If we go back eight years to January 2012, we’ll find a huge trade centering on two players who looked to be among the premier young building blocks in Major League Baseball at the time. The Mariners sent right-hander Michael Pineda and fellow righty Vicente Campos to the Yankees for catcher Jesus Montero and RHP Hector Noesi. As it turned out, though, the swap didn’t go according to plan for either side.
Pineda was the most proven major leaguer in the trade when it happened, and that hasn’t changed. Then 22 years old, he debuted in the majors in 2011 and fired 171 innings of 3.74 ERA/3.42 FIP ball with 9.11 K/9 and 2.89 BB/9 to serve as one of the majors’ top rookies. But that All-Star season wasn’t enough for the Mariners to keep Pineda. Instead, desperate for a big hitter to build around, they shipped Pineda to New York in an attempt to bolster their offense.
It was easy to dream on Montero when the trade occurred. He was a 22-year-old who was once grouped with the likes of Mike Trout and Bryce Harper and considered among the top-notch prospects in baseball. And Montero terrorized opposing pitchers during his first major league stint late in the 2011 season, hitting .328/.406/.590 with four home runs in 69 plate appearances (perhaps you remember the first two homers of his career). Expectations then mounted that Montero would hold his own in the majors, whether with the Yankees or someone else, but that didn’t happen.
Instead, as a member of the Mariners from 2012-15, Montero stumbled to an overall .247/.285/.383 line with 24 homers in 796 plate appearances. The big-bodied Montero was never an ideal fit for the catcher position, where he logged just 735 innings as a Mariner and accounted for minus-20 Defensive Runs Saved. Clearly not the savior they thought he’d be, the Mariners cut ties with Montero heading into the 2016 season. Montero has since spent time in the Blue Jays’ and Orioles’ system, not to mention stints in Mexico and Venezuela, but he has not appeared in the majors since his Seattle tenure concluded.
It’s still hard to believe Montero flamed out so quickly. After all, at the time of the trade, Yankees general manager Brian Cashman compared Montero to two of the greatest players of the past few decades, saying: “To me, Montero is Mike Piazza. He’s Miguel Cabrera.”
Not so much. New York didn’t lose out on another Piazza or Cabrera, and it did come out on the better side of the trade, but that’s not really saying a lot. Pineda missed what would have been his first season with the Yankees as a result of the April 2012 right labrum surgery he underwent. He also sat out the next season, but he did pitch to a solid 4.16 ERA/3.65 FIP with 9.09 K/9 and 1.8 BB/9 across 509 innings and 89 starts in pinstripes from 2014-17. Not bad at all, but Pineda underwent yet another surgery – Tommy John – in the last of those seasons and never took the hill for the Yankees again. His career’s still going, though, as he performed well enough for the Twins in 2019 to convince them to re-sign him to a two-year, $20MM guarantee last offeason.
Almost a decade after the fact, Pineda’s the lone quality big leaguer left from this trade. Noesi hasn’t amounted to much in the majors so far – he even spent time in Korea – and settled for a minors deal with the Pirates last December. But at least Noesi has actually pitched in MLB on a fairly consistent basis. The same can’t be said for Campos, a once-impressive prospect whom injuries have helped ruin. Now 27, Campos is a free agent who most recently pitched in the Mexican League last season. He totaled 5 2/3 frames as a Diamondback in 2016, but that’s the extent of his big league work.
On one hand, credit goes to the Yankees for getting more out of this trade than the Mariners. On the other, it’s fair to call it a disappointment for the two clubs, both of which thought they were getting at least one long-term cornerstone apiece. The Montero and Noesi tenures in Seattle didn’t work out at all. Pineda had his moments as a Yankee, but they were too few in number, and Campos didn’t come close to realizing his potential. In light of Pineda’s decent contributions as a Yankee, you can’t call this trade a complete disaster, but it certainly didn’t live up to the hype.