A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, or as the Yankees and Mariners can admit today; a young stud pitcher is safer than a major league ready prospect. At least in this case.
The multi-year battle to decide which team had the better end of the Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero deal has come to a sad close today as the Mariners are set to run Montero through waivers and essentially let him go afterwards. For the Yankees, Pineda, now 27-years-old, will attempt to be the top pitcher in the rotation, trying to put together his first completely healthy season in pinstripes.
Neither player has amounted to their ceilings. At the time of the deal, Pineda was a young, stud starter, who took the AL by storm the first half of the season, slowed down a little but was still a potential second fiddle long-term to Felix Hernandez in Seattle.
Instead he was moved and had shoulder injuries and pine tar suspensions and adjustment problems but seems to finally be ready to put it all together and challenge 200 innings in the process.
Montero, meanwhile, to date, is a AAA legend and less of a perennial MLB All-Star. It hasn’t panned out too great in the majors for the former catcher-turned first baseman. Montero is a career .250/.295/.693 hitter and has shifted to first base and DH duties since early 2013, the last time he carried value as a mediocre catcher. Still only 26, Montero has lost value as a top prospect and turned into a player who can’t seem to get over the hump heading into his prime without a contract (for now).
Coincidentally, the Yankees would be wise to sign the former slugger to a contract. They took the risk on Pineda, an already established commodity and it hasn’t panned out the way they hoped but he’s still extremely relevant and it’s not too late for the 6’7″ righty. Now they have a chance to reclaim Montero, the controversial top prospect many Yankees’ fans didn’t want to see go at the time. Montero posted a: .355/.398/.966 line in AAA last season over 430 at bats. It could just be he needs a change of scenery and someone who could help regulate his weight issues.
The Yankees lost Greg Bird, the most recent top hitting prospect to graduate from the minors to a torn labrum and have a slot for first base depth, the position Montero has played on and off for the past two years. It would be fitting and smart for the Yankees to take a shot at Montero as an alternative to Chris Parmalee by signing him to a minor league deal after likely passing through waivers (nobody is going to sign Montero when the Mariners will end up giving him up for free anyway). If Montero can catch lightning in the bottle with the adrenaline of returning to the Yankees’ organization, he could act as a better alternative to an Alex Rodriguez or Mark Teixeira injury than they presently have for the 2016 season.
Montero may be amicable to return to the last place he showed real promise and success and the Yankees would still have more than three years of team control in the event Bird struggles in his return from injury. The high risk trade has become a low risk depth signing, but could benefit the Yankees all the same.
And maybe help rejuvenate Montero’s major league career, since his success in the minors indicates all may not be lost.