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May 28, 2013

Overthinking It

The Montero-Pineda Trade in 2013

by Ben Lindbergh


(If you listened to last Friday’s episode of Effectively Wild, you’ve already heard me and Sam Miller discussing this topic. You’ve also heard me threatening to write about it. This is me making good on that threat.)

One year, four months, and five days ago, the Yankees traded Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos. It was an unusually exciting trade, in that we hadn’t heard much about it before it went down, and it involved two of baseball’s most promising young players. As the internet scrambled to write up responses, a consensus emerged: both teams had done well to address an area of need. The Mariners, who hadn’t hit much since Edgar Martinez retired, had more trouble attracting hitters than pitchers to their big ballpark, and had just batted Miguel Olivo cleanup 43 times, and thus needed someone who wouldn’t look out of place in the middle of a major league lineup. The Yankees, who had a surplus of 1B/DH types signed to long-term contracts, needed a young starter to slot into their rotation behind CC Sabathia. If either team was believed to have “won” the trade, it may have been the Mariners, who wound up with the position player, generally the less risky part of any pitcher-for-position-player swap. But neither team was widely believed to have lost.

Since then, the stock of every player involved in the trade—three of whom have made news lately—has dropped dramatically. The players the Mariners acquired have cost them -0.8 WARP (which probably undersells the extent to which they’ve hurt the team); the players the Yankees acquired have yet to make any contribution at the big-league level. This isn’t an attempt to reevaluate the trade based on what we know now, since it wouldn’t be fair to apply those results retroactively. It’s an attempt to figure out whose stock has fallen farthest, and which team wishes there were backsies. And it’s a reflection of how quickly even sure things can start to look shaky.

Shortly after news of the trade broke, we broke it down at BP. R.J. Anderson wrote about the Pineda part of the trade, and Kevin Goldstein covered everything else. I’m going to go player by player, picking out some of what we said then and recapping what the last 16 months have revealed.

Montero

It's the plus-plus hit tools that trump all others, but as a pure hitter who is also in the neighborhood of 235 pounds, the power just comes naturally, giving him the ability to hit for a .300 average with 20-30 home runs annually, depending on just how much Safeco robs him of long balls and how well he adjusts.

Montero hit four homers for the Yankees in his September 2011 debut. Three of them were to the opposite field, which boded well for his future at Safeco, traditionally a tough park for right-handed pull power. But he hit only .227/.268/.337 at home last season, when Safeco played particularly tough. On the road, Montero hit .295/.330/.438, not bad at all for a 22-year-old backstop, though his campaign was perceived to be disappointing.

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<< Previous Article
Premium Article Punk Hits: Marco Scuta... (05/28)
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Overthinking It: This ... (05/25)
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Overthinking It: Bill ... (05/30)
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Premium Article Skewed Left: The Real ... (05/28)

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