Fantasy Baseball Thoughts: Jesus Montero, Yoenis Cespedes, Michael Pineda, Prince Fielder and Others

Well, the Yankees finally traded their top prospect, catcher Jesus Montero, on Friday night. In return they received young pitcher, and possible future ace, Michael Pineda from the Mariners. When I first heard of the trade, I thought to myself, Pineda is not an ace. All along, I had the thought that Montero would only be dealt for an ace starter like Felix Hernandez, Tim Lincecum or Matt Cain, but Michael Pineda?

Sure Pineda had a very good rookie season, even though his record says it was not very good. He went just 9-10, but for a Mariners team that lost 95 games last year, winning just 67, his record was not that bad. Actually, like i mentioned in my writeup on the trade on Friday night, he ranked 30th in strikeout to walk ratio in the majors. For a rookie, that is very good. A K/BB ratio over 3.00 is excellent, but with pitchers like Roy Halladay and Cliff Lee tossing around K/BB ratios in the high 5.00, low 6.00 range, he appears only average. But considering his age, and the fact that he has only one year of major league experience, he certainly can improve. I do worry that the HR rate will increase in Yankee stadium, but he can learn to try to limit the damage, ala Curt Schilling, by giving up more of the solo variety, than the 3 run home runs that will rattle a young pitcher.

More on the Montero/Pineda trade, Prince Fielder and more, after the jump:

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Montero moving to the Mariners, a team who struggled to score runs last season, and leaving the productive Yankee lineup, his numbers will obviously suffer. He will still be an above average hitter, but he was projected to turn into a regular 30 HR, 100 RBI, .290 BA hitter, and this trade will lower those expectations a bit. I can see him going hitting around .275, with 18 HRs and 80 RBI in his first full year in 2012. If he does actually gain catcher eligibility for fantasy leagues, he will be a top 3-4 catcher for me.

But, we are already hearing how the Yankees won this deal, as they now control Pineda for the next 5 years. Sure, that is valuable, but giving up Montero and not getting a pitcher who is already an ace, tells me they did not win this deal. Actually, I think both teams won in this deal. The Yankees get Pineda to upgrade their rotation, a big need this offseason, and the Mariners fill a huge hole in their lineup with Montero.

Yankee fans are comparing the cost of trading for Pineda vs the cost for the Reds to obtain Mat Latos, and the Nationals to deal for Gio Gonzalez, and proclaiming they gave up less. I think that is wrong. The Yankees gave up a top 3 prospect in all of baseball. Brian Cashman compared him to a young Mike Piazza. The Reds gave up Yonder Alonso, who has a solid bat, but he was never a Top 20 prospect, let alone a Top 3 prospect. In addition, the Reds gave up Yasmani Grandal, but he has issues to work on behind the plate. Edinson Volquez and Brad Boxberger were also in the deal, but none of the players involved in the deal are as valuable as Montero.

The Nationals gave up A.J. Cole, Brad Peacock, Derek Norris and Tommy Milone for Gio Gonzalez, and none of these prospects are as valuable as Montero. In total they may eventually exceed the value of Montero, but right now, Montero is more valuable.

To me, Montero was the most valuable player traded this offseason, so Yankee fans cannot say they gave up less than the Reds and Nationals did this offseason. They gave up the best prospect in their system and third best prospect in baseball. If he can be even a serviceable catcher, his value increases substantially.

The Prince Fielder market is starting to heat up and he met with the Texas Rangers yesterday in a Dallas hotel. The Rangers are saying that they were trying to get a pulse on where he is. It sounds like they wanted to see if his price has dropped since the beginning of the offseason, and it is quite possible it has.

Buster Olney reported in his Saturday morning blog post that here is the line of thinking on the type of contract Fielder is looking for:

2. The Rangers are among the teams talking with Prince Fielder. I think the stance for the Cubs and Rangers has been consistent all along: If a Fielder deal can be had on the team's terms, they'd be interested. One rival executive thinks that whether it's the Nationals, Rangers or Cubs, the structure will be something along the lines of a six- or seven-year deal, with an opt-out clause after two or three years in the contract.

I have a feeling Fielder will get the opt out clause after 3 years, but if he does so, his price may drop to the low $20 million AAV range, versus the mid $20 million range in a longer term contract. The opt out clause is never team friendly and if Fielder does opt out in 3 years, he will only be 30 years old, and will probably get the long term contract he deserves now. The fact that the Yankees and Red Sox are not involved in the race for his services is probably one of the main reasons he will push for the opt out clause. In three years, the Dodgers, Mets and Cubs will be in better positions to get involved in signing him to a long term deal.

I wrote awhile back that I thought the Rangers would eventually sign Fielder and they took the first steps in doing just that on Friday. I expect to hear next week that they will meet with Fielder's agent Scott Boras to continue their discussions. It makes plenty of sense for them to do so, as it would be their response to the Angels signing Albert Pujols. The Rangers signing Yu Darvish will be their response to C.J. Wilson leaving to sign with the Angels. Should Fielder sign with the Rangers, the Rangers will be my choice as favorites to make it back to the World Series in 2012, although the Yankees made a few moves on Friday night that may compel me to change my mind.

Looking at my first base rankings, I would strongly consider moving Fielder up one spot in the AL- Only First Base Rankings, ahead of Pujols. Fielder hitting in The Ballpark at Arlington could result in multiple 40+ home run seasons from him, and his RBI totals should increase a bit as well hitting in that lineup.

Cuban outfield prospect Yoenis Cespedes recently decided to play some winter league games in the Dominican Republic, and has gone 0-6 with 4 strikeouts. As a result, many are questioning if he is major league ready after just 6 at bats. Others are questioning why he is playing winter league ball at all, which I agree with. Here is more from Olney's Saturday morning blogpost:

A great question, asked by a really smart executive: Why is Yoenis Cespedes playing in any winter ball games? His first couple of games were rough, not surprisingly, because he hasn't played in a really long time. But already there are red flags about his ability to recognize a breaking ball -- as with Wily Mo Pena -- and he really wouldn't have gained anything if he had had success.

Nationals GM Mike Rizzo hinted during the winter meetings that Cespedes would need some minor league time after he signs and BP's Kevin Goldstein is saying the same in this tweet:

Kevin Goldstein

Will need probably around 1/2 season. RT : will Cespedes be major league ready or will he need time in minors?

Those of you wondering who will replace Jesus Montero as the Yankees DH can consider Jorge Vasquez, according to Buster Olney:

Buster Olney

Here's the guy who may well get first shot to be the Yankees DH: Jorge Vazquez. WBC MVP, dominant winter numbers. Talent evaluator on Jorge Vazquez, NYY DH candidate: "He doesn't have a position, but he can flat-out rake. He just mashes."
29 minutes ago

Actually, my brother suggested Vasquez in the comments section of my article on the Yankees/Mariners trade, and I kind of dismissed it. Good job, Rob.

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