The Yankees have held on to Jesus Montero through every offseason and trade deadline. No matter what star player was dangled in their faces, they kept the young catcher (but soon-to-be first baseman or DH, according to most reports) close. Considering the age of the Yankees' lineup and their desire to get under the luxury tax at some point, you could understand why.
But they almost dealt Montero once. They actually thought they did, believing that a deal to send him to the Mariners for Cliff Lee was imminent. At the last second, the Mariners decided they liked Justin Smoak better, and pulled out of the deal. Now the Mariners have both, sending 22-year-old wunderkind Michael Pineda over for the offense they desperately need. From the official MLB.com Twitter feed:
BREAKING: @Yankees and @Mariners finalizing 4-player trade involving young studs Jesus Montero and Michael Pineda.
Some Yankees fans and some Mariners fans are going to hate this deal. Yankees fans will hate it because they've spent the last three years picturing Montero as a life-long Yankee, racking up 2,500 hits, and staying eerily effective into his late 30s, like the other creepy homegrown Yankees.
Mariners fans will hate this because they just had a miserable season in which Pineda was one of the team's only bright lights: a young, electric arm with plus control. When a pitcher throws as hard as Pineda, the control usually doesn't show up when he's 22. He already had it, with the promise of getting better. And he was traded for a first base/DH type when they already had Smoak playing first base for the foreseeable future.
But stripped down to its core: the Yankees wanted cheap pitching, and the Mariners wanted cheap hitting. Montero is one of the best young hitting prospects in the game, and he'll be under club control for another six years. Pineda is one of the best young pitchers in baseball, and he's under club control for the next five years.
Greg Johns of MLB.com writes that the deal isn't just a straight swap.
No confirmation from team, but source says Mariners sending Pineda and Jose Campos to Yankees for Jesus Montero/Hector Noesi.
Campos is an 18-year-old who dominated the Northwest League ahead of schedule, and he ranked fifth on John Sickels' list of Mariner prospects. Sickels says that Noesi is more of a fourth/fifth starter type, but he is close to ready, and he has a good chance of helping the Mariners next year.
But the principals of the deal are Montero and Pineda. It's rare to see players with this much talent and remaining service time switching teams. It's a risk for each team, not unlike the Roberto Alomar-for-Fred McGriff deal in 1990. We'll know more in about a decade. Check back.