According to multiple sources, the Mariners are on the verge of pulling off a major trade that would send rookie RHP Michael Pineda to the New York Yankees in exchange for rookie catcher Jesus Montero, one of the most highly regarded power-hitting prospects in baseball.
According to CBS sports baseball columnist John Heyman, the Mariners would also send Jose Campos, a 19-year-old righthander, to New York, and the Yankees would dispatch righthander Hector Noesi to Seattle.
Montero, 22, consistently ranked as one of New York’s top prospects by Baseball America, nearly became a Mariner in 2010 when the club sought to trade Cliff Lee by the July 31 deadline. The Mariners and Yankees almost completed a deal that would have sent Montero and two other prospects to Seattle for Cliff Lee.
But when the teams shared medical reports, the Mariners were concerned by an injury to one of the other prospects in the package they were supposed to receive. As a result, they traded Lee to the Texas Rangers in a package that centered around Justin Smoak.
Montero’s defensive shortcomings as a catcher make it likely that he will see considerable time at DH, and perhaps some at first base. The Mariners are bringing back starter Miguel Olivo, and acquired on Nov. 27 veteran catcher John Jaso, 28, from Tampa in exchange for relief pitcher Josh Lueke and a player to be chosen later. The plan was to platoon Olivo and Jaso behind the plate.
Reports from New York say the Yankees at first tried to acquire All-Star pitcher Felix Hernandez, but the Mariners refused.
Pineda, 23 next month, won six of his first eight decisions. He appeared in 28 games, finishing with a 9-10 record and 3.74 ERA. He is a major talent, but the Mariners are desperately in the market for hitting. The acquisition of Montero would have no financial impact on the pursuit of prized free agent Prince Fielder, since Montero and Pineda are at or near the rookie-salary minimum.
Montero began his professional career in 2007 with the Yankees’ entry in the Gulf Coast League. Since then, Montero has played for A Charleston (2008), A Tampa (2009), AA Trenton (2009) and AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (2010-11).
In 109 games at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in 2011, Montero hit .288 with 18 home runs. He has a five-year, minor league batting average of .308.
Montero made his major league debut Sept. 1, and appeared in 18 games for the Yankees. He hit .328 with four home runs and 12 RBIs.
Montero hit his first and second major league home runs Sept. 5 against the Baltimore Orioles in an 11-10 New York victory, becoming the first 21-year-old player to hit two home runs in a game since Manny Ramirez in 1993.
Compos pitched in the Seattle organization since 2009, winning nine and losing five in the low minors.
Noesi appeared in 30 games for the Yankees in 2011, compiling a 2-2 record with a 4.47 ERA.
No trade will become official until all players pass their physical examinations, which could occur by next week.
The Mariners had no official comment on the Pineda-Montero trade Friday.