Pro vs. Con: Should the Yankees Trade Jesus Montero?

by Chuck

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.

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24 Responses to “Pro vs. Con: Should the Yankees Trade Jesus Montero?”

  1. Richard Says:

    The possibility exists at 20 to convert him to LF, but his best value is at C/1B. From what I understand, he’s a Carlos Delgado, without Delgado’s catching acumen. That statement alone should send him packing for a top-shelf pitcher or prospect that has more than Greg Luzinski potential. I hate trading the kids, but if he has no potential at C, he has little value to the Yanks other than a trade chip.

  2. Raul Says:

    Trade him for what? For who?

    You gotta be careful if you trade him for pitching. A 95 mph arm can go into the shitter with 1 injury.

    If a guy can rake, you’ll find a place for him. After all…there’s Pablo Sandoval…

  3. Raul Says:

    BTW, I hear Pablo Sandoval’s nickname is Kung Fu Panda…and thus officially the greatest nickname in the history of baseball.

  4. van Says:

    How about RF? He has the Arm he does not need to cover that much ground in right especially if Gardner or Granderson are in center…He may not be that fast but RF should be doable…

  5. Mike Says:

    That’s some argument for keeping him…

  6. Cameron Says:

    Hm… There are possibilities if Montero gets traded.

    Cincinnati Reds – Yonder Alonso/Aroldis Chapman. He’s been getting blocked by Ramon Hernandez at catcher and Joey Votto at first. Alonso’s a great player from what I’ve heard, and would serve as a better replacement than Cervelli for Posada and could do some decent damage with the bat. Montero could use some defensive seasoning and he could be blocked another year or two while Ramon’s contract runs out and Montero could take over. Plus, his power in the Great American Launching Pad? A 3-4-5 of Votto-Montero-Bruce would be pretty scary. Chapman is something they most likely won’t get in the deal, but the Reds have a good rotation as it is and they could afford to lose a starter, especially one who hasn’t had a day in the majors.

    Oakland A’s – Michael Taylor. Billy likes speed, Gardner could be part of the deal too. Offer Gardner and Montero, Beane has a good catcher or DH (Cust strikes out a lot and it seems he’s not so fond of him anymore) and an outfield/speed upgrade, and a falback of Coco Crisp doesn’t pay off. Taylor’s got a good bat, not sure how he’d do in left, but he could hit well with the Yankees’ lineup protection. I’m sure Beane would also offer up some other good pieces if this deal were to arise.

    Seattle Mariners – Dustin Ackley. Ackley needs some seasoning, but it seems they’re having problems finding a place for him with Lopez and Kotchman (not bad players) at first and second and a gold-glover at short. Montero could DH or catch and give the M’s serious offensive lift and Ackley is a halfway decent shortstop I believe, by the time he’s ready, Jeter could be on his way out and a replacement would be ready.

    Texas Rangers – Neftali Feliz. Neftali’s being kept out of the rotation and he may not be able to deal with it. While I don’t want to add a THIRD piece of the Hughes-Chamberlain fifth spot drama, it’d shore up either the rotation or bullpen. Neftali’s electric stuff could make him a successor to Mo, who knows?

    Chicago Cubs – Starlin Castro. This one’s a stretch, but it’s kind of the same thing as Ackley. He could be bred to be the shortstop of the future. Derrek Lee may not stay by the end of the season or Soto could slump, so Montero could fill in at catcher or first if needed. If his arm and glove get better, he might even be able to fill in for Aramis.

    Florida Marlins – Mike Stanton. This is a highly unlikely deal, but with a healthy outfield and the owner finally being brought up to revenue, Uggla can stay and Coghlan won’t be moved to second to fill in. This leaves Stanton as an odd man out. Stanton’s got power out the wazoo and the Yankees are looking for a left fielder (even though they don’t need to) and he could do it. Probably won’t happen, but it’s worth exploring.

    New York Mets – Fernando Martinez. A good hitting left-handed outfielder? Sounds like exactly what the Bombers are looking for, and Minaya’s dumb enough to let Martinez go.

    San Francisco Giants – Buster Posey. Posey can catch better than Montero and is closer to being league-ready. This would actually by a bad move on SF’s part because that’d force Molina to take more trips to the plate this year while Montero gets ready, but Montero could plug SF’s hole at first and then a 3-4-5 of Sandoval-Montero-Molina would be possible. Good hitters, but the slowest combo ever. Take what you can get. Posey’s a majors-ready replacement for Posada and I’d take him over Cervelli.

    Washington Nationals – Stephen Strasburg/Drew Storen. Yes, you’re reading that right. Strasburg is as close to untouchable as a prospect can get, but a solid hitter behind the plate is something Washington could use desperately (yes, I know Bryce Harper’s eligible this year, but move Montero to first and Dunn back to the outfield and Washington’s all happy). You get Strasburg to fill the five hole in the rotation, get both Hughes and Chamberlain in the bullpen, add Storen if you can get a big enough deal, and who knows? Strasburg’s stretching Washington’s payroll without playing a day in the majors. By the time he hits free agency or an extension, he could very well be outpriced by then. It’d most likely take a 3 or 4 team deal, but if it can be done, this is the best option. It’s gonna clean them out, but the payoff is enormous.

    Some are more reasonable than others, but all of these could happen. It probably won’t be as big a blockbuster as any of these options, but we’ll see.

  7. Chuck Says:

    Prospects boil down to one of two things..something you need, or something someone else needs.

    The Yankees don’t need Montero, they have enough offense and they have no spot for him on defense.

    There’s quite a few ML teams who don’t have enough offense and his defensive inefficiencies aside, would have no problem penciling him in at catcher or 1B everyday.

    And these teams would (over) pay for him.

  8. Chuck Says:

    Strasburg, Storen and Ackley cannot be traded until after this year’s draft.

    Why would the Yankees trade a player who they signed FOUR years ago for $1.6 million and who is essentially playing Double A for $2200 a month for someone like Chapman who is owed $30 million?

    Gardner AND Montero for Michael Taylor?

    Um, no chance.

    Alonso hasn’t caught since college..Ackley can’t play short, Feliz is a starter, and Posey’s being moved from catcher for essentially the same reason Montero is.

    Minaya signed Martinez, he wouldn’t trade him even up for Pujols.

    When trading a top prospect you have to think higher than someone else’s top prospect.

  9. Chuck Says:

    Van,

    If Montero doesn’t have the arm to catch, what makes you think he has the arm to play right?

  10. Cameron Says:

    I was just picking from what was left.

    And as for the Taylor trade, I put Taylor as a centerpiece. You put those two up and see what the other team’s gonna float. I don’t know too much about any prospects other than big-names, so I’ll admit my knowledge is limited.

  11. Hartvig Says:

    Trading “can’t miss” prospects is always a bit of a crap shoot but for the sheer number of these guys who never amount to anything it would seem to be a reasonable risk for a proven commodity. I remember a can’t miss, 5 tool stud who was going to lead the Tigers out of the wasteland of the late 90’s: Juan Encarnacion. And he turned out to be pretty good when compared to a lot of prospects who get labeled can’t miss.

  12. Raul Says:

    I don’t see the rush in trading Montero.

    Sure, they might not need his power now, but all the Yankees power hitters are over 30 years old.

    Cmon Chuck….the DH options holding Montero back are Swisher, Johnson and Miranda? Even you don’t believe that. Montero will probably be a better hitter than all those guys. I didn’t even mention Posada because he’s finished.

    Outside of getting a stud outfielder/shortstop…i don’t see why they would move him…YET.

  13. Chuck Says:

    Raul…remember Jackson Melian?

    Another big ticket Venezuelan 16 year old.

    Hopefully those are the only similarities between them.

    Why keep someone who can ONLY DH? Especially at that age? Why not just keep Shelley Duncan?

    Sometime around July 15th:

    Brian Cashman: “Hello, Andrew, it’s Cash. Other than the losing streak and being behind Baltimore in the standings, how are you?”

    Andrew Friedman” “Screw off, Brian, WTF do you want?”

    Cashman: “Hey, it’s not our fault you suck or that you bought into that Fangraph’s crap on Ben Zobrist, but, seriously, let’s talk business.”

    Friedman: “Whatever.”

    Cashman: “We both know trading intra-division’s a bitch, but let’s face reality here, you guys are done and have zero chance signing Carl Crawford long-term.” “Boston’s giving us a pain and I’m really worried about Texas and Seattle come post-season time, so I’d like to take Crawford off your hands and am willing to make it worthwhile for you.”

    Friedman: “Gonna cost you Montero and Chamberlain…”

    Cashman: (screaming into the phone) “DONE, DONE….”

  14. Raul Says:

    You can do a hell of a lot better than Carl Crawford for Montero and Chamberlain.

    Even the Mets got Johan Santana for a few bags of chips.

  15. Richard Says:

    Ackley, Strasburg, and Stanton are completely untouchable, unless a guy like Pujols is coming back. Prospects are like gold nowadays, and Cashman would be laughed off the GM table at the winter meetings for giving up Chamberlain and Montero for 3 months of Crawford. The Yankees won last year, and Cashman is patient as it is; unless they get back a budding young star package, like a Dominic Brown and J.A. Happ from Philly, or a one-for-one like an Andre Ethier or Joakim Soria, Montero is a Yankee until he goes 2-for-20 with 6 passed balls this September.

  16. Cameron Says:

    We’d never let go of Soria.

    …Not that we wouldn’t like the talent, but all the other teams seem to forget we exist until they face us. It’s sad. We had a great decade and a half or so… We had a 100-win season for chrissakes!

    LOVE US, BASEBALL!!! LOVE US!!!

  17. Hossrex Says:

    Richard: “Andre Ethier”

    Are you implying Ethier is a “prospect”?

    Ethier is one more good year away from “legitimate superstar”… and as it sits right now, the only reason he doesn’t get more attention is because of the timezone in which he plays his games.

    If he were playing right field in New Yankee Stadium, people would be talking about his monument for the park.

  18. Chuck Says:

    Three months of Crawford?

    Don’t you mean three EXTRA months of Crawford.

    Because when he hits free agency, the Yankees are going to throw Ft. Knox at him.

    Re-sign Damon long-term?

    Try for Bay or Holliday?

    Pfffft.

    Crawford is the guy the Yanks wanted all along, filling LF for a few months with Randy Winn is a temporary patch.

  19. Richard Says:

    Hoss…I agree, and that’s how much Cashman values his prospects, I said that Ethier was a budding young star.

    Chuck…again, I agree; Cashman will not overpay for three extra months of Crawford…this is not your older brother’s Yankee team that traded Buhner for Phelps. The Yanks know TB cannot afford Crawford, and they’d love to have a CC on the team that doesn’t stand for Captain Cheeseburger. As I mentioned previously, the Yankees won, and will continue to be very patient, and hang onto their prospects like in previous years. That is why Hughes and Chamberlain are still on the team and Santana is in Queens, Halladay is in Philadelphia, and Cliff Lee is in Seattle. The worst kept secret in baseball is that Crawford will be wearing pinstripes in ‘11.

    One intriguing possibility though: If he starts the season hot and shows himself healthy, I could see Texas shipping Hamilton and one of their Catching prospects(Teagarden/Saltamacchia/Ramirez) to the Bronx for Montero and Swisher. It depends on if Ryan and Daniels like Montero that much.

  20. geo Says:

    “We’d never let go of Soria.”

    On top of which the Royals have their very own Jesus Montero (catcher who won’t stay there but can pound the ball) in Wil Myers.

  21. Yu-Hsing Chen Says:

    I have no idea how he really looks at catcher, so I’m not going to jump myself to any conclusion, but from what I’ve heard it seems that the biggest issue with him behind the plate has nothign to do with arm strength (where he rates pretty well) it’s that he’s a big bulky guy and his feet doesn’t move fast enough from the crouch.

    still, I kinda doubt they’ll do it, for starters, if they’re going to trade him, they’ll want a legitimate star comming back, and no one trade their super star to the Yankees anymore, no matter what they say. The starish guys the Yanks since the last half decade have almost exclusively been (way) over the hill guys or guys that are percieved to have gigantic flaws (which may not always be true, see Bobby Abreu and Nick Swisher) and in those cases it didn’t cost Yankees huge prospects.

  22. Chuck Says:

    Mr. Chen,

    You’re pretty much right on with your assement, which is impressive considering you haven’t seen him.

    His arm is his strongest tool other than his bat. Unfortunately, what he is lacking is the MOST important in a catcher.

    Will the Yankees trade him?

    Probably not, at least not in the foreseeable future.

    Will they eventually trade him?

    Absolutely.

  23. Murph Says:

    Who cares if he has trouble throwing out runners?? Piazza couldn’t and he’s a first ballot HOF….If this was 1983 and we were in the NL when everyone was running wild maybe it’d be an issue. But seriously, think about it. Wouldn’t 30-35 HR make up for giving up some extra SB? And BTW he threw out 32% of runners last year in AA.

  24. Keith Says:

    are you kidding me? Hughes BACK in the bullpen??? the way the rotation is shaping up….Phil should be Phourth in the rotation….dont be suprised if Cliff Lee ends up with the Yankees…..whats all this talk about Lee wanting out if the M’s dont give him an extension? but NO WAY does Strasburg walk into the 5th spot, i dont care how long Boras holds his breath! Let S’burg pitch a whole year at AAA before he starts all the HOF talk!

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