Jan
31

Waiting For Montero

By

Oh, sorry. Did you think I was talking about someone else? (Greg Fiume/Getty)

A few weeks ago I wrote about the Yankees’ long-term catching situation, which now revolves around Russell Martin and Austin Romine following the trade of Jesus Montero to the Mariners. Martin can become a free agent after the season, though Romine may not be ready to step on a full-time basis in 2013. At least not for a contending team anyway. Catchers always take a little longer to adjust to big league life, it’s a tough transition.

Those two aren’t the only potential long-term solutions behind the plate, however. I don’t think many of us seriously consider Frankie Cervelli an everyday guy, and the duo of J.R. Murphy and Gary Sanchez are still years away from serious consideration. There is always the free agent market though, and while we all know how stocked the free agent pitching pool will be next offseason, a gem of a catcher may also be available: Miguel Montero of the Diamondbacks.

No relation to Jesus despite also being Venezuelan (or maybe they are related and we just don’t know it), Miguel turned 28 in July and produced a .282/.351/.469 batting line (.351 wOBA) with 18 homers in 553 plate appearances last year. A knee injury that required surgery kept him on the shelf for more than two months in 2010 (.333 wOBA in 331 plate appearances), but in 2009 he hit .294/.355/.478 (.357 wOBA) with 16 homers in 470 plate appearances. That looks an awful lot like his 2011 showing. Over the last three seasons, his .348 wOBA is sixth among all catchers (min. 1,000 plate appearances).

Catcher defense is a very tough thing to quantify, though all indications are that Montero is a solid gloveman. He threw out a whopping 32 of 80 attempted base stealers last season (40.0%), a ridiculously good number that sticks out like a sore thumb compared to the rest of his career (62-for-241, 25.7%). I would expect that to come down next year even if he has improved his throwing since 40.0% is pretty close to unsustainable. Mike Fast’s work on catcher framing says Montero saved the seventh most runs (33) with his pitch framing ability over the last five seasons, and Matt Klaassan’s catcher defense rankings say he saved the second most runs (7.8) in 2011 in terms of stolen bases, passed balls, wild pitches, etc. I don’t feel comfortable putting a number on a catcher’s defensive value, but all the evidence suggests that he’s not a butcher back there.

As a left-handed hitting catcher with patience, power, and some amount of defensive value, Montero is poised for a serious payday next winter if he stays healthy in 2012 and performs as he’s capable. Other than the knee injury (suffered running to first base) and the various dings and dents associated with catching, he’s been durable throughout his career, and that only heightens his value. Above average everyday catchers just do not hit free agency in the prime of their career, with only Martin and Ramon Hernandez able to make that claim over the last five or six years. Catchers have a high attrition rate, and whenever a team does get a hold of good young one, they have a tendency to lock them up long before free agency becomes an issue

An extension is obviously very possible for Montero and the Diamondbacks, though they agreed to terms on a contract for next season minutes before a scheduled arbitration hearing this morning. He filed for $6.8M and the team countered with $5.4M. That’s a relatively small gap, and you can make the argument that the two sides don’t really agree about his value if it took this long to split the difference. The D’Backs are contenders and figure to remain that way for the foreseeable future — plus they have no catching coming up through the farm system at all — so it would behoove them to figure out a multi-year contract with Montero at some point in the next nine months or so. If they don’t, the Yankees are in a position to pounce.

The timing works out perfectly as far as they’re concerned. Martin will be a free agent after the season, and while Romine could develop into the catcher of the future, he’s unlikely to turn into the player Montero is right now. The Yankees are all about winning now, and Montero fits their mold as a patient, left-handed bat with power. If Arizona winds up extending himm, then no big deal. The Yankees can stick with Martin for a few more years if they want, or go in another direction to help ease Romine into the bigs. If Michael Pineda and Ivan Nova establish themselves as above average starters next year, there will be less urgency to pursue a Cole Hamels-type after the season, freeing up some cash for a catching upgrade.

I have no idea what kind of contract Montero would require on the open market, but I have to think it would be significant. Something in the four years, $40-52M range seems not insane. A fifth guaranteed year might be what it takes to put someone over the top. Like I said, above average catchers don’t hit the open market often, so we don’t have many recent comparables. The Yankees have the money — especially if their young arms step up this coming season — and will presumably have a need, so it’s tough not to look ahead a bit. He’s not the Montero we’d all hoped to see behind the plate for the next few years, but Miguel is a worthy heir to the Montero throne.

Categories : Hot Stove League

85 Comments»

  1. Rebecca says:

    I <3 Miguel Montero.

    Yes, because his name is Montero. But he's also a damn good catcher.

  2. MattG says:

    I love looking ahead, and think this is a terrific target for the Yankees. He fits their mold very well.

    But I expect to fall in love with Russell Martin this year. I nearly did so last year, but despite all his good qualities, there was an extended noodle-bat period that he will need to avoid. I kinda sorta wanted to see the Yankees lock him up for 2013, maybe 2014, but I am torn. We’ve been spoiled at C for a long time.

    • I Live In My Mom's Basement says:

      You should take a look at the article on pitch framing. What is has to say on Posada is notable.

      • RetroRob says:

        Unhappy with the Posada years?

        I hope you’re not one of those spoiled Yankees fans who can’t see the forest for the trees.

  3. Peter North says:

    Just stick with Martin/Romine. Catcher isn’t exactly a position that should be high on the list of concerns for the Yanks. I really don’t even see the point of writing about it. Future OF, 3B, SS seem to be higher on the list, no?

    • Ted Nelson says:

      I would argue that C is higher on the list than all of those positions besides RF. Martin is literally a free agent after this coming season. Assuming that they don’t extend him before then, the Yankees have every reason to consider other free agent Cs along with Martin. Same situation in RF.

      The Yankees have their SS locked up through 2013 and maybe 2014. They have a promising back-up already on the team.
      Their 3B is locked up through 2017. He might not last that long at 3B or in general, but I don’t see replacing A-Rod before making decisions on C and RF.

      • Robinson Tilapia says:

        Agreed. It’s a position the Yankees will have to consider after the season.

        Martin allows the Yankees another year to see whether Romine looks more like a solid MLB regular, whether Murphy develops further, and whether Sanchez of capable of getting to the next level. If they decide it’s better to just go get Montero, things would line up pretty perfectly.

      • Peter North says:

        I see your point, but I’m operating under the assumption that Martin will be re-signed. Barring injury/implosion, there seems to be genuine interest from both sides that he remain a Yankee after this season.

        On the contrary, I’m more concerned abut the other positions because I do not see Nunez as Jeter’s heir apparent and there really isn’t much in the pipeline for SS, 3B, and RF (if they let Granderson walk then you have 2 OF openings and Mason Williams probably won’t be ready). Those may not seem urgent, but the years creep up. Maybe Elvis Andrus at SS? Who will replace A-Rod when a couple years when he’s primarily at DH? These are things that I think more about than C.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          I’m just not sure about that assumption. I doubt they’re going to extend Martin mid-season against their policy, so the clock is ticking. Once he hits free agency… Martin is in a pretty similar situation to Montero and Molina if neither of them is extended. Doesn’t mean the Yankees will prefer one of those guys to Martin, but upon seeing the market value of all 3… they might. It’s at least something they have to consider pretty immediately.

          You don’t see Nunez as a future starter, but you see C as locked up? I don’t think that there’s any reason to take a definitive stance on either issue. Nunez may or may not be a future starter. He definitely has the talent on both sides of the ball, but he has to me more consistent (way more consistent defensively, a bit more offensively). I’m not sure Romine looks much better than Cervelli right now. Murphy has some more upside maybe, but a lot more doubt too. Sanchez has a ton of upside, but when is he going to be ready? Probably around the same time some portion of Slade Heathcott, Mason Williams, Tyler Austin, Ramon Flores, Cito Culver, Angelo Gumbs, Dante Bichette, Claudio Custodio, etc. are starting to become ready.

          3B the Yankees don’t have a really strong prospect, but they have a lot of options with Laird, CoJo, Adams, Mustelier, Segedin, and even Murphy if C doesn’t work out. Then strong prospects in Tyler Austin and Bichette potentially a few years away.

  4. jsbrendog says:

    well monteroisdinero can keep his name…

  5. DERP says:

    Yadier Molina and Mike Napoli also hit the market next year. Molina will probably re-up with STL and Napoli isn’t really a catcher, but one of those guys would be nice as well.

  6. GardnergoesYardner says:

    I like Montero a lot. The issue with Martin is his hitting. His April inflated his stats a tremendous amount. After April he hit around .200 with minimal power, although he did provide defensive value. It all depends what the Yankees are looking from out of the catcher position, and judging by their trade of Montero, they may be more apt to go with a Martin or Romine for the defense.

    Not saying Montero is a bad player, it’s just the Yankees have a lot of catching depth already to work with and odds are they will go with one of their own.

    • thenamestsam says:

      It bugs me when people say that April “inflated his stats” as though those stats don’t count for some reason. Who cares when he accumulates his stats? Everyone’s stats are increased dramatically by the portions of the season where they were hot, but no one says “Oh outside of the 30 games where he hit best Jeter’s #’s were actually really terrible” because we all realize that would be dumb. How is this different?

      • GardnergoesYardner says:

        It’s not like I was saying he unfairly earned those April stats. He had a great April and totally deserves credit for those numbers, but April is a much smaller sample size than the following 5 months. If he had a mediocre April, his line would look much worse.

        When deciding which numbers are more indicative of his actual talent, it’s common logic to go with the large sample size.

        • Tyler says:

          So if it’s common logic to use a larger sample size why are you not including April?

          • GardnergoesYardner says:

            You could include April too, and the numbers (his overall ones from the ’11 season) would still be worse than just April alone. He’s not as good of a hitter as he was in April over his whole career.

            • Ted Nelson says:

              I don’t think anyone would claim he is… but I also don’t think anyone would claim he is as bad as his June/July. The thing I don’t understand is why you’re throwing out his best month, but not his worst month.

              • thenamestsam says:

                Right, well said. He’s certainly not as good as April, but he’s not as bad as “.200 with minimal power” which is why over a longer sample size (the whole year) he didn’t hit that. There’s no reason to throw out part of the season unless you really think there’s a reason something definitively changed after April. Perhaps you could argue that advance scouts for AL teams finally got an extended look at him and found holes they could attack, but his strong August, and the fact that his overall second half was stronger than his first half makes it look more like his year was just streaky. There’s no reason to think his true talent level is closer to his cold streak or his hot streak than to the average of the two.

            • Steve (different one) says:

              If he was as good as he was in April over his entire career he’d be one of the greatest players of all time…

        • Ted Nelson says:

          His August was just about as good as his April…

    • Ted Nelson says:

      “Not saying Montero is a bad player, it’s just the Yankees have a lot of catching depth already to work with and odds are they will go with one of their own.”

      Thing is that if he hits free agency Martin is no longer on the team. He’s a free agent. If Montero also hits free agency he’s in the same position as Martin. There’s some value in familiarity, but if they think Montero represents a significantly better value I can’t see them passing him up for Martin.

  7. MattG says:

    To be a big time catcher these days, your name apparently needs to start with M. Montero, Mauer, Molina, McCann.

    That’s Weiters’s problem. That’s what they mean when they say he needs to turn it around.

  8. Paul VuvuZuvella says:

    What would it take to trade for him this year? He could be the 2012 Lefty Jesus (role Jesus was going to have…40 games at C, 75 or so as Lefty DH platoon with Jones). Romine plus Warren (or Hughes straight up) get it done since he only has 1 year left? Is this a horrible idea?

    • j6takish says:

      Why is Arizona trading him? You have to look at the opposing teams motivation before you rosterbate. The D-Backs are going to be competitive this year, why are they trading their cleanup hitter, a guy with above average production at a premium position?

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Not the craziest idea for the Yankees, actually… Two very good Cs and they’d complement each other given their splits (though Martin did have a reverse split last year both have pretty strong splits on their career). Can probably get both a decent amount of playing time. Would be the height of Yankee excess, but who cares?

      The Diamondbacks are a contender who just traded a good pitching prospect for a mediocre veteran pitcher, though… i.e. I see no indication that they’re looking at the future. I think they came out and said they see a window to contend now… I have no idea what they means, but it seems to be what they think.

      I don’t see Hughes value as being anywhere close to Montero. If they couldn’t afford Montero or were looking to the future, maybe Romine + Warren… for the D-Backs I don’t see that, though. Think the Yankees would have to sort of blow them away.

  9. Monterowasdinero says:

    The lesser of two Monteros. Intriguing. I have never seen him play so I reserve judgement.

  10. Raza says:

    He’d definitely be a fine player for us to target. I just don’t think he reaches FA. The D-Backs will most likely lock him up.

  11. Matt DiBari says:

    “I don’t think many of us seriously consider Frankie Cervelli an everyday guy,”

    I barely consider him a backup

    • CP says:

      Perhaps you should watch more backup catchers then.

    • MattG says:

      He could start for…six teams (number from my butt) while cheap.

      Once he reaches year two of arbitration, he’s a backup.

      Once he reaches free agency, he’ll be scouting 16 year-olds in Venezuela.

    • LiterallyFigurative says:

      We’re the Yankees, we need all-star backups too.

      Having Nunez and Cervelli types as backups have really cost this team over the past few years haven’t they?

      • Matt DiBari says:

        I can live with Cervelli. The inability to throw anyone out and issues with balls in the dirt are infuriating, but unless we have another 2010, hopefully he won’t be starting all that much. And he hits a little.

        Nunez, on the other hand, is, pardon my french, an absolute shitstorm in the field. It was really telling when, around August, he was awful by any metric and leaving third base unattended regularly to charge bunts, but he wasn’t throwing the ball into the stands as often, so people insisted he was improving.

        If the Yankees wind up going with the rotating DH where he will be starting three or four times a week, Nunez either needs to get a LOT better in the field or start hitting like Manny so we can overlook it.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          Have to disagree on Nunez. His range is actually average at SS. He hadn’t played much 3B… and teams actually tend to plan for bunts so it’s as likely you’re disagreeing with the coaches there as Nunez. The throwing is a huge problem, but otherwise I think his defense is fine. Not doing what you’d like him to on bunts is a much easier problem to fix than being physically incapable of fielding the position.

          Cervelli hasn’t thrown anyone out the last couple of years, but was quite solid in 2009 and the minors. I’m not ready to right him off yet, and would be interested in finding out what’s changed.

  12. Monterowasdinero says:

    Looks like Miguel runs about as well as Posada and Jesus but…who cares?

    BTW, now that Posada is gone, who is the slowest guy on the roster? Swish or Andruw?

  13. Monterowasdinero says:

    Let’s change this thread name to:

    Waiting for 2 Monteros.

    2013 and 2018

  14. JohnC says:

    One day we’ll get back both Montero and Austin Jackson

  15. Kevin says:

    Montero, Anibal Sanchez and Swisher > Hamels and Grandy/Swisher ….?

    Flip Betances and Romine for a cost-controlled outfielder. Just something to consider.

  16. Rey22 says:

    Last week, I actually dreamed the Yankees acquired Miguel Montero in a trade to be the LH part of the DH platoon/backup catcher. It was a super random dream. He hit a double down the line in it. Not bad.

  17. AJavierkei Pavagawnett says:

    Ugh, I don’t want Sanchez. He’s going to have to be paid like an elite pitcher, and while his peripherals suggest he may pitch on that level, you really want to give $50 million to someone with his injury who has never pitched 200 innings?

  18. Kosmo says:

    What kind of contract will Montero want ? A 5 year deal ? Would he even agree to a 2 or 3 year deal ? NY has Romine, Murphy and Sanchez in the pipeline. Martin for 1 or 2 more years makes more sense to me.
    I do like that Montero has caught only 432 games over a 5 year period. Has good D skills and is one of the better hitting catchers in the game.

  19. LiterallyFigurative says:

    Pineda, Nova and Romine play a pivotal role in the Yankees plans. If they flourish, it will save them from going apeshit for Hamels/Cain/Grienke and Montero, while also making the $189 million budget a certainty.

    I made a spreadsheet, and given the projected annual salaries of Cano, Granderson and Hamels, to go along with the long-term guys and arb raises for DRob and such, the Yanks COULD sign all 3 and still just barely slide under the $189 million threshold. It would depend on Romine being the main catcher in 2014, and Nunez taking over for Jeter at SS. Jeter retiring or taking a pay cut ($10 million per) is also factored in. I put him at DH.

    As an aside, moving Hughes plus for Dom Brown might be something to look into. Young corner OF to join with Gardner and Grandy.

    • Ted Nelson says:

      Yeah, the $189 million is doable and its success depends on the young guys. Agreed.

      Jeter has an $8 million option for 2014, I believe.

      I don’t see Hughes having too much value in pursuing Brown. Hughes has very little track record of success, serious concerns about whether or not he can even pitch going into 2012, and only two more seasons of team control at probably at least $8 million.

      • LiterallyFigurative says:

        I agree. Hughes by himself doesn’t make much sense to Philly. But Hughes, plus some of our minor leaguers (2 or so) might entice Philly, depending on who.

        I hate to give up on Hughes, because he’s homegrown and not too expensive. But the addition of Pineda, the stuff and development of Nova, the ceiling of Banuelos, and the possibility of signing a Hamels leaves him with very little value to the Yanks, especially now that’s making two commas per year.

        • Ted Nelson says:

          My point is that I don’t think Hughes has the value to headline a Dom Brown trade. I think the prospects attached will have to headline the deal.

    • CJ says:

      Starting to think Dom Brown is a flop. With that lineup and pitching staff Phillies could deal with some struggles at the plate. He’s strong defensively too. Still they got Mayberry added Nix and Juan Pierre. There is something they don’t like.

      • Kosmo says:

        Pierre signed a minor league contract. Nix gives them a 4th or 5th OF-PH . Mayberry could see more time at 1B while Howard is recuperating. Thome is very old.
        I wouldn´t make the claim that Brown is a possible flop.

      • Ted Nelson says:

        It’s likely that they’re just mitigating risk. Like the Yankees would be if they signed Bill Hall.

        Nix and Pierre are decent with the potential to turn in good bounce-back seasons… or at least turn in one passable bench season between the two. Brown has a lot of potential, but is coming off a bad season and needs to re-work his swing. The Phillies don’t have a sure thing there, but between the three should have something. I would also count Mayberry in the group since he’s coming off an MLB season he never came close to matching in the minors. Some degree of regression is really likely.

        This is also, by the way, why the Yankees aren’t rushing to give away Ps. They might trade one two or a few, but they don’t have to give them away because there’s value in depth.

        • CJ says:

          My point is thats 3 players to hedge the Dom Brown risk. When it seems they should just give him the shot. That lineup with Halladay Lee and Hamels should be enough to mitigate the risk

          • Ted Nelson says:

            I obviously don’t know what the Phils think, but the Yankees do the same thing with their prospects all the time. Montero in AAA last season, Womack over Cano to start the season, Tony Fernandez over Jeter… Make the kid earn it. Dom Brown didn’t earn it last season. He was injured and didn’t play up to his standards.

            Tampa did the same with Desmond Jennings. They were playing Sam Fuld and other mediocre players while keeping him in AAA. I would argue they’re trying to maximize his value by getting him as ready as possible before starting his arb/free-agency clock.

            I think there’s a chance the Phillies don’t like Brown or are weary… but I also think that there’s a very good chance they do. If they didn’t like him I have to imagine they could have dumped him while his value was higher, rather than purposefully lowering his value by not promoting him while he aged past prime prospect years.

  20. Monterowasdinero says:

    I think we’ll know better after this season whether or not we should make a play for Montero. If Martin regresses and/or has health problems then we must consider it seriously. Romine can’t hit. Sanchez will have another year to show us what he’s got.

    BTW, Pineda sets an all-time single game strikeout record for a Yankee righty this year.

    true or false?

  21. RkyMtnYank says:

    I really liked that article on pitch framing, finally something to confirm how painful it was to watch Posada behind the plate. Also, reading back on how Sanchez catches similar to Posada with that f’n “snatch” catch is disappointing. Hopefully he will bring some good prospects back in a trade. Here’s looking forward to Murphy.

    • Mike HC says:

      If you had to do it again though, you would still use Posada as the everyday catcher. He was below average behind the plate, but his offense made it more than worth it. The same may be true for Sanchez. Maybe his D will not ever even be as good as Posada though, I don’t know.

      • RkyMtnYank says:

        Well, I wouldn’t sign up for 17 more years of Posada but Jorge certainly had his place in time given most of the other options over the last 17 years. The fan in me made me like him more just because he was a “yankee”. His offense becomes depleted by his catching ability so you need to hit better to make up for it.( -50 runs over 5yrs, wow) These stats don’t even account for the number of passed balls I’ve seen get called wild pitches over the years. I’m just more of a pitching fan than most current homerun era fans so that’s probably why I was never at all attached to Montero either. I think we can find a more happy medium between hitting and defense specifically for the catching position.

  22. Mike HC says:

    Montero is a definite prospective free agent to keep an eye on with Martin also hitting free agency. Keeping Martin for another 2-3 years seems like the more realistic playout though.

  23. Favrest says:

    Highly underrated player. Great defensively. Did a great job with that staff.

  24. Mike MzX says:

    What’s wrong with Martin? He’s been great on defense, and even though his offensive numbers aren’t setting the world on fire, he’s been a pretty clutch bat so far. Overall, he’s been a great addition to the club.

    I think we’re fine sticking with Martin for now, and easing Romine into the role… if Romine doesn’t work out, by then Sanchez should be ready for transition.

  25. JA says:

    What about Yadier Molina? What’s the chances the Yanks make a play for him??

  26. rossdfarian says:

    Thank you, Mike!

Leave a Reply

You may use <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong> in your comment.

If this is your first time commenting on River Ave. Blues, please review the RAB Commenter Guidelines. Login for commenting features. Register for RAB.