No second-half question affects the Yankees long-term future quite like this one: Is Jesus Montero’s greatest value as a trade chip or as the future of the Yankees lineup?
In other words, should the Yankees think of Montero as a potential impact hitter in the second half, or should they think of him as the bait that brings an impact hitter — or pitcher — in the second half?
Similar questions could be asked about Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances, who have clearly set themselves apart as the top two pitching prospects in the system. Andrew Brackman was right there with them for a while, but his season has been a significant disappointment. Montero’s season has been only partially disappointing. He’s gone through stretches of as-expected production, but his .419 slugging percentage is uninspiring. Right now he’s on the disabled list with a sore back.
Russell Martin is an all-star, and the Yankees love him behind the plate, but he hasn’t hit much since the end of April. Francisco Cervelli is hitting just .214 as Martin’s backup. There’s certainly the opportunity for an offensive upgrade behind the plate, and the designated hitter spot could be fairly open next season if not immediately.
It’s certainly possible to envision a big league role for Montero sooner rather than later. It’s also possible to envision a significant trade target with Montero as the asking price.
If the Yankees still believe in Montero but don’t think he’s quite ready, then it’s worth keeping him in Triple-A and postponing the question and its inevitable answer. But if the Yankees have made up their mind one way or the other, Montero could be an immediate help. The only question is how to use him.
Associated Press photo