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Transaction Oracle
— A Timely Look at Transactions as They Happen

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Mariners - Acquired Montero

Seattle Mariners acquire C Jesus Montero for P Michael Pineda and P Jose Campos

ZiPS projected Montero at .271/.333/.486 in Yankee Stadium. Good enough for a 112 OPS+. He’s going to a much tougher place to hit, so the raw stat line is not going to be nearly as pretty to get the same value. Let’s put it this way. Justin Smoak (a name not chosen at random of course) put up a 104 OPS+ with .234/.323/.396. I like Montero an awful lot but I’d downgrade him a fair amount in anything like a Strat keeper league.

Will he catch? Far from a given even with the Mariners. ZiPS sees Todd Zeile and Mike Sweeney as his most comparable players and neither stayed behind the plate. I see him as unlikely to be an impact player unless he can stick as a catcher. The Mariners are in a position to find out if he really can handle the position and I expect them to do so. His arm isn’t likely to be a deal breaker (he wasn’t awful against the running game in the minors). He appears to have the required agility to handle the position. In other words he’s got at least the minimum level of athleticism to be adequate at the position. He’s unlikely to ever be really good there, but you can live with that if the bat is good enough. ZiPS estimates a roughly 65% chance of his being very good or better (offensively) for a catcher next year.

That said, a word of caution is in order. The way the Yankees have handled him over the last two years makes it pretty clear that they didn’t think he’d be adequate behind the plate. As I say, the Mariners are in a position to find out whether they were wrong.

For the Yankees this is about dealing what they perceive to be surplus talent (Montero has no great value to the Yankees if he is not catching) for a pitcher who rates to be able to step into the rotation and be a big net positive. ZiPS projects a 112 OPS+. He’s got a nice strikeout rate, his control is a little worse than you’d like and his stuff is such that nobody would be shocked if he became an impact player. It’s also not that different that what’s you’d have projected for A. J. Burnett when they signed him (yes, Pineda is younger and much cheaper. I’m talking here about what it would be reasonable to expect on the mound)

You just never know with pitchers. I like Pineda nearly as much as I like Montero and Pineda is a better fit for the Yankees (given that Montero wasn’t going to catch). However David Neid is Pineda’s #3 comp according to ZiPS and somehow I thing the Yankees would be unhappy if that’s how it all works out.

All in all I’d be tempted to make this deal were I running the Yankees even though I seem to be more optimistic that Montero can handle catching than they are. There’s an awful lot to like about Pineda and starting pitching is an obvious need for the Yankees. Which brings us to Jose Campos. He’s an 19 year old suspect of a different kind. He’s figured out the strike zone already, has 30 minor league starts under his belt and gets his share of strikeouts. All I can say about him right now is that I expect success at AA—possibly blowing through the level quickly. The point though is that I have no idea what his ceiling is. It’s certainly possible—if unlikely—that he alone could be worth Montero.

He’s a guy I’d be very happy to add to my organization.

A truly fascinating deal. It’s one that I’d have made if I were running either team. And it’s really a deal that could get either GM fired since every player involved looks to be a high variance player. As you’d expect of players who are basically unfinished.

 

Ron J Posted: January 14, 2012 at 01:12 AM | 35 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
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   1. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 14, 2012 at 05:06 AM (#4036946)
I guess Hector Noesi is chopped liver. Not that I disagree or anything.
   2. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: January 14, 2012 at 06:03 AM (#4036949)
Steal for the Yanks, can't believe a team would give up a stud like Pineda for a guy with no position. Much less Pineda and another live arm. Rich get richer, dumb stay dumb.
   3. Darren Posted: January 14, 2012 at 10:15 AM (#4036970)
Noesi had a really good 2010 in AA. Is his injury from last year thought to have long lasting effects?
   4. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 14, 2012 at 10:18 AM (#4036971)
The way the Yankees have handled him over the last two years makes it pretty clear that they didn’t think he’d be adequate behind the plate.


If they didn't think he'd ever be adequate behind the plate, you'd think they might have played him at another position once in a while.
   5. TVerik, the gum-snappin' hairdresser Posted: January 14, 2012 at 10:43 AM (#4036978)
I think they played him like a trade chit all along. It's easy to say that now, of course, but I never thought that he'd spend ten years in the Bronx. And if you look at it from that perspective, it makes a ton of sense.

They didn't want to expose him. They didn't want it to be clear or even a point of discussion that "he can't handle 1B" or "he can't catch". I don't think it was necessarily in their plans that he get such a good start at the majors - I think the plan was to bring him up, let him bat in good situations for him in September (when many teams are auditioning minor-leaguers), and see what winter brings.
   6. LallWriter Posted: January 14, 2012 at 10:45 AM (#4036980)
Ron, could you provide some color on your statement that Pineda's control is "a little worse than you'd like?" He walked 2.9 hitters per nine innings, while striking out 9.1 batters per nine; the average A.L. pitcher walked 3.1, while striking out 6.9. His control doesn't seem to be an issue. Was that a misprint?
   7. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: January 14, 2012 at 11:02 AM (#4036982)
I think they played him like a trade chit all along. It's easy to say that now, of course, but I never thought that he'd spend ten years in the Bronx. And if you look at it from that perspective, it makes a ton of sense.


Agreed. I never got attached to Montero because I thought it was pretty clear he was going to be traded. Heck, he was already traded once before this! Meanwhile, is there any kind of innings limit for Pineda next season?
   8. cercopithecus aethiops Posted: January 14, 2012 at 11:11 AM (#4036983)
139 minor league innings in 2010 and 171 MLB innings in 2011. Shouldn't have too much of a problem handling 200 in 2012.
   9. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 14, 2012 at 12:37 PM (#4037008)
I guess Hector Noesi is chopped liver. Not that I disagree or anything.

Disconcur. He's probably the M's #4 SP today. I project 160 IP, 90-100 ERA+ in that ballpark.
   10. puck Posted: January 14, 2012 at 01:31 PM (#4037024)
However David Neid is Pineda’s #3 comp according to ZiPS and somehow I thing the Yankees would be unhappy if that’s how it all works out.


IIRC Nied ended up getting hurt. I suppose you never know if that sort of thing might have been brought on by trying to deal not only w/an expansion club in support, but the altitude. I wonder if there's an alternative universe somewhere where Nied won 100 games in his Braves career.
   11. BobbyS Posted: January 14, 2012 at 03:07 PM (#4037074)
Will he catch? Far from a given even with the Mariners. ZiPS sees Todd Zeile and Mike Sweeney as his most comparable players and neither stayed behind the plate.


Those comps only refer to offense, I believe...
   12. Johnny Slick Posted: January 14, 2012 at 03:12 PM (#4037078)
IIRC Nied ended up getting hurt.
But that's part of the issue with Pineda, isn't it? Pitchers get hurt a lot more often than hitters do. He's right at that age and level of ability that a lot of pitchers have reached in the past, only to have an arm injury that leaves them with only a fraction of their previous potential. I don't think you can discount this just because he hasn't gotten hurt yet.
   13. Tom Cervo, backup catcher Posted: January 14, 2012 at 03:40 PM (#4037089)
Noesi had a really good 2010 in AA. Is his injury from last year thought to have long lasting effects?


I don't recall an injury; he was just the last man used in the pen so didn't pitch much. I think he's a good fit for Seattle. His upside is probably a decent #4 pitcher or a good reliever, and I think Safeco will help him develop since he can learn to get out major league hitters without having to worry about HRs as much. Despite that, I am really happy the Yankees got Campos for him. Campos' numbers are great, and his fastball has been clocked in the upper 90s already. He's too far away to expect anything, but I'll trade ML ready back-end starters for potential front-end pitchers any day.
   14. Mike Emeigh Posted: January 14, 2012 at 04:08 PM (#4037096)
They didn't want to expose him. They didn't want it to be clear or even a point of discussion that "he can't handle 1B" or "he can't catch".


The Yankees didn't handle him in the minors in a way to prevent exposing him. In 2010 he caught 105 of 123 games he played in at AAA; in 2011 it was 88 of 109. He DH'd more often in the low minors but even then appeared behind the plate more than half the time.

Teams do scout the minors, you know.

-- MWE
   15. Drew (Primakov, Gungho Iguanas) Posted: January 14, 2012 at 04:42 PM (#4037114)
I don't think you can discount this just because he hasn't gotten hurt yet.


Correct--but teams have to attempt to make a good rotation regardless.
   16. puck Posted: January 14, 2012 at 05:32 PM (#4037132)
It's part of the issue with Pineda, isn't it? Pitchers get hurt a lot more often than hitters do


Oh sure. What I was saying was more about Nied than his suitability as a comp. He must wonder how things would have turned out had he stayed with the Braves.
   17. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 15, 2012 at 03:01 AM (#4037277)
I guess Hector Noesi is chopped liver. Not that I disagree or anything.

Disconcur. He's probably the M's #4 SP today. I project 160 IP, 90-100 ERA+ in that ballpark.


That doesn't sound all that great. It's like 1.3 WAR or something, no?
   18. Ron J Posted: January 15, 2012 at 04:07 AM (#4037282)
#6 Column transposition issue. ZiPS projects him for 53 walks in 161 inning. I seem to have used 63 (his projected number of earned runs). Not that 3.52/9 walks is bad mind you. I meant the phrase exactly as written but I'm aware it comes across as more negative than I'd intended.

And yes, I should have commented on Noesi, but I see him as basically just a guy. ZiPS has him at an 85 ERA+ for next year. Poorish K rate makes me even less interested since the upside is less likely.

Yes. Going to a better place to pitch. He may adapt well. But you can say that of pretty much any pitcher.
   19. Lars6788 Posted: January 15, 2012 at 04:54 AM (#4037285)
Can't you dump Montero at first base or DH [if Smoak is still in the M's plans] and let him be Paul Konerko for the next decade?
   20. Ron J Posted: January 15, 2012 at 05:20 AM (#4037286)
#19 Konerko's an interesting example. From age 23-28 he put up a 108 OPS+ with mediocre defense at first. Good for just under 9 WAR in those 6 years. Not much of a player (though of course you could do worse and many did)

As with any young player, there's no particular reason to expect Montero to improve as a hitter and unless he does he won't have much value as a first-baseman/DH.

Kind of funny that you'd pick Konerko because in the late 90s I was arguing that his play in the minors established him as promising rather than absolutely good -- an evaluation I have no cause to regret.

As Clay Davenport observed a while back we tend to overrate the probability that a young player will improve because most of those who don't improve simply disappear.
   21. Ron J Posted: January 15, 2012 at 05:32 AM (#4037288)
#4 I see it more of what Prospectus used to call "Prospect Disease". The idea is that he's played at a position that he might be able to handle if all breaks well. Kind of like Greg Jefferies reaching AA as a shortstop.

The evidence of their lack of regard for his catching ability lies more in

a) Picking Cervelli over him (though this is reasonable even if they valued Montero more highly and simply wanted him to play every day. In other words, yes weak evidence)
b) Did not use him semi-regularly after Cervelli went down (again I agree this isn't conclusive. He was DHing a fair amount and some managers want to break players in gently. See Weaver DHing Eddie Murray as a rookie)
   22. The District Attorney Posted: January 15, 2012 at 01:42 PM (#4037364)
there's no particular reason to expect Montero to improve as a hitter and unless he does he won't have much value as a first-baseman/DH.
But wouldn't the very fact of moving him off catcher make us expect his offense to get better?

Still doesn't mean it should be done, naturally, but I think the question is would we rather have Montero hitting at his current level at catcher, or Montero hitting at his current level + a little something at DH.
   23. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2012 at 03:05 PM (#4037393)
But wouldn't the very fact of moving him off catcher make us expect his offense to get better?

Still doesn't mean it should be done, naturally, but I think the question is would we rather have Montero hitting at his current level at catcher, or Montero hitting at his current level + a little something at DH.


Yes, catching definitely impacts hitting; catchers get lots of minor injuries, esp. to the hands.

However, the positional adjustment is worth something like 22 runs. Even if you assume Montero would be a bad C (say -10), he needs to more than "a little something" to be worth more at DH.
   24. Ron J Posted: January 15, 2012 at 03:11 PM (#4037396)
#22 Call it M for Maybe. It makes him substantially less likely to get hurt (and even minor injuries are bad for players who are developing), but that's a very different thing.

I'm not aware of an systematic look at what happens when a player is moved off catcher (particularly a young one). I've looked at it in a non-systematic way a few times and ... well there have been a few spectacular successes and I can't think of any cases where the bat went south; though the player value went down because you lost the positional value of catcher.

Rudy York for instance is generally counted as a success story for the move. Thing is he didn't become a better hitter. He was a 26 year old with a career OPS+ of 141 at the time he was converted. He got a lot more playing time and the Tigers upgraded the defense at catcher (at the cost of playing a first-baseman in left field)

Clearly a worthwhile trade if 1940 was a typical year for York, but it wasn't. It was one of two really good years after he moved. No idea how to score this.

Likewise Carlos Delgado. Maybe he gets hurt if he stays at catcher, but he truly didn't become a better hitter in the wake of the move. His major league career is very nicely in line with the monster he was in the minors.

Similarly Jimmy Foxx. His career is obviously not a failure, and you can see a positive in his health record (and playing time), but there's no reason to attribute his career as a hitter to the move off catcher (that's if Mack really saw him as a catcher -- Joe Hauser was the guy Mack had in mind as his first-baseman when he started to build the super team of the late 1920s, and it was pretty clear that Cochrane was the better catcher. In other words I'm not clear that Foxx even belongs in a study of this nature. He was very young and caught a bit while Mack was figuring out what to do with him)

   25. spike Posted: January 15, 2012 at 04:03 PM (#4037423)
As with any young player, there's no particular reason to expect Montero to improve as a hitter

I guess I am reading this wrong - if you can't expect improvement out of young hitters, when CAN you expect improvement? Montero is 21.
   26. Ron J Posted: January 15, 2012 at 06:49 PM (#4037517)
#25 You read it correctly. Most young hitters don't improve. Having said that, the younger the player the better the chance to buck the odds.
   27. Ivan Grushenko of Hong Kong Posted: January 15, 2012 at 08:08 PM (#4037564)
Young hitters don't improve, or don't improve enough to make it as regular players?
   28. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: January 15, 2012 at 08:11 PM (#4037569)
#25 You read it correctly. Most young hitters don't improve. Having said that, the younger the player the better the chance to buck the odds.

Ron, what do you mean by this? Do you mean improve OPS while advancing levels?

Because any other reading makes zero sense. Clearly, young hitters and pitchers improve, unless you think every major leaguer was ready for the bigs at 18.
   29. Ron J Posted: January 15, 2012 at 09:28 PM (#4037652)
#27/28 As I noted above (quoting Clay Davenport) we tend to overestimate the probability that young players will improve because those that don't (the majority) don't tend to have a career of any kind.

The way Bill James explained it in his study on aging is that the younger the player the more chances he has to make that odds against leap forward (and sustain it).

Here's another way to look at this. I did a study looking at year to year performance variation of players. Basically just looking at every player who had 300+ PAs in consecutive years between 1955 and 1995. The 21/22 cadre as a group hit .269/.322/.401 at 21 and .272/.327/.414 at 22.

Around 18% hit significantly better at 22 and ~17% were noticeably better. (I'm actually mis-using significant here. Basically better that 1 SD to qualify as "significant" and half that for "noticeable". Think 14 runs/500 PAs for "significant") Thing is that this is largely offset by the fact that 9% declined significantly and 15% declined noticeably. I was using Steve Mann's version of OPS+ which has crude support for base stealing built in (would have been better to use EQA, but I really doubt the method matters a great deal)

Of course as Ivan notes there's a secondary issue to look at. The 22/23 group is a lot bigger than the 21/22 group (the largest group is 26/27), but not all of these new regular in fact improved. (I should redo the study incorporating Dan's ZiPS database -- it's on my list of things to do) There's a certain amount of ... timing involved in getting that initial shot. And some organizations had a policy of strict year by year advancement regardless of results (the most extreme I'm aware of being the Reds in the late 70s to early 80s. Leading to Gary Redus spending a full year at a level where he hit .462 and led the league in home runs and stolen bases. If that doesn't signal a wasted year I don't know what does)
   30. Walt Davis Posted: January 15, 2012 at 09:47 PM (#4037668)
The 21/22 cadre as a group hit .269/.322/.401 at 21 and .272/.327/.414 at 22.

Taking those numbers and ignoring variance in the estimation -- that ain't bad.

5 points of OBP equals about 1.5 points of OPS+; 13 points of SLG is, I dunno, 2.8 or something. So, based on those numbers, you're talking about a 4-4.5 OPS+ point improvement in a year. Do that a couple of more times and, next thing you know, you're arb-eligible.
   31. Ron J Posted: January 15, 2012 at 10:56 PM (#4037701)
#30 Sure. But note a couple of things. First of all the group improvement is basically driven by the difference between the big improvers and the big decliners. In other words it's a fairly small number of big improvers driving the change in the group results. Same type of thing happens with the 22/23 group. And then group improvement basically stops. The 23/24 group hit within rounding error at both ages. Continuous improvement is rare.

What I've always suggested is that it's a mistake to plan for improvement in a young player but it's not a big surprise when they do improve and that they're far more likely to hold their new level than an older player if they do suddenly play much better than they have in the past.

   32. Avoid running at all times.-S. Paige Posted: January 16, 2012 at 01:46 AM (#4037758)
32-Take that to the Tebow thread!
   33. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 16, 2012 at 11:03 PM (#4038394)
As Clay Davenport observed a while back we tend to overrate the probability that a young player will improve because most of those who don't improve simply disappear.


Like Ron Wright. Handled AA and AAA at ages 20 and 21. Then fell off a cliff. I do think he hurt his back, but... injuries are part of this also.
   34. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 16, 2012 at 11:36 PM (#4038400)
I can defend the deal for both teams, but I really hate trading away a very good hitting catching prospect without seeing him fail for myself first. And I think the injury risk for pitchers points away from this deal. A fun deal, though, and the Yankees do need the starting help.

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