All contract information used in this article comes from Cot's.
I both love and am loathe to speculate on potential trades. I tend to overrate my team's players, exaggerate how much another team "needs" my team's guys, and generally ignore how a club feels about a prospect and how they figure that particular prospect figures into the team's future.
Last week on Bucs Dugout, there was a lot of speculation about trading guys like Maholm, Hanrahan, Meek, Resop, etc. Also in that thread were thoughts on the expected return. At the time, I thought that some combination of Maholm/Meek/Hanrahan was nowhere near enough to land a prospect like Montero. I've since changed my mind:
- The Yankees lost Bartolo Colon to the DL, where he joins fellow starter Phil Hughes; they have not announced a replacement in the rotation, yet (as of 11:00 am on Monday). SP was widely considered a weak position for the Yankees in the spring, and now their only starters above replacement level are Sabathia and Freddy Garcia. Not every team has to be the Phillies or Mariners with a staff full of very effective starters, but any team with championship aspirations needs something from their rotation.
- The Yankees have also lost their big off-season free agent acquisition, Rafael Soriano, and their other main setup man for Rivera, Joba Chamberlain. Dave Robertson has been used heavily in that role and produced great results, but the three next most highly-used relievers have been Luis Ayala, Boone Logan and Hector Noesi. While those three have all performed well, they have a combined 50 2/3 innings between them this season and haven't been asked to pitch in high-leverage situations.
Maholm steps right into their rotation. He's pitched better than his 2-7 record (111 ERA+, 1.1 WAR, nearly 2-1 K/BB ratio) and his lefthandedness would be very useful for a team that has to battle the Red Sox and lefties Adrian Gonzalez, Jacoby Ellsbury, Carl Crawford, J.D. Drew, and Big Papi (or even the Rays with Matt Joyce and Johnny Damon). He's thrown 175+ innings in each of his 5 full season and has a club option for $9.75 million for 2012 (potential to increase to $11.05 million with performance incentives or a $750,000 buyout for 2012).
Hanrahan would become the setup man for Mo Rivera. He's been with the Pirates for about two years, thrown 130 2/3 innings, and converted 22 of 26 save opportunities. This season, he's posted an obscene 250 ERA+ and is 16 of 16 in save chances. His 1.2 WAR would only be behind Rivera in New York's bullpen. His K rate is actually down to 8.2 K/9 this season (from 12.9 last season), but he's also decreased his walks, striking out nearly 4 times as many batters as he's walked. Pittsburgh is only paying him $1.4 million this year (one year, avoiding arbitration) and Hanrahan still has two more arbitration years before he becomes a free agent.
Coming back would be catcher Jesus Montero. He was rated the #3 prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2011 season. He's been much maligned for his defense over his career, but looked promising in spring training this year. He hit 21 homeruns in 123 games at Scranton-Wilkes Barre last year, posting a .289/.353/.517 slash line at the age of 20.
Repeating AAA this season, his numbers are down (4 homers, .289/.333/.408 through 50 games). New York also has incredible depth at the position, boasting 3 of the top 8 catching prospects according to MLB.com. They've dealt some of their highly regarded prospects in the past few years, including Ian Kennedy, Austin Jackson, and Jose Tabata; all of whom have found some success with other organizations. There's a lot of talk about Montero not playing catcher in MLB; this hurts his chances in New York as they're set with Teixeira at 1B and will need their DH spot to spell aging veterans like Jeter and A-Rod as their careers continue, leaving corner OF as the only viable position for Montero to learn. This defensive liability does not hurt the Pirates, as they really don't have established or budding stars blocking 1B or RF. Montero could be given his chance to catch for the Bucs as Tony Sanchez improves his hitting in MiLB.
I thought about considering guys like Resop, Meek, or Beimel. Resop appears to be the ideal underappreciated middle reliever, Meek has as much talent as anyone in the Pirates bullpen (even though he's hurt), and Beimel, though he hasn't performed well this season, has a track record of success against lefties (the Yankees only have one lefty in their pen, Boone Logan, and again their biggest rival, Boston, boasts some powerful lefty bats). New York's front office would have to sell this deal, though, and Hanrahan/Maholm have a few prettier numbers to satiate the media and Meek is injured. The deal for McKenry helps the Bucs in giving them something to lean on until they're healthy or Tony Sanchez is ready (or Pittsburgh decides to give Eric Fryer a chance).
I don't know, and honestly don't think, that the Yankees would accept Maholm and Hanrahan for Jesus Montero. But the timings right: Maholm and Hanrahan likely won't ever be more valuable and Montero's value likely won't be any lower. I'd love to see the Pirates in the news for another shrewd deal done at exactly the right time.