I was driving home from covering a high school basketball game tonight and I felt like the General Manager of a baseball team – or maybe more accurately a Yankees beat writer. My good friend Brian text messaged me, breaking the big news. I immediately called him, and we began discussing the moves and the circumstances surrounding the transactions the Yankees made.
Just when we all thought this off-season for the Yankees was dead, tonight happened. A pulse; some life in the dead of winter. The Yankees made a huge trade, swapping rookie catcher/designated hitter Jesus Montero and reliever Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for flame-throwing, right-handed starter Michael Pineda and Single-A righty Jose Campos.
You’d think that would be enough for one night, but the Yankees weren’t done.
Along with swapping Montero for Pineda, they deepened their rotation with the signing of Free Agent starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda, who had been with the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2008.
Just like that, the Yankees have some pitching depth.
Pineda has the potential to serve the Yanks as a viable number two starter behind CC Sabathia – a role A.J. Burnett has failed to live up to these past two seasons. Kuroda can help fill the middle and back end of the rotation, along with Burnett, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, and Freddy Garcia.
Obviously with seven starters, the Yankees’ hurlers will be seriously duking it out in Spring Training for a spot in the suddenly-populated rotation. There were some rumblings after the Pineda deal was finalized that Hughes could be on the block, yet nothing is confirmed or set in stone. But trading away one of the excess starters is another story for another day; a bridge that can be crossed when the Yankees get to it.
Right now let’s look at what the Yankees gained and what they gave up.
Pineda was an All-Star in his first MLB season last year, finishing 2011 with a record of 9-10 and a 3.74 ERA. The 22-year-old (23-year-old on Wednesday, Jan. 18) logged 171 innings and struck out 173 batters over that span. He gave up 133 hits and walked 55 of the 696 batters he faced.
Pineda finished fifth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting – behind his new teammate Nova, who came in fourth place in the voting.
His numbers were acceptable for a rookie last year and for a 22-year-old kid to be handed the number two spot in the Seattle rotation behind Felix Hernandez – a rotation that didn’t exactly receive a great amount of run support – and flourish the way he did was nothing short of remarkable.
Although his overall numbers were stellar (all things considered) his line against the American League East teams kind of turns me off. Pineda had a 4.73 ERA in nine starts against AL East opponents. It almost goes without saying that as a Yankee starter, he will be expected to be able to beat the Boston Red Sox.
Case in point: July 24, 2011 vs. the Red Sox at Fenway Park.
Pineda allowed seven earned runs on eight hits in just 4 1/3 innings pitched. He struck out four batters and walked one, as the Red Sox topped the Mariners, 12-8. Five of Pineda’s seven runs surrendered came in the first inning; pounded from the get-go.
Looking at that example doesn’t make me feel great about the trade.
I think the best thing the Yankees can do is let Pineda be himself; stretch him out and allow him to throw as many innings as he did last year, if not more.
What they can’t do is put him on an innings limit, given his age, and turn him into another version of Joba Chamberlain. I would also hope the Yankees learned the first time, and will choose to either permanently place him in the bullpen or in the rotation without switching him in and out.
Please. No “Pineda Rules.”
Considering what they gave up, I’m going out on a limb, but thinking the rotation is where we’ll be seeing Pineda.
While it remains to be seen how he fairs in Spring Training (let alone in the Bronx this upcoming year) I know one thing is for sure: whatever they do with him, they need to be careful. Otherwise they’ll end up with another young arm that needs Tommy John surgery. They wanted to avoid Tommy John altogether in Chamberlain’s case, and in the end he wound up needing it anyway.
As far as what they gave up: we barely knew Montero, although we knew the Yankees were preserving him for a long time. The 22-year-old powerhouse was called up in September and put on a little bit of a hitting show in the 18 games he played in ’11.
Montero clubbed four homers in 61 at-bats with four doubles, 12 RBIs, seven walks, nine runs scored, and 20 hits. Overall he notched a .328 batting average and secured a .590 slugging percentage.
For his short time in the show, he has certainly made it count.
Overall, I see this as a trade that could basically be a win for both sides. Seattle gets a power bat and a DH, something they hadn’t exactly possessed these past few years. The Mariners also have to realize they received a player who could be the 2012 Rookie of the Year, if he has a so-called “coming out party” this season.
Montero could do it. I have no doubt in my mind.
In return the Yanks get a potential number two starter, something they’ve had the last two years but haven’t had consistently. Hughes was the Yanks’ number-two man in 2010, but seemed to pitch with a tired arm down the stretch. Plus, we all saw how poorly he pitched in the ALCS vs. Texas.
Nova turned into the number-two starter last year – and let’s not forget that he left the deciding game of the ALDS vs. Detroit with an apparent arm injury. The Yankees needed that consistent second guy, and now they might have him.
And not only do they have a number two starter, they added a middle man: Kuroda.
Since 2008 for the Dodgers the 36-year-old Kuroda is 41-46 with an ERA of 3.45. Last year he tossed 202 innings giving up 77 runs on 196 hits while fanning 161 batters and walking 49. He also recorded 13 wins, a career-high for him in MLB. The Yanks signed him to a one-year contract worth about $10 or $11 million.
He was never an All-Star and he isn’t the flashiest pitcher in the world, but he provides the Yankees with a little bit of depth. If he can give them 10-12 wins from the third, fourth, or even fifth spot in the rotation, they have made a good move.
There are only two things I see working against him:
1) The fact that he’s pitched his entire career in the National League.
2) The Yankees’ history with Japanese starting pitching.
If Kuroda can adapt to AL hitters, learn to work in and out of trouble – and shed the stereotype Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa left for him – I know he will do fine.
Now that the Yankees have a stacked rotation, essentially they gave away their designated hitter in Montero. It frees up a huge spot in their already-potent lineup and it begs the question: who will DH for the Yankees in 2012?
Will they sign Carlos Pena?
Is Johnny Damon coming back to New York?
Was giving away the DH a ploy by Brian Cashman to set up the signing a very powerful Free Agent?
Let the speculation begin…
In my last entry, I wrote about how my friends and I watched the Jets’ AFC Title game at a New York City bar on Sunday night. I figured I would save this minor exchange from a weak mind for today.
Even though it was the Jets and we were watching a football game, for some reason everyone I was with was wearing something Yankees. Three of my friends (Dave, Kevin, and Pedro) were wearing Yankee hats while I was wearing my Yankee jacket and fleece.
At any rate, an older man (probably in his early 30s, if you consider that “older”) walked into the bar and took his jacket off, only to reveal a 2004 Boston Red Sox shirt.
Not to mention, he oddly resembled Lovie Smith. We weren’t positive it was really him, since he was in Chicago that day for the NFC Title game, but then again…considering how the game went for the Bears, you never know.
He was obviously a little inebriated and he approached us. And thus began a little exchange.
“Hey guys!!!!” he yelled, while standing right in front of us, mind you. “You ready for Michael Kay this year?”
We looked at each other, bemused.
“I can’t wait. At the track, at the wall, Swisher looks up…SEE YA! Another home run for Carl Crawford and the Red Sox lead 7-3!”
We kind of ignored him and just walked away, laughing. We figured at least in his little fantasy game, he gave the Yankees three runs. If he was smart, he would have made it 15-0 Red Sox.
I understand not every Red Sox fan is like this. Believe it or not, there are Red Sox fans out there that I can actually hold intelligent conversations with. However, when this sort of exchange takes place, it makes it really difficult to like them.
Besides, Crawford only hit 19 homers last year. It’s not like he led the team in homers (Carlos Pena did with 28) so I am certain he was just bragging about the free agent signing. Which, if the case, makes him a pathetic, drunk loser.
“Great spirits have often encountered violent opposition from weak minds.”–Albert Einstein
The Major League Baseball Winter Meetings are in full-swing and so far a number of deals have been completed. There are players on the move, players staying put, and some free agents who have drawn interest from teams, but so far nothing has happened.
Here’s a little rundown of some Winter Meeting notes and thoughts. As always, I’ll begin with the Yankees:
· Derek Jeter was reintroduced…well, not technically, but he had a press conference yesterday to announce his new deal with the Yankees. He told the media that he was upset with them because his negotiations became public. He wanted to keep his talks with the Yankees private.
I can’t blame Jeter for getting upset about it. If he wanted everything kept under wraps, in terms of negotiations, and did not want everything to become public knowledge, the media should have respected that. I suppose that’s the press these days; they stir the pot and bring out the worst of everything in professional sports.
I love how Jeter responded by saying he didn’t like the way he was portrayed. In fact, I’m glad he finally spoke up for himself. In his words, “All the sudden I have an ego? I’m greedy?”
Jeter has had respect for the media his whole life. Yes, I understand his interviews are about as boring as watching an entire soccer game, but he never crosses the line; he never breaks down and makes a spectacle of himself. Jeter never explodes in front of the cameras and microphones. He always gives the media a professional sound bite–which is his job as captain of the New York Yankees.
You would think after all those years the papers would have a little more respect for him. You would think they wouldn’t photo-shop his face on a Mets or Red Sox uniform. Well, I guess we all have to think again.
Jeter simply laughed at photo-shop nonsense.
At any rate, I’ve already offered the majority of my thoughts on the Jeter deal in my last video blog. Now that the deal is complete and I have offered all of my thoughts on Jeter’s “return,” I will no longer mention anything about it.
Jeter is back and we all knew he wasn’t going anywhere from the very beginning.
· Brian Cashman apparently sat down for dinner with Carl Crawford and his agent last night. Interesting, but he is also set to meet with the Los Angeles Angels. I don’t really expect him to come to the Yanks. However, it has been said that if the Yankees don’t sign Cliff Lee, they will probably make a bid for him.
I think the Angels will land him, or another team like the Red Sox will make a huge push for him. The Rangers are also looking to sign Crawford, as reported today by MLB.com, so Texas could be in his future. Although sources are now saying he is most likely headed to L.A. Right now nothing is certain.
What is certain is that Crawford’s deal is basically being held up because of, well… Lee. And…
· According to reports today, the Yankees offered Lee a preliminary deal. Lee’s agent Darek Braunecker claims a team is out of the sweepstakes (he wouldn’t say which club) and also stated he has “zeroed in on a few things.”
What that means, I have no idea. What I do know is that the Yankees and Rangers (obviously) are not the clubs that were eliminated from the sweepstakes. Today Cashman said that he is willing to “get serious” about Lee and the Yanks could possibly offer him six years at around $140-150 million.
Now that the Jeter drama has ended, I am tired of hearing about the Lee drama. I know he is the hottest free agent on the market this off-season, and all the teams that were contenders last year want to try and get him.
Yet, he is making himself look bad; it’s almost like the LeBron James decision revisited. I understand he is good enough to earn a fat contract, but he needs to make a decision already. I really hope wherever he goes, he wins a lot of games next year. God help him if he doesn’t. A lot of other deals are being held up because of him, including the future of…
· Andy Pettitte. According to ESPN’s Tim Kurkjian, Joe Girardi said he was going to reach out to Pettitte in a couple of days to see whether or not he has made a decision on his future.
Originally reported, Pettitte was leaning towards retirement. But other sources have now said he may want to pitch in 2011. If he does come back, I cannot imagine him pitching anywhere else but New York.
There was a report a few weeks ago claiming the Rangers contacted Pettitte. The report was later denied by Rangers’ President Nolan Ryan, who said the team never talked to Pettitte or tried to lure him away from New York.
Again, his future depends on what Lee does. If the Yankees sign Lee, their efforts to bring Pettitte back might subside, or at least dwindle. If the Yankees don’t land Lee, however, his decision regarding his future will certainly have an impact on the Yankees.
If you ask me, the Yanks should make a run for Pettitte any way it goes. If Pettitte chooses to pitch next season and the Yanks sign Lee, the starting rotation will be phenomenal. Lee would join CC Sabathia at the top half of the rotation, which would mean practically two aces pitching in success of each other. Both starters are capable of winning 18-20 games per season.
Add Pettitte to that mix along with Phil Hughes, who won 18 games last season. And even if A.J. Burnett has another off-year and only wins another 10 games, it’s not bad; if a team receives 10 wins from the fifth spot in the rotation, in my mind that’s a plus.
But as stated before, Lee needs to make a decision first–preferably sooner than later.
· Today the Chicago Cubs signed former Tampa Bay Rays’ first baseman Carlos Pena. He received a one-year deal at $10 million. Not bad for only averaging .196 this past season.
I’m just glad we don’t have to face him anymore. I was pretty tired of watching him these past few seasons, blasting the ball over the Yankee Stadium right field wall. I see it as a plus for the Yanks. Obviously Pena is not a great hitter for average but he does have pop. Maybe he can help the Cubs out.
· Jayson Werth went to the Washington Nationals on Sunday, agreeing to a seven year, $126 million contract.
I hope money buys happiness. Werth went from the Philadelphia Phillies, a team that in recent years is always contending and usually winning the NL East, to the Nationals–a team that basically fights for last place every year.
Werth has never driven in 100 runs in his career and at best is a good, above average right fielder. I don’t think he really deserved that much money and time. He is a good player, but not good enough for $126 million.
We’ll see if he lives up to that contract, and maybe in the distant future, the Nats will get better. I think they might be going in the right direction in terms of players–perhaps building around Stephen Strasburg and now Werth. But they won’t be making an immediate impact, that’s for sure.
· The A’s are interested in Hideki Matsui. Don’t do it, Godzilla!!!
· ESPN said yesterday that Kerry Wood might come back to the Yankees. I sure hope he does. Wood solidified the bullpen last year and was the only reliever worth anything in the postseason.
· Paul Konerko re-signed with the White Sox. Good for him! I look at him almost like Jeter. He has been with the organization for a long time and I cannot picture him with another team.
The Baseball Winter Meetings will conclude tomorrow in Orlando. Rule 5 drafts will take place and hopefully this Cliff Lee nonsense will end.
As I said, it’s like LeBron James. He and his agent are making things difficult and negotiations are taking a long time, probably because he can’t decide where he wants to go or what he wants to do.
Why don’t they just give him an ESPN hour-long special? Where will Lee take his talents next? All I know is, he better decide. Soon. Because I’m quickly becoming tired of hearing about it.