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January 16, 2012

Transaction Analysis

Jesus the Mariner

by R.J. Anderson and Kevin Goldstein

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IN THIS ISSUE

American League

NEW YORK YANKEES
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Signed RHP Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal worth $10 million. [1/13]
Acquired RHP Michael Pineda and RHP Jose Campos from the Mariners for Hitter-R Jesus Montero and RHP Hector Noesi. [1/13]

Is it fair to write that Brian Cashman’s abstinence from the free-agent market looks worthwhile?  When you consider that Pineda’s stuff is reported to serves as an aphrodisiac, it might be. A mid-to-upper 90s fastball and biting slider led to more than a strikeout per inning and a 3.15 strikeout-to-walk ratio, leading to an All-Star appearance as a 22-year-old.

Still, Pineda will turn 23 within the week and there are some warts on him. The most obvious blemish is the lack of a changeup, as Pineda spent last season as a fastball-slider pitcher. Next up is how Pineda will take to the Bronx as a fly-ball pitcher. There should be some relief in knowing that Pineda’s second-half woes were not evident in his component-based measures, although his earned run average did jump as he allowed more hits on balls in play.

Can earned run average underrate a pitcher whose home park and defense were pitcher-friendly? Pineda racked up 3.1 Win Above Replacement Player due to strong peripherals despite an average-looking 103-adjusted earned run average. Under team control for the next five seasons, Pineda will have to adapt to the Bronx and further develop his tertiary pitch. Should he do those things, he could form arguably the nastiest one-two punch in the majors with C.C. Sabathia.

Kuroda will turn 37 in February, making him the graybeard of the two newest additions to the Yankees’ rotation. Over the past three seasons, Kuroda averaged more than 170 innings while accumulating a 3.36 strikeout-to-walk ratio, 115 adjusted-earned run average, and quality start status in 63 percent of his outings. Besides pitching well, Kuroda has completed more than 180 innings in three of his previous four seasons—having not gone to the disabled list since 2009.

Like Pineda, Kuroda is moving from a pitcher-friendly environment, and that means adjusting expectations.  Further, Kuroda’s opponents compiled an aggregate 744 OPS last season, whereas the Yankee with 100-plus innings and the weakest opponents saw his opponents post a 755 OPS. Even if Kuroda’s game fails to translate to the American League, a one-year, $10 million deal is worth the experiment.

Ostensibly, the Yankees will open the season with Sabathia, Pineda, and Kuroda as their top-three. Ivan Nova is the most desirable of the other four starters—a group that includes Freddy Garcia, A.J. Burnett, and Phil Hughes—which should lead the Yankees to keep Nova in the rotation, thus jettisoning two of Burnett, Hughes, and Garcia out of New York or to the bullpen. None of them should feel too comfortable right now, nor should the rest of the AL. —R.J. Anderson

Campos is a right-hander who provides plenty to dream on and ranked fifth on the Seattle Mariners prospect list. Just 19 years old, Campos is a big-bodied power pitcher who already can get into the mid-90s with his fastball, and unlike many high-ceiling prospects with his kind of size and arm strength, he has no issues with repeating his delivery and throwing strikes. He's still a long way from a finished product, though, as both his breaking ball and changeup lag well behind the heater, he'll only be making his full-season debut in 2012 for Low-A Charleston, and he’s at least three years away from the Bronx, so patience will be required in order to reap the rewards. —Kevin Goldstein

SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | Player Cards | Depth Chart
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Acquired Hitter-R Jesus Montero and RHP Hector Noesi from the Yankees for RHP Michael Pineda and RHP Jose Campos. [1/13]

While the Mariners paid a hefty price, they needed runs. This is a squad that hit .233/.292/.348 as a team last year, and Montero could be their best hitter for the next six years, including 2012. This is a player who will rank in the single digits on my upcoming Top 101 prospects despite being a man without a position. While his power is exciting, he's not a power hitter; he's a hitter with power, and there is a distinct and important difference there. 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.

As for the his defense, it will be interesting to see if the Mariners replace the Yankees as the only team that believes in his ability to catch in the big leagues. While the Yankees said all the right things during Montero's development about his work at catcher, there was plenty of evidence that they didn't believe what they were saying. When injuries affected the team in September, yet still left them with two “catchers” in Jorge Posada and (presumably) Montero, the Yankees scrambled to find Austin Romine in a Kentucky Wal-Mart so they wouldn’t have to put Montero behind the plate, while at manager Joe Girardi's winter meeting presser in Dallas, he made it clear that the only scenarios in which Montero was going to catch for the Yankees in 2012 involved things like nuclear winter and flying pigs. He's immobile behind the plate and has significant difficulty catching pitches with life, often reverting back to old habits that include stabbing as opposed to receiving balls. He has above-average arm strength, but it's mitigated by the amount of time in takes his hefty frame to go from crouch to throwing position. Between his deficiencies and the physical toll catching takes on the body, the Mariners should tell Montero that the only glove he'll wear from now on is those of the batting variety, sit back, and enjoy.

Montero is not the only player who could play a significant role for the 2012 Mariners, however, as right-hander Hector Noesi, who was relegated to the bullpen in New York, will earn an opportunity to take Pineda's spot in the rotation and has a chance to beat out others like Blake Beavan for the right to stay there once 2011 first-round pick Danny Hultzen cruises through the minors. Noesi has average stuff, as his fastball sits at 90-91 mph, but he can reach back for 94 when he needs it, and the pitch has some movement. A changeup is his best secondary pitch—he's yet to find a consistent breaking ball between his curveball and slider—but everything about him plays up due to his ability to not only throw strikes, but to throw good ones, as he uses both sides of the plate and knows how to exploit hitter weaknesses. His ceiling is just a number-four starter, but he's already there. —Kevin Goldstein

R.J. Anderson is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see R.J.'s other articles. You can contact R.J. by clicking here
Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

30 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

NYYanks826

In terms of the Hughes/Garcia/Burnett conundrum, it seems to make the most sense that the Yanks should slot Garcia into the fifth spot and make Hughes a longman/swingman. Burnett doesn't seem to have a place in the Bronx anymore, and he probably wouldn't take too well to being the highest paid reliever in the league.

The Yanks should either try trading him and eating about 90% of his salary, or they should just release him. They're one of the few teams (if not the only team) that could afford to do that without being impacted financially.

Jan 16, 2012 00:48 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Hyperlinks for Montero and Noesi are missing.

Is a Kerry Wood writeup coming?

Jan 16, 2012 01:27 AM
rating: -1
 
Richard Bergstrom

Oh, and Kuroda too...

Jan 16, 2012 01:28 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Hamrahi
BP staff

The links are now working. Special thanks to Ben Lindbergh for jumping in to fix them. Sorry for the problem there.

Jan 16, 2012 10:02 AM
 
CongoHammer

I've also heard from a Fangraphs Article that Montero often doesn't protect his bare hand while catching, opening him up to vulnerability of injuring his non-catching hand. Have you heard anything about this? Because I think it would be a major factor in whether or not they risk sticking him at the position or not... potentially losing your best hitter for months due to a broken hand or fingers is not a risk the M's should be willing to take.

Jan 16, 2012 08:07 AM
rating: 0
 
Duranimal

Don't understand why the Mariners included Campos. Seems like the Yanks would have done this deal without him. There was no long term spot for Monteros on the Yanks roster, and they weren't going to get a better starter from anyone.

Jan 16, 2012 09:13 AM
rating: 8
 
kcheaden

That surprised me a swell.

Jan 16, 2012 13:25 PM
rating: 0
 
smallmanoncampus

While I'm sure this is supposed to mean "as well" I get a great kick out of saying "surprised me a swell amount" in my head

Jan 16, 2012 16:29 PM
rating: 2
 
Nacho999

I don't feel like baseball GMs take these kinds of chances in the game anymore. It would have been safer for Cashman to sign Kuroda, play out the first half of the season and make a decision. Montero has a ton of potential with the bat, anyone can see that, but the Yankees are fairly loaded with catching prospects and Montero's value may never get any higher in terms of a trading chip for a young stud pitcher. I really like this trade from the Yankees point of view, but it was a fair value deal in my opinion. The Mariners got two major leaguers if Montero and Noesi keep moving forward at the expected developmental pace this spring and New York take a flyer on a teenager. The best part about it is money was not an issue anywhere. At least for now. The risk on both sides is fairly distributed. Montero could turn out to be a monster hitter over the next decade while NY looks on in envy, Pineda could win 18 games consistently with his new offense while Seattle scuffles to fill in behind King Felix, Noesi could surprise with 7-11 wins over the next five years pitching in spacious Safeco while NY keeps looking for the next durable rubberbanded arm like Ramiro Mendoza's at a bargain and Campos could shock as the best player in the deal some day. Pretty cool if you ask me. Sometimes I think prices of free agents are so ridiculously high is because teams consistenly don't think outside the proverbial box like this. They overvalue their own talent and only add to their teams with whatever revenues their respective teams generate. I think the Mariners did a great job identifying their target and parting with the type of quality it requires to obtain said target and I think New York probably did the very best they could as well in acquiring a young pitcher with a lot of upside they could invest in without giving up one of their very best pitching prospects. These deals are so much more interesting than four prospects for Gio Gonzalez or Matt Latos to me. Just my two cents...

Jan 16, 2012 09:13 AM
rating: 13
 
Richard Bergstrom

I believe they made this move to clean Montero off the roster so that they could go after a DH type, either a cheap flyer like Manny or perhaps they'll break the bank for Fielder.

Jan 16, 2012 09:30 AM
rating: 0
 
eighteen

I can't imagine Fielder wanting to play 2d fiddle in NY; nor can I picture Yankee management paying that kind of coin for a DH. George woulda done it, bless his heart, but Hank & Co? Nah.

Jan 16, 2012 11:31 AM
rating: 4
 
Richard Bergstrom

I think Prince wants to make money and he wants to win. If rumor has it he'll even do a short term or one year deal, the Yankees might be a good fit.

Jan 16, 2012 13:55 PM
rating: 0
 
map2history

You think Prince wants to "make money" AND that "he wants to win."? Hmmm, I hadn't thought of it like that! By Jove, I believe you're on to something.

Jan 17, 2012 10:26 AM
rating: 0
 
Richard Bergstrom

Believe it or not, some people want to make money OR they want to win. Since I think he wants to do both, that limits the potential suitors.

But as you said, you hadn't thought of that.

Jan 17, 2012 22:10 PM
rating: 0
 
Pat Folz

I'd guess they (correctly) feel they have that DH type in ARod. This season will probably be one of transition, but this time next year (if not July) they'll probably have a healthier, defense-ier player at 3rd.

Jan 16, 2012 11:35 AM
rating: 1
 
John Carter

personal to Richard B.: Could you, please, obtain my e-mail address from rawagman and contact me directly?

Jan 16, 2012 13:35 PM
rating: 0
 
HeavyHitter

Great deal for both teams. Minor league-wise, Seattle has pitching depth and the Yankees have catching/hitting depth. The Yankees now have a significant bumper crop of talent (Campos, Williams, Bichette, Sanchez, Santana) due to hit the scene around 2014, which is precisely when they need to get their payroll at or under $189 million to avoid paying Draconian luxury taxes under the new CBA. Perfect timing, flowing from near-perfect management and excellent scouting.

Jan 16, 2012 10:47 AM
rating: 3
 
sbnirish77

The real deal the Yankees wanted for a long time was one for King Felix in exchange for Montero, and reluctantly, as few killer B's as possible..

The Mariners have remained steadfast in saying King Felix was unavailable and ultimately got the Yankees to give up Montero without parting with Felix.

How about an analysis of this deal relative to the above alternative? Or even relative to the failed deal for Cliff Lee a few years ago? There is a historical context to this trade that has been missed here while being discussed in write-ups elsewhere.

Jan 16, 2012 11:41 AM
rating: 1
 
Richard Bergstrom

I wanna read more about how the Yankees would've done if they had kept Jay Buhner.

Jan 16, 2012 13:57 PM
rating: -1
 
eighteen

I think Cashman won this trade big-time.

Pineda's proven he can perform as a major league SP. Montero? Color me unimpressed bya bat-only type who has 69 MLB PA's and put up a .815 OPS at AAA last year. He may very well live up to his hype, but Pineda already has.

Jan 16, 2012 11:41 AM
rating: 3
 
Justice

I like the Seattle side of this deal. The Yankees have had one great hitting catcher after another for decades: Bill Dickey, Yogi Berra, Elston Howard, Thurman Munson and Jorge Posada. Those guys could all rake. So can Jesus Montero. But now Montero is a Mariner.

Michael Pineda may be OK but he is a flyball pitcher and just does not seem to be a fit for Yankee Stadium.

Jan 16, 2012 12:34 PM
rating: 0
 
map2history
Other readers have rated this comment below the viewing threshold. Click here to view anyway.

I agree - the Yanks got the better end of the deal. Pineda can be developed further and with an offense like the Yanks have, they can afford the mistakes he will inevitably make. But they had to pull the trigger on Montero because a) they didn't need him and b) his BA after 89 PAs proved only that he could hit a fastball and the occasional curve. My prediction is that he will be at best a mediocre non-position player.

Jan 17, 2012 09:35 AM
rating: -8
 
Richard Bergstrom

Oh, it proved it? Wow! And they just _had_ to pull the trigger? By Jove, I think you've got it!

Jan 17, 2012 10:01 AM
rating: 2
 
SimplyFalco

Hold his bad 2nd season at AAA against him (he was .05 better in OPS his 1st year) and throw out his major league numbers when determining his OPS? Interesting.

Jan 16, 2012 12:29 PM
rating: 0
 
eighteen

Yes, he arguably regressed while repeating AAA (and though it's not as much as a .055 drop in OPS might suggest, both his BB and K rates went the wrong direction, too). Thank you for making my point.

If you want to extrapolate a .996 ML OPS (or any kind of OPS) from 69 PA's, be my guest.

Jan 16, 2012 13:33 PM
rating: 0
 
tommybones

All I know is I liked very much what I saw watching every AB Montero had with the Yanks. He was made for that Stadium. The guy would hit 30+ dingers every year because of that park. Now? Who knows. Good looking hitter though. I am convinced he was bored at AAA, kind of like Hanley was bored in the minors.

Jan 16, 2012 13:56 PM
rating: 2
 
SGreenwell

Well, the rap on Hanley was also that he had some attitude problems in the minors, whereas with Montero I think it was more him being bored and/or injured.

Jan 16, 2012 15:02 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

He didn't regressed, but he did get frustrated by the fact that he was still in Triple-A. It was a definite issue, and it was addressed. That said, as much as I'm with you on extrapolating from 69 PAs, I think extrapolating from minor league numbers that might seem like large sample is just as dangerous.

Jan 16, 2012 19:58 PM
 
tommybones

Yanks will sign some vet for DH for one year, then in 2013 move Arod to DH and sign David Wright, who will be reborn in that stadium, while also allowing Yanks to piss off Mets fans everywhere. Genius!

Jan 16, 2012 14:03 PM
rating: 3
 
Richard Bergstrom

Are there any Mets fans left?

Jan 16, 2012 15:59 PM
rating: 5
 
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