Previewing the Yankee Offseason: Jesus Montero

Is he part of the lineup or trade bait?

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Is Montero's future pinstriped?

    The Yankee season ended sooner than many people hoped, so it is now time to start looking forward to the 2012 season. This week, we'll look at five big decisions the team has to make as they prepare for the offseason.

    There's no clearer victim of the Yankees' mentality than Jesus Montero.

    On almost any other club in baseball, Montero would have been a contender for the Rookie of the Year award in 2011 assuming, of course, that he hadn't made a bid for it in 2010. Whatever his defensive flaws, his bat would have been too tempting to leave down in the minors for a second full season when it was clear that the only thing left to prove was his ability to hit major league pitching.

    But the Yankees consider any year that doesn't end with a parade to be a monumental failure, so Montero sat in Scranton like a 15-year-old forced to play against 12-year-olds until he finally got the call to the Bronx in September. Much of what he did at the plate in the final month supported the hype that he was going to be a great big-league hitter, so the easy assumption is that he'll slide into a key role with the Yankees as soon as Spring Training gets underway.

    Nothing's ever quite that easy with the Yankees, though.

    The Yankees acted this year like they were convinced that Montero cannot play catcher in the big leagues which leaves him without a place to play regularly. He could be the designated hitter, although that spot is going to need to be used for players like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter and, eventually, Mark Teixeira as age forces Joe Girardi to give them more half-days off to keep them as fresh as possible.

    Or maybe he gets another shot to catch. He was the backup catcher on the playoff roster, a pretty amazing change of opinion for a team that wouldn't let him catch in September, so perhaps he is a hybrid catcher-DH next year with hopes that he can turn into another Jorge Posada-esque catcher whose bat covers for his defensive shortcomings.

    That's the best case scenario if he sticks around, but it is impossible to rule out a trade involving Montero. The team needs a starting pitcher to plug in behind CC Sabathia, assuming he returns, and Montero could potentially get them a very good one as the centerpiece of a package or as the entire package.

    Here's the biggest thing about the decision: The Yankees need to fish or cut bait with Montero. Leaving him in Scranton to start another year would be a horrendous decision because it would do nothing to help the team win games in the here and now which, as mentioned, is all that matters to the Yankees.

    If they aren't going to play him everyday or darn close to it next season, they have to deal him before other teams start devaluing him as a trade chip. If Montero develops as expected, he's just as valuable as a good starting pitcher but he needs to be offered the chance to develop now or it makes absolutely no sense to have him in the organization at all.

    Our call? Keep Montero and try the catcher/DH thing.

    He's going to be very cheap over the next few years while any starter would be pricey or on the verge of free agency. You can be creative on the trade market for a pitcher or even find other reclamation projects like they did this year, but cheap power hitters of Montero's ability don't grow on trees.

    Previously: CC Sabathia's Opt-Out, Nick Swisher's Option

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.