Thursday, February 24, 2011

Jesus Montero: an alternative to Albert Pujols

I'm taking a short break from my 2011 Season Preview series to bring you this, which can be filed under "Pipe Dream."

Since the arbitrary deadline between Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals to sign an extensions passed, people have been analyzing where Pujols could going to end up. Some mention the Dodgers are decent possibilities; some say it's a pipe dream (and with the current ownership situation, it is).

Pujols is far and away the best hitter in baseball. He's the only player to hit 30 or more home runs in his first 10 seasons. If he retired today, he'd be a lock for Cooperstown.

Despite all that, unless the Dodgers have a new owner by the winter, the Dodgers should look elsewhere for a big-time bat.

With the astronomical contract expectations (10 years, $300 million), it doesn't make a lot of sense for the Dodgers to make that kind of investment in a 32-year-old-to-be free agent.

I will admit, when Alex Rodriguez opted out of his contract, I said the Dodgers should give the man a blank check. Thankfully, that didn't happen.

Here are the pros and cons of an Pujols 10-year contract with the Dodgers:

  • The best hitter in baseball -- hands-down
  • Gold Glove-caliber defense
  • Teach younger players the nuances about hitting
  • Great for the franchise
  • Best position player the franchise has ever had
  • Will likely pay for himself over the life of the contract
  • Long commitment
  • He'll be 42 when the contract expires
  • The last three or four years would grossly overpay him
  • Financial burden ($30 million/year will do that to a team)
  • Increased injury risk as he gets older
I'm sure I missed some.

So, what should the Dodgers do? Should they invest heavily in one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time, or should they go a different route? I'm thinking the latter.

My choice for the alternative to Pujols: Jesus Montero.

Montero, quite possibly the best all-around hitter in the minors, is a catcher in the Yankee organization right now. As a 20-year-old in Triple-A last season, he hit .289/.353/.517, despite starting the season 1-for-30.

Montero's swing isn't exactly fluid, but scouts drool over the results he's produced at such a young age.

Why would the Yankees trade this guy? Well, they have some guy named Mark Teixeira at first base.

But isn't Montero a catcher?

Technically, he is. However, everyone and their mother sees him ending up at first base. With the Yankees, he won't get a chance to play 1B because Teixeira is one of the best defenders in the game. This doesn't mean the Yanks are just going to give him away, though.

Montero was almost shipped to Seattle for Cliff Lee last summer. He was also mentioned in rumors involving the Royals' Joakim Soria (a former Dodger).

I even proposed a trade in July that had Jonathan Broxton going to New York for Monetero. Of course, that was before they signed Rafael Soriano and before Broxton was just one season away from free agency.

Who do the Dodgers have that the Yanks would want?

Clayton Kershaw? Of course, but he's not going anywhere
Chad Billingsley? Perhaps -- depends how he pitches this season
Matt Kemp? Sure. With his propensity to hit the ball with authority to right field, he could take advantage of that short porch
Andre Ethier? I'm sure they wouldn't scoff at acquiring him

I probably wouldn't deal Billingsley or Kemp straight-up for Montero (not sure the Yanks would either). I'd probably consider Ethier, but a 3-4-5 of Kemp-Ethier-Montero would be awfully intriguing.

As you can see, since signing Soriano to be Mariano Rivera's eventual replacement, the Yankees' interest in Broxton would have likely dwindled. A trade would have to happen before the July 31 deadline, as I don't see Broxton re-upping midseason and the Yanks wouldn't give up their best prospect without getting something of long-term value in return. The teams could explore three-way trade possibilities.

Plus, Montero, albeit unproven, would be a much better financial move for the Dodgers.

If the Yankees get really crazy, they could go after Pujols in the winter and be forced to trade Montero. Montero is going to get a look this season with the Yanks and if they get the right deal, you know they won't hesitate to deal him.

Then again, James Loney could absolutely explode this season and take a firm grasp of the position. That's about as likely as me replacing Bill Plaschke at the L.A. Times (unfortunately).


  1. I wouldn't give up Either for Montero that's crazy. If Brox has a good 1st half and the Yanks need a BP arm I could live with that. They need SP IMO so I don't see a good fit but I'd love to see Montero in Dodger Blue. I hope Sands and T Rob keep mashing this spring and force the Dodgers hand but it will never happen, if they keep Castro over IDJ I'll pull a Nancy Kerrigan/Tonya Harding on Colletti. Here's hoping Sands keeps hitting Dingers. Good luck with the blog.

  2. I wouldn't do it for sure, but I'd at least consider it.

    I agree about Sands and Robinson. And Castro has no business on a Major League team, but Ned Colletti doesn't know that, unfortunately.

    Thanks much!