(Long Island, N.Y.) Perhaps if George M. Steinbrenner were still alive and running the New York Yankees, a big ticket veteran free agent pitcher such as C.J.Wilson or Roy Oswalt would have been brought in this offseason. While there would have certainly been nothing wrong with that type of move from a ‘win now’ organization such as the Bronx Bombers, obtaining a hard-throwing hurler on the short side of the age of 30 makes a whole lot more sense.
That is exactly what Hal Steinbrenner and general manager Brian Cashman were thinking with the four-player trade with the Seattle Mariners that netted the 23-year-old Michael Pineda, who was an American League All-Star in 2011.
In addition to Pineda, the Yankees also received Class A righthander Jose Campos, 19, in exchange for highly touted catcher Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi, a 24-year-old righty who pitched in 30 games for the Yanks last summer. Montero has been on the Mariners’ radar for a while and was in the nearly-completed deal for lefthanded starter Cliff Lee before he was dealt to the Texas Rangers.
This move is a breath of fresh air for Bombers fans, as the organization is finally going away from their usual strategy of either signing or trading for the most expensive veteran player available, especially pitchers. Although Pineda tailed off in the second half last season, he is viewed around the league as a future stud number two type arm. On a weaker team, he may be there already, but he will have to earn those stripes here. As a rookie in the Pacific northwest, Pineda went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA on a team that did not support their staff with an explosive offense. He did strike out 173 batters and surrendered only 55 walks in 171 innings.
While this may be a sharp move for the present, it should pay more dividends down the road. With Ivan Nova firmly established in the rotation, he and Pineda can form a sold one-two punch for years to come. Plus, Phil Hughes isn’t exactly over the hill, either. So when it is time for the likes of CC Sabathia and Freddy Garcia to pack it in, the Yankees will have people already in place with valuable experience.
But these wouldn’t be the Yankees without taking a short term flyer on another pitcher who will be long gone by the time Pineda reaches the same age. 37-year-old Hiroki Kuroda was given $10 million for one year as an insurance plan in case one of the youngsters falters or becomes injured. The former Los Angeles Dodger lefthander made 32 starts a year ago and finished 13-16, 3.07, not exactly sparkling numbers but the division rival Boston Red Sox showed interest in him, so this was probably done as more of a block move than a need.
Montero has been compared to Mike Piazza for his prowess at the plate and his lack thereof in the field. If he had been retained, the prospect would have seen more time at designated hitter than catcher. But he was worth trading in exchange for a talented, young starter.
Sounds kind of strange to say that when the Yankees are part of the conversation, but maybe a new day has dawned in the Bronx.