Saturday, January 14, 2012 Updated: January 15, 5:02 PM ET
Yankees part with Montero, reluctantly
By Andrew Marchand ESPNNewYork.com
The New York Yankees were crushed to trade Jesus Montero. The September glimmer that resembled some semblance of an in-his-prime Manny Ramirez had them as psyched up as their fans with each laser that shot off the 22-year-old's bat. Unlike many in the game, the Yankees believe Montero can catch in the majors and think he could very well become another Mike Piazza.
Will Jesus Montero turn into a star? We'll have to wait and see.
We will never find out how the defensive-minded Joe Girardi would have dealt with an offense-first catcher, but the Yankees were steadfast in intending to leave Montero there, even if it meant reliving the '90s wars between the front office and Joe Torre and Don Zimmer that kept the defensively-challenged Jorge Posada behind the plate. The execs prevailed in that one and Torre and Zimmer learned to love Posada, whose next move could be to Cooperstown.
The Yankees think Jesus may be the second coming of Jorge, which made Friday's decision a very tough one.
It is true that the Yankees tried to trade Montero on multiple occasions, but only for top-of-the-line pitching. They offered him in potential Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay deals, but would not include him for the likes of Gio Gonzalez and Mat Latos.
The Yankees believe they are taking on more risk by bringing in a still-developing Michael Pineda, but this was a need trade. The soon-to-be 23-year-old Pineda has make-you-miss stuff that could translate into him being a No. 1 or No. 2 starter under team control for the next five years. They needed the pitcher badly, and they looked past his poor second-half ERA last season (5.12) to the potential of a guy who struck out a batter per inning with a fastball that consistently approaches 95 mph.
The move falls into Yankees GM Brian Cashman's new pitching manifesto, which guided the Yankees in not only deciding not to offer C.J. Wilson a contract, but to not even allow him to visit the Bronx.
In trading for Pineda and signing Hiroki Kuroda, the Yankees stayed true to the four main rules of the Cashman pitching manifesto, which are the following:
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1) The CC Rule: Only pay crazy dollars for top-of-the line starters, preferably in free agency.
2) The A.J. Rule: Don't give long-term contracts to pitchers who are not sure things.
3) Steady Freddy Rule: Find solid one-year deals with guys like Kuroda and Freddy Garcia.
4) The Killer B's Rule: Pile up as many young, high-end, potentially No. 1-type starters as you can.
While the Yankees were devastated to give up Montero, they are excited about the stockpile of pitchers they now have. Not only do they maintain seven major league-ready starters, the moves allow their top two prospects, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, to spend another year in Triple-A so they are ready for the majors when they arrive.
One of the Killer B's could be up this year -- Banuelos has a better shot -- but they are going to have to fully earn it and need will be less of a factor.
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The Yankees still view Phil Hughes as a starter. As he rededicates himself to getting into professional shape, the Yankees think Hughes could be a 15- to 18-game winner. He is the favorite to fall behind CC Sabathia, Pineda, Kuroda and Ivan Nova. The Yankees signed Garcia for $4 million next season and, by attrition, they think he will still be a big contributor in 2012.
As for Burnett, the man who was supposed to be the No. 2 starter is now the No. 6 starter, with a chance to either be traded or be the long man out of the bullpen. Burnett's career as an important Yankee is over. He is on his way to Eddie Lee Whitson-Carl Pavano-Kei Igawa Island, where he always seemed destined save for one World Series performance that helped earn a ring.
The Yankees truly had visions of Montero helping them win another, but they are deep at the catching position. They know Austin Romine is not Montero -- he is actually the opposite, and more in the Girardi mode as a good-field, average-hit guy. In the lower levels, Gary Sanchez may be a Montero-clone, but that is still unknown.
With that depth, and with Felix Hernandez unavailable, the Yankees turned to the next best thing. They didn't want to trade Montero, but they felt their need, and Pineda's potential, were too great.