M's, Yankees finalize four-player trade
SEATTLE -- Considering the heady talent that Brian Cashman has controlled in his tenure as general manager of the New York Yankees, his belief in the talent of Jesus Montero has to bring hope for the offensively starved Seattle Mariners.
"He may very well be the best player I've traded," Cashman said.
The Mariners and Yankees completed their four-player trade on Monday that sent Montero and 24-year-old pitcher Hector Noesi to the Mariners in exchange for All-Star pitcher Michael Pineda and 19-year-old pitching prospect Jose Campos.
While Noesi and Campos both have potential to help their new clubs, this trade is all about the exchange of the slugging Montero for the powerful Pineda. And while there will eventually be winners and losers in the trade, for now it's simply need-for-need: power arm in exchange for power bat.
"I look at it like we had a need and we were trying to address that need, and to get really good players you have to give up really good players," Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik said. "If this goes down and helps the Yankees and helps us both long term and short term it's a win-win for everybody."
The conversations first began about a month ago after the Mariners had identified Montero as the young bat they wanted to try to acquire. Zduriencik simply posed the question to Cashman about what it would take to get the 22-year-old Venezuelan, who hit .328 with four homers and 12 RBIs in a September call-up with the Yankees last year that earned Montero a spot on the playoff roster.
The answer came back -- Pineda.
"It wasn't like we were making someone available," Zduriencik said. "What we were doing is acquiring someone we really needed."
Pineda immediately brings youth to the Yankees rotation. He just turned 23 and was an All-Star in his rookie season last year. Pineda got off to a blistering start to his first season before going through anticipated rookie struggles. Pineda went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA and led all of baseball in holding right-handed batters to just a .184 average. He struck out 173 in 171 innings.
And he solved New York's problem of finding acceptable starters on the free-agent market.
"I'm feeling great and I'm beyond excited. I never thought I would become a New York Yankee so early into my career. This is the best thing in the world," Pineda said. "Pitching alongside CC Sabathia, I'm speechless. And playing alongside players such as Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter is unbelievable."
Seattle could part with Pineda because of its depth in the minors. Three of Seattle's top prospects all project as starting pitchers: right-hander Taijuan Walker, lefty Danny Hultzen -- the No. 2 pick in last year's amateur draft -- and lefty James Paxton.
Seattle also signed Japanese pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma to go with ace Felix Hernandez, lefty Jason Vargas and prospects Charlie Furbush and Blake Beavan. Noesi may very well fall into that mix, too, after appearing in 30 games with New York, including two starts, and going 2-2 with a 4.47 ERA and 45 strikeouts.
Ultimately, no matter what arms Seattle has, the Mariners couldn't make up for an awful offense the past few seasons. Before even playing his first game in Seattle, Montero is already being touted as the middle-of-the-order answer to the Mariners' offensive woes.
Seattle hit just .233 as a team, scored 556 runs -- worst in all of baseball -- and hit only 109 homers in 2011. Seattle has failed to average four runs per game each of the past three seasons.
Montero could eventually provide the boost Seattle needs. During his brief call-up last September, Montero showed patience at the plate and an ability to hit with power to the opposite field.
Montero hit .288 with 18 homers and 67 RBIs at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last year. He finally lands in Seattle after nearly becoming a Mariner in 2010 as part of a deal for Cliff Lee that fell apart at the last minute.
His long-term future at catcher remains uncertain, but Zduriencik said Montero will get every opportunity to catch and that the situation behind the plate will get sorted out during spring training. Montero's bat is simply too valuable to keep out of the lineup.
"We felt we really needed a boost in our offense, and we identified some young players in baseball, but at the end we settled for Jesus," Zduriencik said. "We thought this would be a guy that could come in here and be the type of hitter we're looking for for years to come."
AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum in New York contributed to this report.
Follow Tim Booth on Twitter: http://twitter.com/ByTimBooth
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press
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