The Yankees’ finest hour

Brian Cashman had the whole of the baseball world out of the loop for the past several months, showing fleeting and passive interest in some free agent pitchers and bluffing his contentment with a flawed rotation. Fear no more, Yankee fans. The mystery has been unveiled.

Jesus Montero, the Yankees’ top prospect, has seemingly always been a part of trade flirtations and was nearly a centerpiece in the failed Cliff Lee trade-deadline swap in 2010. One AL scout was quoted in a September 2011 Daily News article as saying, “I’m sure the [Mariners] would like a do-over.”

The scout refers, of course, to general manager Jack Zduriencik’s decision to trade for Justin Smoak instead Montero in the Lee sweepstakes, and his never-ending pursuit of offense led him back to to his favorite reject—only for a much, much heftier price.

Pineda is a stud in the making after putting up a 3.4 WAR season in his rookie campaign and was the Robin to Felix Hernandez’s Batman. Pineda owns a wickedly fast four-seamer—hitting 94.2 mph on average and garnering a +9.6 pitch value per Fangraphs—and throws an 84 mph slider that is also rated as well above averge (+9.0 pitch value). Pineda mixes in a power-change at roughly 87-88 mph roughly six percent of the time, keeping hitters off-balance with his overpowering stuff enough to garner an 11.8 percent swinging strike percentage and a robust 9.0-plus strikeouts per nine innings.

The only thing holding Pineda back, one might wager, is his ability to pitch away from Safeco, and departing Safeco permanently, this might end up being a pretty big concern. His home/away splits were worrisome to say the least—a 2.92 ERA in Seattle was rivaled by a 4.40 ERA away from Safeco—though Pineda did have a lower home run rate away from Safeco.

Still, homers might ultimately bite Pineda in New Yankee Stadium. He had a nine percent HR/FB rate and gave up 18 in only 171 innings and now will live with a very, very short porch in right field – as he owns a 44.8 percent fly ball rate, good (or bad, depending on your outlook) for sixth in the majors. Jered Weaver, however, is just one of the few above Pineda on the FB% list to have built an okay (alright, excellent) career with extreme flyball tendencies.

Oh, but don’t forget about the often-forgotten Hiroki Kuroda, who was signed to a one-year deal between $10 and $11 million dollars in the same hour. Kuroda has some red flags, notably a groundball rate that dropped nearly eight percent after three years of near-perfect consistency, and a home run rate that similarly went up conspicuously.

Still, through four major league seasons, Kuroda has been worth no fewer than 2.1 WAR and twice more than 3.6 WAR. His strikeout rate remained above seven per nine innings for the second straight year, and he should be a more-than-serviceable No. 3 in the Yankees’ dandy new rotation.

Three hours ago, the thought of A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes, Hector Noesi, and Freddy Garcia scrambling for the last three spots in the Bombers’ rotation was not a warming thought. Each has glaring question marks and, suddenly, the remaining three look entirely expendable with Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos warming at Triple-A.

The offensive juggernauts just went on a pitching spending spree, and turned a “weakness into a strength,” as Jon Heyman of CBS put it simply. Who’s next, Carlos Pena?

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Comments

  1. Greg Simons said...

    The Yankees sure addressed their pitching need convincingly.  Yes, Cashman has a ton of money to work with, but this wasn’t a case of him throwing money at a problem, it was a case of two very nice moves, the type that any team could make.

  2. Nick Fleder said...

    I totally agree Greg. The beauty of the Pineda signing, at least in my mind, is that Cashman & Co. spend so much year in and year out that I forgot entirely, as both a Yankees fan and baseball writer, that they were even in the market for young, cost-controlled starters.

  3. Jim C said...

    I can smell the Yankee fans’ drool all the way down here in Savannah. Pineda is good, but like most young power pitchers, he is probably just a few starts away from his obligatory Tommy John operation, and bot Pineda and Kuroda are moving from pitcher’s parks to a hitter’s park, and you never know how any player will react to the relentless media scrutiny of NYC. But as soon as my Nats sign Prince Fielder, you’ll be smelling my drool as well.

  4. Nick Fleder said...

    @Jim

    Pineda no doubt has his risks, but I think I sufficiently addressed most of them—save the potential for Tommy John (who doesn’t get it these days)—in my article. Sure, the home runs & FB% may be of concern, but I think he can thrive under the wing of CC.

    @Charlie

    I Prince is the least likely signee. Damon or an in-house option are certainly more realistic. Check out this article: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/yankees-not-necessarily-in-market-for-dh/ … but keep in mind that Jon Heyman reported that they only have $1-$2 million to spend on a DH.

    @Bryan

    I’m a big Romaine fan, and I frankly think the “Catcher of the Future” gig was his to be had for a good while, since Montero profiled as a corner infield or DH guy. Martin was tendered a contract, so he’ll be trotted out there most days (Cervelli backup, of course) until Romaine blows everyone away at Triple-A.

  5. Bryan Mc said...

    Now after trading Montero, which of the Yankee prospects is most likely the Cather of the Future?  I hear Romine is a virtual clone of Posada, but may need more time in AAA before he is ready.  You have Sanchez who I heard is going to be an offensive beast but like Montero has questionable receiving skills and at least 2-3 years away. Or do the Yankees stick with vet Martin who everybody said made a huge difference with the staff last year?

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