Trades in sports have long been an inexact science.
Randy Moss was traded to the New England Patriots for a fourth-round pick, then went on to rewrite the record books. There is still doubt as to whether the Oklahoma City Thunder should have traded away James Harden, the third leg of the their big three.
When the New York Yankees and Seattle Mariners exchanged starting pitcher Michael Pineda for catching prospect Jesus Montero, it looked to be a fair swap. Three years later, it may go down in the history books as one of the biggest lose-lose deals for both clubs involved.
An All-Star selection in 2011, Pineda looked like the league’s next top pitcher with Seattle. He went 9-10 for putrid Mariners ball club with a 3.74 ERA a strikeout-to-walk ratio of better than 3:1. Alongside King Felix Hernandez, the M’s seemingly had as dynamic a 1-2 punch at the top of their starting rotation as anybody in the show.
At the same time, the Yankees had a highly touted Montero in their farm system waiting in the wings to take over for Jorge Posada, who was set to hang up his cleats. At 18 years old, Montero earned an invitation to Spring Training, and the next year was an Eastern League All-Star selection at the Double-A level. In 2010, Baseball American ranked him the No. 5 overall prospect.
During the 2011 season, Montero became the first 21-year-old to slam a pair of home runs in one game since Manny Ramirez. Pretty decent company, huh? That offseason, however, New York sent him to Seattle in exchange for Pineda, with neither team knowing how quickly the tables would turn for both talents.
Promptly after putting on the pinstripes, Pineda was placed on the disabled list with tendonitis in his right shoulder. tendonitis quickly tuned into a tear, forcing him to miss the 2012 season and most of 2013, too.
Pineda finally made his way back into the Yankees’ rotation this past year, but a few games into the season was caught with pine tar and subsequently earned a 10-game suspension. While pitching a simulated game, Pineda strained a muscle and returned to the disabled list. Right after a series with Seattle, Pineda, fittingly, was moved to the 60-day DL.
For Montero, it’s been as a similarly tumble downhill. Montero batted .260 with 99 strikeouts in his first full big-league season. His catching was so poor it forced him to fill the designated-hitter role more frequently. In 2013, he batted a mere .208 with nine RBI through 29 games before earning a demotion to Triple-A. A torn meniscus eventually ended his season before he was suspended 50 games for his involvement in the Biogenesis clinic.
This year, Montero showed up overweight to spring training, leading Seattle general manager Jack Zduriencik to say he had “zero expectations” regarding Montero.
So which team won this mega-deal? Unfortunately, neither. And while Pineda still has a chance to contribute to the Yankees and while Montero could eventually get into shape and be a part of the Mariners’ future, it looks as if neither is likely. The trade should go down as one of the biggest letdowns in recent baseball history.