Ever since June of 2011, when USSMariner.com's Dave Cameron first proposed using Michael Pineda -- the Mariners rookie superstar - as trade bait, the idea stoked controversy. Pineda was the team's young ace, a perfect complement to King Felix who had visions of the Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling dancing in fans' heads.
But Cameron proved prescient, as the team traded away their All-Star rookie to the Yankees for catching prospect Jesus Montero and pitcher Hector Noesi. At the time, it was unreasonable to expect fans to be able to look at the trade without emotion. But now that we've played a little 2012 baseball, let's look at the trade's early returns.
We'll start with Pineda, the one who got away. Pineda suffered some pain in Spring Training, started the season on the disabled list, and has been shut down indefinitely. Touché, Mariners.
In retrospect, there were signs last year. In the second half of the season Pineda went a mere 1-4, and his ERA ballooned to a not-so-All-Star-like 5.12. Now, Pineda isn't expected to return until at least the All-Star break and has a certainly uncertain future.
Next, the trade's centerpiece for a Mariner's fan: Jesus Montero. Adding Montero - who incessantly draws Miguel Cabrera comparisons - was an impressive move for a team looking to build around a core of young players in Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Kyle Seager and others.
Montero, like Ackley is someone for whom the Mariners have increased the value of by showing he could play his natural position. For Ackley, no one thought he could play second base in the majors, for Montero, it was catcher.
So far, both have looked fine.
But what did the Mariners get in Montero? While the young catcher is supposedly just scratching the surface of his potential, he has been playing in the big leagues all season. In that time, he's hit .241 with eight RBIs. In short, he's one of the Mariners best hitters today. The biggest cause for concern is a .259 OBP but, given that he's .339 for his career, I'm good with calling that statistical white noise. More importantly, manager Eric Wedge clearly trusts him, keeping him in the middle of the lineup, and he's shown great power.
Finally Hector Noesi, the overlooked player in this trade. Noesi surprised some when he was ready to start for the Mariners this year, meaning the team easily filled Pineda's spot. As for how good he is, it's hard to say. Apparently he either throws a gem or gets bombed like Dresden, sandwiching a pair of good, old-fashioned barnyard beat-downs around a beautiful eight-inning shutout. But, with Pineda having done literally nothing so far, Noesi's one good game is notable.
The reality is this trade was always good for the team. They needed hitters. Playing in Safeco means they will always need hitters and they locked up a good one at a position where it's hard to find them.
They traded away a potential superstar for another, but it was at a position of need. Furthermore, trading pitching for hitting is always a good idea, as Pineda is showing now. Pitchers often get hurt, or lose their stuff, or the league figures them out.
Pitchers burn brightly like a relationship with an underwear model, but good hitters are the more-attractive-than-you'd-think lawyer who doesn't mind looking after the kids.