By Shannon Drayer
Each general manager looked at the other's team and saw what he needed. It almost sounds as easy as that. No big dollars, both clubs dealing from strength. Jack Zduriencik had narrowed the list of who he would trade his ace-in-training for down to a few, while Brian Cashman had just two names on the list of players he would trade his guy for. They were both from the Seattle Mariners.
Zduriencik would not give up Felix Hernandez, but he could give up Michael Pineda for Jesus Montero.
"We needed a boost in our offense, we identified some young players throughout baseball. In the end we settled for Jesus," Zduriencik said on a conference call today. "We thought that this would be a guy that could come in here and be the type of hitter that we are looking for for years to come."
Cashman believes this can happen and also believes that Montero will catch every day at the big-league level some day soon. Letting him go was not easy.
"He may very well be the best player I've traded, and I've been doing this for quite some time," Cashman said. "He's that good."
The two general managers talked briefly about a possible trade at the Winter Meetings in Dallas in early December. They stayed in contact and the deal got done pending physicals 10 days ago.
"It wasn't like we were making someone available," Zduriencik said of Pineda. "What we were doing was acquiring someone that we really needed."
Cashman was a little more cosmic in his description of how he decided to part with his young star.
"The stars and the moon aligned in such a way that we again are one of the deeper catching organizations in the game, and obviously are blessed thankfully with a high-end offense," he said. "The Mariners are really deep in pitching and high-end pitching. They've done a great job of developing pitching, and so they were in position to trade from a strength if they so chose, as were we, and so we were able to find that match."
"It was probably one of those old-fashioned baseball trades where really there was nothing exchanged but talent," Zduriencik mused.
The Mariners and Zduriencik are very familiar with Montero, having scouted him all the way back to when he was an amateur. Zduriencik points out that he is getting a very young player, and at 21 years old he would have been the youngest player on the Mariners' roster last year. He will be allowed to continue to develop both at and behind the plate.
"He will be given every opportunity to catch." Zduriencik said.
For his part, Montero said he was happy to be in Seattle and excited about the opportunity before him. He has been here before as he was with the Yankees when they made their late trip to Safeco Field last year. While he was here he took a careful look around. He had a feeling he could be back, and not necessarily in pinstripes.
"I was thinking about a lot last year (while at Safeco Field) because a lot of times Seattle tried to get me in trades and all that. I might play here for a long time then that is what happened this year now," he said.
As for Pineda, he was not on the conference calls but he did issue a statement through the Yankees. He is clearly thrilled to be heading to New York.
"I'm feeling great and I'm beyond excited. I never thought I would become a New York Yankee so early into my career," he said. "This is the best thing in the world. Pitching alongside CC Sabathia, I'm speechless. And playing alongside players such as Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter is unbelievable."
Typical Pineda enthusiasm, but as I wrote in an earlier post I saw stars in his eyes when he talked about the Yankees last year and since then got the feeling that one way or another he would end up there some day. In a way it sounds like Montero knew he would end up here. He said the team is hardly unknown, especially in his country, Venezuela.
"Now they know more about Seattle because Felix is on the team, now I am on the team, Franklin Gutierrez, too," he said. "People know a lot about Seattle. Now it's going to be better because we are going to win."