Many might be focused on Mariners second baseman Robinson Cano's return to New York this week, but there is another, more compelling storyline to this Yankees-Mariners series: With the recent Michael Pineda pine tar scandal, which team has fared worse in the highly publicized Pineda for Jesus Montero trade from two years ago?
(I guess I should remember that Hector Noesi was part of that trade too, though Mariners fans really would like to forget that as well.)
The balance of that trade is constantly changing. At the time of the trade, Pineda was coming off an All-Star rookie season while Montero was a top-10 prospect, so opinions were mixed on the deal. Then Pineda missed the entire 2012 season due to a shoulder injury while Montero hit 15 home runs, tipping the scales solidly in Seattle's favor. Noesi, however, brought those scales back a little by going 2-12 with a 5.82 ERA in 2012.
The scales were at their most extreme in mid-August 2012 when Pineda was charged with drunk driving while Montero hit his 13th home run as a Mariner the next day. But both sides of the scale tumbled apart in 2013. Pineda's comeback from injury was slower than expected, while the Mariners effectively gave up on Montero as a catcher and assigned him to the minors, where he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.
The scales rose back in New York's favor early this year when Montero showed up to spring training overweight and Noesi was designated for assignment while Pineda was back in top form, with a 1.00 ERA after three starts. Then came Pineda's pine tar suspension.
So right now the question is not so much who got the better end of the deal, but rather which team got the worse end? Let's go to the tale of the tape.
Montero was busted for using PEDs last August and served a season-ending 50-game suspension as a minor league player. Pineda was busted for drunk driving in August 2012 (he pleaded no contest), and nailed for using pine tar on his pitches last week and suspended 10 games.
Loser: Mariners. Players can come back with their reputations relatively unscathed for cheating by doctoring a baseball (hello, Gaylord Perry), but not so much from PED use. Especially when you aren't very good.
Pineda developed tendinitis in his right shoulder during spring training of 2012 and underwent surgery in May, missing the entire 2012 season and half of the 2013 season. Montero showed up to spring training this year 40 pounds overweight, telling reporters that after winter ball, "All I did was eat."
Loser: Mariners. Pineda is healthy again, while Montero still needs to add some kale to his diet
After recovering from his shoulder injury, Pineda went 1-1 with a 3.86 ERA at Triple-A Scranton last year and is 2-2 with a 1.83 ERA for the Yankees this season. Montero hit .260 with 15 home runs and a .685 OPS in 2012. Due to his poor defense behind the plate and late-season slump, his WAR was minus 0.1. He hit .208 in 29 big league games last year and is currently at Triple-A Tacoma.
Loser: Mariners. Montero has fallen so far that in spring training, Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said he no longer had any expectations for him. That is pretty much the usual case when a team trades for an overhyped Yankees prospect, especially if the Mariners trade for him.
Who got the worse end of the deal? The Mariners.
Pineda will be back from his suspension in early May, while Montero may not return to the majors with the Mariners, who are already loaded with plodding, mediocre DH/first basemen who can neither hit nor field. And if that isn't enough, Seattle fans also suffered through Noesi for more than a year. Plus, the Yankees still have pitcher Jose Campos, another part of the 2012 trade, in their system. He just underwent Tommy John surgery but he is only 21 so there is still plenty of time for him to haunt the Mariners.