Jesus Montero at the 2009 XM Futures Game
Jesus Montero is not only the Yanks #1 prospect according to Baseball America, he may very well be their #1 Catcher next season, ahead of Jorge Posada and Francisco Cervelli. Mark Feinsand of The Daily News has the details:
Back in July, the Yankees
were willing to deal Jesus Montero
for Cliff Lee
. When the 2011 season starts, Montero could be catching Lee in the Bronx
The consensus among the Yankees’ high command is that Montero who turns 21 on Nov. 28 – is ready to assume the starting catcher’s job, according to a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking.
Montero’s future was among the topics of discussion during the Yankee meetings at the Stadium over the past two days, with Lee and the free-agent and trade markets dominating the conversation.
Montero’s defense has been scrutinized, but team brass believes he made enough strides this season to assume the bulk of the workload in 2011.
He will likely be given the chance to win the starting job during spring training, turning over a position that has belonged to Jorge Posada since 1998. The front office believes that Montero is already a better defensive catcher than the 39-year-old Posada, who has struggled behind the plate – and to stay healthy.
If Montero comes through, Posada would likely be shifted to the designated hitter spot, with some backup catching duties mixed in.
The plan would be for Montero to catch roughly 100 games, said a source, with Posada and Francisco Cervelli sharing the rest of the duties. Austin Romine, the Yank’s other blue-chip catching prospect, would start at Triple-A, potentially taking over Cervelli’s spot by midseason if he shows he is ready.
Many industry experts believe that the Yankees have tried to inflate Montero’s value in order to use him in a trade for a starting pitcher if they’re unable to sign Lee, but as the source noted, “There really aren’t any pitchers of that caliber out there to trade for.”
Lots of stuff to react to there. First, this addresses the obvious problem the Yanks would have in 2011 of not being able to play both Romine and Montero in AAA next year. Romine played well enough to earn a promotion, but if Montero repeats AAA you obviously can’t start both of them. It appears the Yanks are taking the same path they did with Posada from 1996-1999, putting him on the 25 man roster and having him polish off his defensive game at the big league level. Tony Pena is an outstanding Catcher’s coach and was a excellent defensive catcher in his own right, so if anyone can get Jesus to take that final step defensively, it’s him. He has a series of exercises he makes his catchers perform and a reputation for being somewhat of a Drill Sargent.
But this could also be posturing by the Yanks. The Yanks have often said in recent Novembers that they wanted to cut payroll for the following year, then always wound up spending the same amount, if not more. Brian Cashman called signing Mark Teixeira “fantasy land” in November of 2009 and had him signed by Christmas. We can take this report at face value, or read into it that they may see a deal out there to be had and they want to inflate his value. It’s very possible that both could be true. There have been numerous reports
recently bashing Montero’s defense, this may be an attempt to counter that perception.
But where’s the deal? Looking at MLBTR’s recent Righty
trade market posts, there doesn’t appear to be anything exciting on the horizon. The few pitchers who are any good on those lists are mostly in the Yanks division, so a deal is unlikely. But one portion stood out. The Giants are said to be in on the upcoming Prince Fielder talks and would be willing to trade off one of their starting pitchers in order to get him. If the consensus among scouts is that Montero belongs at 1B, could he be offered as a cheaper alternative to the soon to be expensive Fielder? Perhaps. Both players possess the kind of light tower power that could play at the spacious AT&T Park. Brian Sabean and Brian Cashman know each other from their days when Sabean was with the Yanks, so they should have a comfort level there. But in reality, none of this is even discussed unless the Yanks fail to sign Cliff Lee and it’s hard to imagine the Yanks being outbid for any player they really want. Even if, as Mo pointed out recently
, the math doesn’t add up with Hal’s statements.
In essence, what the Yanks appear to be doing here is replacing one offensive Catcher with another, and hopefully extending Posada’s career a bit by making him a full-time DH. Jorge has clearly shown in the past few years that he cannot hold up physically to the daily grind of catching. This could be the changing of the guard, and Montero’s offensive potential could be greater than that of Posada.