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Looking different, or only feeling different?

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Those of you familiar with the Pinch Hitters series know that I like to disagree with our guest posters. In a lot of ways, that’s really the point of the series. My perspective only goes so far; it’s good to have other voices around here.

This morning, David brought up a topic worth discussing. There’s no doubt the Yankees offseason would be different had the team not traded Jesus Montero a year ago. Where our opinions differ is that I’m not so sure this offseason would look different, I think it might just feel different.

[2]First a number-by-number reaction to David’s three main points.

1. The impact at catcher 
The Yankees haven’t signed a new catcher without Montero, I can’t imagine they would have signed one with him. Essentially, David and I agree on this point, thought I do wonder if Montero’s presence might have changed the Yankees decision to trade for Chris Stewart last spring. And even if they still had Montero, I’m not sure they’d be willing to give him regular playing time behind the plate.

2. The impact on Youkilis
With or without Montero, the Yankees still would have needed a new third baseman this winter. Montero impacting the Youkilis signing at all assumes the Yankees being locked into having Montero as their regular DH (and occasional catcher), and I’m not sure that would be the case. Last season, Montero hit .245/.281/.376 in the first half and had an especially brutal month of June (one RBI for the month). If he’d put up those numbers with the Yankees, would he have stayed in the big leagues long enough to moderately redeem himself in the second half, or would we have spent this winter talking about how Montero might be a prospect bust?

3. The impact on Justin Upton
Montero being in Seattle isn’t the reason the Yankees haven’t traded for Upton. The Yankees haven’t traded for Upton because they either want to keep their young players or don’t have the pitching to satisfy the Diamondback’s demands. If Montero-for-Upton were the solution, why wouldn’t the Mariners have had Montero in their trade package (especially considering Seattle is overflowing with DH options)? Arizona has Miguel Montero signed through 2017, and he put up better numbers than Jesus Montero did last season. Could Montero be used to go after a different trade target? Sure, probably, but there’s no guarantee that any other trade target would have worked out any differently than Michael Pineda.

[3]How do I think keeping Montero would have affected this offseason? Here’s my own list of three.

1. Optimism (maybe)
Let’s say some of Montero’s struggles were largely due to playing in Seattle. After all, he did slug .438 on the road last season, so maybe his overall numbers would have been better if he’d stayed in a Yankees uniform. Certainly there wouldn’t be the overwhelming disappointment of Pineda’s shoulder injury hanging over this team. If there were still hope of Montero becoming a generational cleanup hitter, there might not be so many demands for the Yankees to do whatever it takes to get Upton or Giancarlo Stanton. One year of Montero might have changed the offseason conversation to be about the development of the next organizational hitter.

2. Key to the kingdom (still)
Having Montero certainly wouldn’t change this: The Yankees would still need pitching. They seem to have enough for now — in theory, re-signing Andy Pettitte and Hiroki Kuroda has plugged that hole for another year — but for 2014 and beyond, the rotation has some serious questions, and Pineda might actually be part of the answer.

3. The same old debate (again)
If Montero were still around, you know what we might be talking about most this offseason? Whether or not to trade him. His defense has always been questionable, and even the Mariners seemed to prefer him as a DH last season. With Alex Rodriguez’s latest hip injury and Derek Jeter’s busted ankle, we’d be locked into a constant debate about whether the Yankees need to keep the DH spot open, whether Montero is good enough with the glove to stay behind the plate, and whether Montero might be more valuable as trade bait for either an outfielder or a pitcher.

As an aside, you know what secondary debate would be going on in the middle of this hypothetical debate about whether or not to trade Montero? It would be a debate about what to do at catcher if Montero were gone. Is Francisco Cervelli really good enough to be an everyday guy? Is Austin Romine ready for the big leagues?

Guess some things might not be so different after all.

Associated Press photos