This stealthy move different from Mark Teixeira signing

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Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Michael Pineda reacts after Seattle Mariners starting pitcher Michael Pineda reacts after allowing a run to score. (Aug. 27, 2011) Photo Credit: AP

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Anthony Rieber Newsday columnist Anthony Rieber

Anthony Rieber has been at Newsday since Aug. 31, 1998 and in his current position since 2004.

A few days before Christmas in 2008, the Yankees pulled off a stealth signing, adding free agent Mark Teixeira with an eight-year, $180-million contract.

It was a bold move, but not a necessary one. The Yankees flexed their financial muscle and swooped in on a player who had not been seriously linked to them.

It cost them nothing but money. It paid off with a World Series title the following season.

Friday's equally stealthy trade for young righthander Michael Pineda was another bold, unexpected move by general manager Brian Cashman. This time, though, the Yankees didn't just back up the Brink's truck and use their considerable financial might to add a player. They used their brains.

No money will change hands in the Yankees' agreed-to four-player trade with the Seattle Mariners. The Yankees did not take advantage of a financially distressed franchise or wow a free agent with bucks and Bronx glitz.

They simply dealt their top hitting prospect for the Mariners' top young pitching stud not named Felix Hernandez, with two other young players included for balance. In other words, a baseball trade.

The headline is Jesus Montero for Pineda. In Montero, the Yankees had an offensive prospect the likes of which is rarely seen. Cashman has compared him regularly to Manny Ramirez and Miguel Cabrera. Manager Joe Girardi said Montero's opposite-field power reminded him of Alex Rodriguez's.

Here's another Montero comparison you hear: Mike Piazza.

Montero was signed by the Yankees, developed by the Yankees, disciplined by the Yankees when his head got a little too big in the minors, called up by the Yankees last September, added to the postseason roster by the Yankees.

No one loves his game as a catcher, but that bat . . . With Yankee Stadium and its reachable rightfield as his home ballpark, it was not a stretch to envision Montero hitting 40 homers a season.

Now, assuming the trade goes through after the four players involved take physicals sometime this week, Montero will call Safeco Field home. It's a pitcher's park and Montero will be challenged to be an everyday catcher, but if the Mariners simply let him DH most of the time, it's hard to imagine him not being their cleanup hitter for years. Edgar Martinez did pretty well in Seattle as a full-time DH.

Cashman, as is his practice, is not going to publicly discuss the trade and Friday's free-agent signing of righthander Hiroki Kuroda until both are official. When he does, he likely will talk about how painful it was to trade Montero, even though this is the second time he has agreed to do it with the Mariners.

Cashman thought he had a deal to send Montero to Seattle in a package for Cliff Lee in July 2010. That would not have been a stealthy move; the Yankees chased Lee both as a trade target and a free agent for the better part of a year.

But the Mariners backed out because they didn't like the medicals on a minor-leaguer named David Adams and instead shipped Lee to the Texas Rangers. The Yankees lost to Lee and Texas in the ALCS that year. Still stings a little, probably, as the Yankees' World Series drought has reached a staggering two seasons.

If George Steinbrenner still were around, that would not be a joke. Two seasons would be a drought. And if The Boss OK'd this deal, he'd also tell Cashman that Montero had better not turn out to be the next Cabrera or Piazza while Pineda is a bust in the Bronx.

It's possible that's exactly what will happen. Who knows?

Cashman is sticking his neck out on this one in a way he didn't when he waved the Steinbrenner checkbook at Teixeira. He's putting his judgment, and not the Yankees' money, where his mouth is. It will take years to determine if he was right.

It's actually a little refreshing, isn't it?

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