|Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik thought he had acquired slugging catcher Jesus Montero back in 2010, when Seattle appeared to have agreed to a trade that would have sent Cliff Lee to New York.
But the Mariners used the foot injury of minor league second baseman David Adams—which has kept Adams sidelined for most of the last season and a half—to back out of the deal, sending Lee to the Rangers instead in a trade built around Justin Smoak.
The Mariners have kept tabs on Montero in the intervening years, and he has just kept hitting at Triple-A and during a September callup last year. With the Yankees looking to upgrade their rotation again, they used Montero and righthander Hector Noesi to pry rookie righthander Michael Pineda from Seattle, also receiving short-season righty Jose Campos. All four players in the deal were signed as international free agents—Campos and Montero out of Venezuela, and Noesia and Pineda from the Dominican Republic.
The trade gives the Mariners another middle-of-the-order bat to go with Smoak (who has yet to prove himself in that role) and 2009 No. 2 overall pick Dustin Ackley. It also gives them a righthanded power bat with the ability to drive the ball to right-center and right field, a must in spacious Safeco Field. Noesi will slot into the back of the big league rotation. He's no Pineda, but he could develop into an back-of-the-rotation starter who can eat innings, and the Mariners kept franchise star Felix Hernandez.
In Pineda, the Yankees acquire a prototypical power arm who at 6-foot-7 slots right in next to C.C. Sabathia in the rotation. With Sabathia signed through 2016 and Pineda and Ivan Nova coming off productive rookie seasons, the Yankees' rotation could be set for years to come, with Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain and A.J. Burnett among those fighting for the last two spots. Word also came Friday that the Yankees were close to signing free agent righty Hiroki Kuroda, further crowding the rotation picture but also possibly pushing Hughes and Chamberlain back to the bullpen, where both have thrived in the past.
|Jesus Montero, c/dh
Age: 22. Position: C (91 G).
Born: Nov. 28, 1989 in Guacara, Venezuela.
Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 235. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Yankees, Oct. 17, 2006.
Montero has ranked as the Yankees' top prospect the last three offseasons. Since signing for $1.65 million in 2006, he has deal with plenty of pressure and the spotlight that comes with being a high-profile prospect with the Yankees, and he's dealt with it well. He played at the Yankee Stadium II in the 2008 Futures Game and made it to Yankee Stadium III in 2011, getting his first 61 major league at-bats after spending virtually the entire 2010 and 2011 seasons in Triple-A.
Montero has remained a strong minor league hitter with a physical 6-foot-4 build, excellent strength and a natural feel for hitting. His defense remains below-average at catcher, though he has become more consistent as a receiver. He's so big, he struggles with agility and blocking balls, but he had a .997 fielding percentage in 2011 while throwing out just 21 percent of baserunners. His ability to remain a catcher will depend in part on how much he hits to offset his defensive shortcomings.
|Hector Noesi, rhp
Born: Jan. 26, 1987 in Esperanza, Dominican Republic.
Ht.: 6-3. Wt.: 200. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Yankees, Dec. 3, 2004.
Noesi made his major league debut in 2011, working mostly in long relief and making two starts for the Yankees. He's a command-oriented righthander who pitches off his low-90s fastball, which he throws with solid-average command. He tops out in the mid-90s. Noesi also throws a slider, changeup and curveball, none of which stands out as above-average. His changeup rates as his best secondary offering, but fastball command is his true strong suit. He's a Tommy John surgery survivor who has shown good durability since returning from the procedure, throwing more than 160 innings in 2010 before throwing just 81 this year due to his move to the bullpen.
|Michael Pineda, rhp
Born: Jan. 18, 1989 in Yaguate, Dominican Republic.
Ht.: 6-7. Wt.: 260. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Mariners, Dec. 12, 2005.
Pineda threw his fastball with higher average velocity (94.7 mph) than any rookie with at least 100 innings, and he went 8-6, 3.03 in 18 first-half starts to make the AL all-star team. Pineda also mixed in a mid-80s slider frequently enough to lead all rookies with 173 strikeouts, while ranking second among AL starters with 9.1 strikeouts per nine innings. He topped out at 139 innings in the minors, prompting Seattle to space out his starts in August and September. But despite stumbling near the all-star break—he allowed 19 runs in 14 2/3 innings over three successive mid-July starts—Pineda pulled through to strike out a batter per inning and log a 3.99 ERA over his final eight turns. He slots in as a physical, righthanded complement to C.C. Sabathia.
|Jose Campos, rhp
Born: July 27, 1992 in La Guaira, Venezuela.
Ht.: 6-4. Wt.: 195. Bats: R. Throws: R.
Career Transactions: Signed as nondrafted free agent by Mariners, Jan. 15, 2009.
Campos signed with the Mariners for $115,000 in January 2009. A cousin of big leaguers Alcides and Kelvim Escobar, Campos led the short-season Northwest League in ERA (2.32) and strikeouts (85) in his U.S. debut, ranking as the No. 4 prospect. His fastball operates at 92-95 mph and has been clocked as high as 98. For a youngster, he has advanced feel for pitching off his fastball and locating it. His heater has deception, angle and life. Just a thrower when he got to Everett last summer, he grew as a pitcher. His hard curveball and his changeup show flashes of becoming plus pitches. They lack consistency but improved as he cleaned up his delivery, as the Mariners helped him soften his landing and getting better extension out front. He shows poise on the mound and fills the strike zone. Campos should join a wave of Yankees prospects heading to low Class A Charleston in 2012, a group including 2011 supplemental first-rounder Dante Bichette Jr., outfielder Mason Williams and other members of its 2011 championship teams at short-season Staten Island and in the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League.