Pro vs. Con: Should the Yankees Trade Jesus Montero?
It’s not often a team finds itself with a top twenty prospect, especially when drafting at the bottom of every round. It’s rare to find yourself with a top five prospect when selecting low and rarer still if said prospect plays at a premium position.
Taking it a step further, scouring the International market can, at times, lead to a diamond in the rough. Signing a sixteen year old based on nothing but potential is a low risk/high reward proposition as the contract terms are substantially less than what a US based high schooler would expect to receive.
The Yankees struck gold in 2006 with the signing of then 16 year old Venezuelan catcher Jesus Montero. Now considered the cream of the crop from an amateur free agent class which included Carlos Triunfel and Angel Villalona, the now 20 year old Montero ranks inside the top ten on most Prospect lists heading into the 2010 season.
In Baseball America’s recently released Top 100 Prospect list, Montero, who is ranked fourth, is one of only three players (Mike Stanton, Pedro Alvarez) who scored a perfect scout scale rating of 80 in the power department. The BA staff gives the overall nod to Montero as a pure power hitter as he is deemed to have “fewer holes in his swing.”
Herein lies the rub.
Montero is a catcher who can’t catch, at least not to the caliber of what is expected of a major league receiver. Despite three and a half years in the system and 257 career minor league games, the Yankees “no longer talk about him as an everyday major league catcher.”
The issue now becomes what to do with him. The Yanks have worked Montero at first base, but with Mark Teixeira on board for another seven years there’s just no room for him over there.
With Jorge Posada, Nick Johnson, Nick Swisher and even potential call-ups like Juan Miranda around there isn’t even enough DH at bats for Montero to share.
So the question becomes, should the Yankees trade him?
Yes, Trade Him:
His defensive inefficiencies aside, Montero has the potential to be a top offensive producer, both in average, OBP and power. Although only 44 of his 257 career minor league games are above Class A, he’s posted career splits of .325/.379/.509, numbers similar to those of Heyward and Stanton. In another organization, one without three additional catchers in the top ten prospects, Montero could play everyday behind the plate. The Yankees don’t NEED Montero, they have enough offense in the everyday lineup and enough potential replacements at his position in the minors. A player with Montero’s offensive capabilities will draw a King’s ransom on the trade market and would certainly net New York at least equal value in return.
No, Keep Him:
While turning a 20 year old into a permanent DH is unconventional at best, the Yanks have enough catching prospects in the system to off-set the potential loss behind the plate. With Mark Teixeira on board for another seven years at first base, the Yanks have no cause for concern there either, so why not? If he proves capable of handling major league pitching, he would fit nicely into the five spot behind Tex and Alex Rodriguez.
If the decision were mine to make, I’d trade him. Even with his minor league numbers being as impressive as they are, they’re not an indication of similar success at the highest level. With the seeming inability to play defense at the major league level, at any position and not all at his own doing, the Bombers could do better than having a hitter only taking up a roster spot despite his reputation. Unlike money, designated hitters actually do grow on trees, although the ability to play the field on occasion is the preferred choice as the flexibility would conceivably open up a roster spot for a need, like a second lefty in the bullpen.
The Jason Heyward’s and Mike Stanton’s of the world have the ability to win baseball games while slumping offensively. They are both Gold Glove caliber outfielders with throwing arms and speed almost as impactful as their respective bats.
Jesus Montero doesn’t have that skill set. His throwing has improved, but is still below average. He can’t run. His footwork behind the plate, which is an unteachable skill, is poor, and while it may grade higher at first base, it doesn’t matter in New York because the position is already manned by a Gold Glover.
It’s time for Brian Cashman to strike while the iron is hot and trade Montero while his value is at its peak. The longer he waits, the less he’ll get back. Cashman should be making other phones ring, not waiting for his own.