Megadeal helps both Seattle, New York greatly
Yanks get superbly talented hurler; Montero can thrive out West
It's been on the minds of Yankees fans since last season ended -- when would the club strengthen its pitching staff? Well, the question has been answered. The Yankees have acquired one of the best young pitchers in the game. Michael Pineda has a power arm and the command and control to vault him to the top of the pack among aces in waiting.
In return for Pineda, Seattle will be able to use high-profile hitting prospect Jesus Montero as both a designated hitter and catcher. He should be a middle-of-the-order hitter for years to come.
It is widely believed that Montero was offered to Seattle at the time it sent Cliff Lee to Texas for Justin Smoak. Now, they'll have both Smoak and Montero in the same lineup.
This is truly a deal that helped both clubs address team concerns for the coming season.
Pineda is a pitcher with pure, electric velocity. He is a huge presence on the mound at 6-foot-7, 260 pounds, and throws downhill with some quirky mechanical issues that seem to work for him. He pitches far above his soon-to-be 23 years.
When he doesn't try to throw the ball through the backstop, Pineda can dominate a game with three very high quality pitches. He has a high-velocity fastball that sits between 93 and 95 mph. While Pineda can easily touch 100 on the radar gun, those times are reserved and spotted properly. His slider is very effective in changing the balance of hitters. When both fastball and slider are working, Pineda gets late movement on the ball, causing it to sink quickly. His changeup is a third quality pitch that buckles the knees of hitters, especially those sitting on the high heat.
Pineda doesn't always repeat his delivery, and when he strays from good mechanics, he loses a bit of command. That happens when he tends to rush things and he seems to overthrow, losing his pace and rhythm on the mound. Those times are infrequent, but they happen, and they can cause a loss of command.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2005, Pineda skyrocketed to the Mariners based upon a Minor League career of shutting down hitters at every level. Having experienced a bit of elbow trouble in 2009, Pineda showed no signs of it last season. In fact, he fashioned a record of 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA. He gave up only 133 hits in 171 innings pitched, walked 55 hitters and struck out 173.
Pineda was in the discussion for American League Rookie of the Year honors. While his team struggled for wins, Pineda kept the Mariners in games -- that's all a manager can ask.
Questions regarding Montero's defensive ability have been prominent throughout his professional career. Opinions regarding Montero's potential to become a quality starting Major League catcher vary from scout to scout. Some say he has made improvements in his footwork, blocking balls in the dirt and getting in position to throw. Some say he has made improvement in his game calling. Others disagree, noting Montero remains a below average big league catcher.
The answer is likely somewhere in between. Montero has made progress, but he doesn't show the mechanics that ease the comfort level of some player evaluators.
Montero's future is with his bat. He has hit in his Minor League career and flashed a solid power bat in his brief 2011 late-season trial with the Yankees. Montero is a solid right-handed gap hitter with an ability to make very good contact. He punishes mediocre pitching and feasts on pitchers' mistakes. Montero's hitting skills transfer to the Major Leagues -- he should be able to hit high-quality pitching and fit well in Safeco Field, where the gaps are spacious.
Montero may be carrying the "bad defender" label throughout his career. That happens sometimes. It is difficult to overcome an impression -- it takes time and lots of effort. Montero should be fine sharing catching duties and serving as the designated hitter for Seattle.
Only 22, the Venezuelan Montero is built like a catcher at 6-foot-3, 235 pounds. He has very strong arms and legs and hasn't reached his power potential by any means. Upside remains both offensively and defensively. Montero can build upon his September callup last season, when he hit .328 with four homers in 61 at-bats in New York.
Prospect pitchers Jose Campos and Hector Noesi are more than throw-ins in the deal. Both may become very high-profile starting pitchers in their own right.
Many see Campos as a younger edition of Pineda. He is imposing physically at 6-foot-4, 195 pounds. He throws a very reliable, high-velocity fastball. While Campos lacks the experience and polish of Pineda, he is only 19. Pitching for Class A Everett last season, Campos went 5-5 and yielded just 66 hits in 81 innings, walking just 13 while fanning 85 for a stunning 0.97 WHIP. Scouts are very bullish about Campos, and it's a bit surprising he was included along with Pineda in the deal for Montero.
Seattle will also be getting a high-quality prospect in the right-handed Noesi. At 24, Noesi is further along in development than Campos and he may well crack the Mariners' starting rotation. He has little left to prove in the Minor Leagues.
Noesi is a tall, slender pitcher (6-foot-3, 200 pounds) with Major League experience during the 2011 season. He threw 56 1/3 innings for New York, giving up 63 hits. He went 2-2 in his stint with the Yankees with a 4.47 ERA and a 1.50 WHIP. Noesi did not have great control and command, and those are areas of his game needing work.
Noesi has the ability to start or come out of the bullpen. He throws his fastball in the mid-90s, but he also has an effective curveball and changeup. He still needs to work on his breaking pitches, as they have a tendency to flatten out at times. When that happens, Noesi is prone to giving up long fly balls, some of which make their way out of the park. Seattle will be well suited for Noesi, who should thrive in the large park.
Seattle gains a core hitter and a strong pitching prospect to fit into the rotation. New York adds an impact starter with a very bright future and high ceiling. The risk for both clubs is low. The reward for both clubs is outstanding. This could be a transformational deal that will have fans of both clubs buzzing about for a long time.
Bernie Pleskoff is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.