Two years ago, the Yankees could have acquired Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners. The trade bait? Jesus Montero.
In 2007, the Yankees almost snagged Johan Santana from the Twins. The trade bait? Phil Hughes.
If the these two scenarios have not suggested that general managers overrate their prospects in trades, it will be tough to convince you otherwise. In the first possible trade, the Yankees almost acquired reigning Cy Young winner Cliff Lee for a catcher who had never played an inning of big league baseball. In the second possible trade, the Yankees nearly acquired a pitcher who, at the time, was in his prime and a top-five pitcher of his generation.
Now, I get it, people get older, and guys like Johan Santana are not sure-fire bets to stay healthy and produce at high levels throughout the durations of their careers (as the old saying goes, trade high, buy low). Same goes for prospects who are dealt almost every season for an all stars. That's how trades work - one team may be trading a guy who they believe is on the decline, while the other team may be giving up the next "sure fire" thing who turns out to be nothing special. It's the hype that is placed on guys that makes their value higher.
For a team like the Yankees, who are driven to win a world championship every season, proven commodities are the future. Yes, it is important to have a farm system, but the chance to acquire guys who could hit 40 home runs, or pitch 200 innings may be a better choice then waiting 3 years for a player to crack the big leagues. It's all about knowing your prospects. In my opinion, the Yankees strong organizational depth at catcher, and now designated hitter (Jeter and A-Rod --- that's the truth people!), drove them to acquire Michael Pineda.
Let's just hope the Pineda trade works out for the best. After all, he could be better than Cliff Lee.