could catch.

He’s gone now, though. In the brief span of a few minutes on Friday evening, as rumors of a trade swirled, the Mariners landed a player they had wanted for a while, and the Yanks, in turn, spun Montero into a cost-controlled young starting pitcher with a stellar Minor League pedigree and an impressive first year under his belt. At first, I didn’t embrace the deal. I didn’t like the idea of trading Montero for anything other than a sure thing. I wanted to hug him.

But as I parried back and forth with other fans, I came to view the trade through the lens of the game. It was the cost of doing business. Yanks’ GM Brian Cashman took a risk, as he reportedly admitted to ESPN’s Jim Bowden. He traded a highly touted bat for a highly touted arm. Both players are works in progress. Both could flame out; both could reach their potential. He may have gambled that Montero won’t develop into a player with much defensive value, and he may have been, rightly so, seduced by the promise of Michael Pineda‘s low price tag for the foreseeable future.

It’s tough to let go, especially when we’ve followed a player from Step One of a promising big league career. The jury will long be out on this deal (and if the Yanks want Montero back, well, he’s projected to hit free agency at the start of his offensive peak). But there will be other players to hug, to chart, to track, and the risk of this trade just might be the biggest gamble the Yanks have made under Brian Cashman. Embrace that for now, and hold your breath.

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Prospect Profile: Branden Pinder
The most interesting item left this winter
  • August

    How do you trade a guy named Jesus.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/AngeloInNY Angelo

      Jesus wasn’t just a “guy”

      Jerk :(

  • Cito Wordekemper

    Thanks for deleting my correcting post,what is the point of that?

    • pat

      Because they’re supposed to be emailed? Do you need everyone to know how smart you are?

    • http://twitter.com/JoeRo23 The Honorable Congressman Mondesi

      Was your correction made?

      • http://riveraveblues.com Benjamin Kabak

        Yep. I was in the midst of editing in fact when his correction came in. That’s why it was deleted.

        • Dave M

          Lawyers! :-)

  • Cito Wordekemper

    Forgive me for violation of the #12 edict

  • RkyMtnYank

    I was never sold on Jesus as any kind of savior simply because the Yankee offense should never have needed it. A trade of an arm for a bat seems very logical. We will find out if the arm is more valuable than the bat even earlier given Jesus will toil away in Seattle purgatory until he is ready to come back home. Should be at just about the right time for the Yanks!

  • bankers hours

    A 22 yr old DH is not full use of Montero and he had to be moved since Tex occupies 1b and Arod will have to DH to get any value out of his monsterous 6 yrs and 150m remaining on his contract. Yanks are just hoping he isn’t Albert Pujlos and Pineda is the real deal, a young CC we’re hoping. Deal makes sense for both teams but time will tell if it helps the M’s or Yanks more.

  • CJ

    Regardless of how this trade works out over the next 5 years, this was a creative and gutsy move by Cashman. I do think the DH and AJ Hughes Freddy moves to follow will impact the deal. I hope this trade is part of a well thought out design plan.

    • RkyMtnYank

      What AJ, Hughes and Freddy moves? AJ and Hughes aren’t going anywhere but since Freddy should never have been signed, does that mean he should just be released?

      • FIPster Doofus

        Garcia > Burnett and Hughes.

        • CJ

          Hughes>>>Freddy>AJ (stuck with him and/or his contract)

        • RkyMtnYank

          I just don’t see Freddy repeating what he did last year. He got pretty damn lucky so an era closer to 5 sounds about right. I think Hughes will be better and AJ can’t help but be better even if he still sucks. I am a proponent of Hughes to the bullpen though, he’s simply better there when being more aggressive, just like Joba.

          • FIPster Doofus

            Garcia consistently did in 2011 what he did with the White Sox in 2010: go out and throw a quality start. With their offense, that’s really all a team like the Yankees needs out of a fifth starter. And I trust Garcia to give them that more than I do either of the other No. 5 candidates.

            • Mike HC

              I’m with you here. Starting AJ over Garcia would simply be laughable, and short of Hughes averaging like 94-95 mph of his fastball starting in spring training, consistently, Garcia is the guy.

              • AP

                Hughes never averaged 94-95 as a starter, so you can’t expect that. I think if he’s low 90s instead of high 80s, he should at least get the longest look. AJ and Freddy are known entities. Hughes, on the other hand, still has the chance to be anything from a very good starter to a reliever.

                • Mike HC

                  That is kind of my point. Short of Hughes looking better than he ever has before, the spot should be Garcia’s.

                  But I definitely see the argument to go with Hughes even if he was looking merely solid.

              • RkyMtnYank

                I think AJ will get the job to start the season just because of the amount of money he makes.

      • CP

        ‘Moves’ as in what is done with them. Not necessarily trading or releasing them.

        • CJ

          If Freddy can be moved to get rid of contract is good enough. Hughes is key. Will he start and return to form? Move to pen? Replace a traded Robertson? Traded for good player/prospect? Traded for Ed yarnall and Ross ohlendorff?

    • Steve (different one)

      If Hughes or AJ want to make the rotation, they will have to legally have an “a” added to their last names.

      AJ Burnetta. Could work.

  • kevin w.

    Cody Ehlers on that DOtF made me smile. I thought he was the man, that was before I understood the concept for four-A and organization fillers.

  • dalelama

    Excellent article, in the abstract the deal looks good, however the thing that has kept the Yanks from more WS titles is the propensity of the current squad whether it be Tex, Swisher, and to a lesser degree, Arod, to underperform at the dish in the post season. Pineda won’t solve that problem, Montero may have.

  • thenamestsam

    Nice article. Definitely captures my reaction to the trade. My first reaction was definitely purely based on emotion and was overwhelmingly negative, but once I talked about it with other people and thought through it I was able to get past the emotion to some extent and see the positives in it. I still don’t “like it” , but I do think it was a good trade. Very few players have the ability to make me feel those seemingly conflicting reactions, and Jesus was definitely one of them.

  • Larry Koestler

    Great stuff Ben.

  • The Scout

    I have a simple rule of thumb, learned by following the Yankee organization since the 1970s: Never Fall in Love with a Prospect (NFILWAP).

  • Woodrow Sweats

    at first hearing of the trade, i liked it. i think i always assumed montero would go, and pineda seems like a great get considering we got a good prospect back also, and didn’t give up any killer b… i just hope pineda is as good as everyone thinks he is…

  • Woodrow Sweats

    i can’t wait for noesi to tear it up in seattle with that defense and the msm starts the “yankees lost the trade” meme…

    • vin

      It’ll definitely happen. Hector has a very nice future at the back end (or middle for a non-contender) of a rotation or in the bullpen. He’s got excellent control and a good fastball. Those of us who actually pay attention to all the names involved in the trade know what Noesi’s value projects to be. It’s the lazy, MSM reporters who initally gloss over the facts who will be surprised, and therefore compelled to write lame articles. Part of the reason I can’t bring myself to watch ESPN or even MLB Network anymore. For shame.

      • Mike HC

        Very true. He could bring some nice valuable production for the Mariners for many years to come, while for the Yanks, it was very likely he had absolutely no future as a long term starter, and held little value to us. Noesi was going to get pushed out completely very soon anyway with the next group of AAA pitchers ready for their shot and a chance to inflate their value by pitching halfway decent for 60 innings or so. Then flip them, rinse and repeat.

    • Robinson Tilapia

      Of course it will happen. Hector Noesi is going to do just fine in Seattle. If Pineda has the slightest hiccup, they’ll be on here calling the trade a loss.

  • Gonzo

    I fell out of love with Montero a while ago. I wish him well. I hope both he and Pineda can continue to improve and reach their full potential.

  • vin

    Man, that was one terrible DOTF. With no mention of Hughes, Joba or IPK, it looks that much worse. I do like “Mr. Miranda.” Good job by Mike reminding us that the best hitter in the system was a 24 year old defector in AA.

    • Gonzo

      I loved that the article before was Coming Soon: Why Joe Torre deserves to go and the next one was Fire Joe Torre.

      • vin

        LOL, that was great.

  • JJ

    At first I couldn’t understand why so many people were angry / upset over the trade. After reading this article, I can better understand why. I’ve never really been a prospect hugger, and I was never THAT high on Montero, so I loved the trade from the start. Hopefully everyone that was so torn up over Montero leaving can move on and give their support 100% behind Pineda. I’d hate for him to have a rough start of the year and then have some fans absolutely crush him.

    Ultimately, I strongly believe that Pineda’s contribution to the rotation will be much larger than Montero’s contribution would’ve been to the lineup, and it’s much, much easier to acquire hitting than it is to acquire pitching.

    • Mike HC

      I’m definitely not the biggest of prospect huggers at all, but Montero was and is universally considered one of the best, young bats in the entire world. It is the same as coveting the top few picks in the NBA and NFL drafts. These are very talented players, universally regarded as the next stars. I think true prospect hugging happens with guys like Noesi. If you are that upset to see Noesi go in this deal, I think you are hugging way too hard, ha.

      • JJ

        I understand that Montero is an amazingly talented hitter, but my lack of enthusiasm for him came from the fact that I simply don’t believe he is a legitimate catcher going forward, and we don’t have a DH / 1B spot he can occupy regularly for the next 5 years.

        It’s also not like we gave him up for someone like Garza – a mid rotation stater who has already peaked. Pineda is a rare talent, and his arrival should really be seen as a huge addition. Yes we lost something great, but gained something great in return.

        I completely agree with the Noesi bit. I was more shocked to see how upset people were over his departure than I was over Montero’s.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          “Yes we lost something great, but gained something great in return.”

          I think that’s the best point to be made.

          I think there’s people who have convinced themselves that the Yankees ruin pitchers, that young pitchers are all going to fail, etc., and I think there’s those of us who, yes, mourned Montero’s being gone, which probably had little to do with Pineda. The more we learned about Pineda, the better we felt.

          Neither Pineda or Montero are sure things, and probably evenly match up tradewise. Noesi will do well, but you traded steady for big upside there.

          At the end of the day, the Yankees will find ways to improve their already formidable offensive production, even if Jesus becomes a perennial all-star. What Pineda could become would be much harder to come by for any team.

          • JJ

            Completely agree.

        • Mike HC

          I’m with you there. Personally, I was “hugging” Montero even as the DH, but once I looked into Pineda and Campos, that was it. I love the trade for the Yanks.

  • Butch Vinegar

    “Pineda is a rare talent”

    This is the key point of the trade. It’s incredibly difficult to develop or find a pitcher who matches what Pineda has done and the potential he has.

    • Monterowasdinero

      Ah Butch-if you had only taught Montero to catch as well as you did (as an offensive catcher) these last 2 years at Scranton.

      You failed-apparently.

  • PinedaColada

    I agree 100% and people are forgetting that we also got another young prospect with a high ceiling in Campos who slots right into the Yankees top 10 prospects probably right behind Sanchez. I’m hugging him already and it feels great

  • CJ

    I’m sure Hank and Hal will be watching the Pineda-Montero trade as much as any fan. Cashman will not survive a mediocre Pineda performance and a breakout Montero. Hank and Hal will hold him “accountable” in hindsight. They are not going to take a “well, I liked the trade in January 2012 and you never know how these things work out” mentality. Cashman is on the clock.

    • Steve (different one)

      Perhaps. But maybe Hal told Cashman that $189m in 2014 is his #1 priority and Cashman simply realized he’s not signing a Hamels or a Geinke next winter.

      This may have been his best shot at acquiring a top of the rotation pitcher for the next 2-3 years and staying within those parameters.

      No idea, just spitballing.

      • vin

        I was playing with the numbers yesterday afternoon (slow day at the office)…

        If the Yankees are going to get a Hamels type guy next year and stay under 190 in 2014, then it most likely means they will need probably 3 league minimum everyday players. That assumes Jeter exercises his option, they extend/re-sign Cano (20 mil AAV), and have a relatively cheap DH. Romine can be the cheap catcher, but they’re going to need some cheap outfielders to go with Gardner (who will be in his last year of team control).

        Obviously there’s a million variables at play, but I honestly don’t expect them to reach their payroll goal. Now if they can swing that Betances for Dom Brown deal, maybe. But until then, I’m not optimistic.

  • Rich in NJ

    It’s not about hugging to me, it’s about roster depth and roster construction, and as Mike’s post this morning highlighted so well, they are a long way off from having another impact bat as an internal option, which could be a problem because they have lot of age on the current roster.

    So the risk taken in the trade was reckless, imo.

  • Jim Cavanaugh

    Watching Jesus get traded out of here felt like sending a son off to boarding school. Ill still keep an eye on him & wish him success but i guess its back to business at hand here. Hoping Pineda is amazing here and doesn’t turn into a Pinada.

  • http://riveraveblues.com Rich

    I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of Montero in YS3 just like everyone else. I read all the glowing reports on his hitting ability. But I always thought they were a little overblown after watching him for two full years in Scranton. He never reached .290 in batting and his highest home run total was only 21 in his entire minor league career. So I can’t understand why everyone thinks he’s going to crush it in Seattle and hit .300 and smash 30 home runs. I was hoping he would do that for us but once he got to AAA he kind of stagnated. Don’t get me wrong I loved the guy but he just might have been overhyped especially by the Yankees.

    • DM

      Like Hughes, he wasn’t the same player above AA. The fact that he didn’t destroy AAA the 2nd time around is more disturbing. And it’s something Montero-huggers just can’t absorb as a potentially negative indicator — and some of them can’t come to grips that he didn’t fit on this team either. It was take the plunge on him as full-time catcher or trade him. The fact that they barely caught him in Sept said it all. But there’s no room for a full-time DH this team — and not much room for a part-time, right-handed hitting DH who your afraid to put in the field. That’s why Thames wasn’t resigned despite his clutch hitting. He was a butcher for the short time in played in the OF.

  • http://dansyankees.wordpress.com/ dan

    Yankees dealt from depth. got what they needed in return. Montero may be great but Pineda could better help this team win a championship or two in the next five years. Montero had grown on me but this trade makes sense.

  • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

    I’ve never been a prospect hugger, but I was certainly a Montero hugger. By the way my typo “Monstero” might make a good handle/John Sterling homer call. But regardless, I saw potential in Montero that I didn’t see in Cano or Melky and they turned out pretty well. I’m not saying that this means Montero would be better, but if you extrapolate his stats from the few games he played in September across a 15-20 year career assuming he never catches, his stats are amazing. As we all know, we can’t depend on such a small sample size and there is decline and slumping left to be accounted for, but he proved he could play. As for Pineda I’m excited that the Too Much Moneyball strategy led us to having too many pitchers. As I see it we still only have five with Garcia coming back. AJ is out by April and Hughes needs a pen year. if Pineda does not perform well, however, I’m worried because a bad performance and an injury could put him in the pen. Once that happens Hughes starts or if it is late enough in the season Man Ban plays. It’s a comfortable situation, but the extremes worry me.

    • GardnergoesYardner

      “Hughes needs a pen year”

      Are you implying that Phil Hughes is shuttled back and forth between the rotation and the pen (with occasional layovers in Scranton) by the Yankees, without any regard to his arm, effectiveness, or development?
      Oh wait…

      • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

        His dead arm? Yeah thats what I’m implying.

        • GardnergoesYardner

          Front office: On all of the odd years, Phil will be in the rotation, and on all the even years, he will be in the pen.
          Brave, timid Yankees employee reading Baseball Prospectus in the corner: But aren’t you afraid that will affect his development?
          Front office: Nonsense! It didn’t affect Joba’s development now did it? In fact, put that Banuelos kid under the same plan!

  • Paul VuvuZuvella

    Hahaha. Totally remember Dave Silvestri.