Jan
17

The Other Guy

By

Splitter! (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

It’s not often that a team can sign a starting pitcher to an eight-figure contract and have it be only the second biggest move of the day. That’s exactly what happened last Friday, and the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda trade continues to overshadow the Hiroki Kuroda signing. The one-year, $10M deal will become official as soon as Kuroda takes and passes his physical, something that is expected to happen in the near future and without a problem.

As exciting as Pineda is, the Yankees needed a veteran guy to help stabilize a rotation that was shaky beyond CC Sabathia. Ivan Nova pitched very well in the second half last year but is still a guy with one big league season under his belt like Pineda. Freddy Garcia was solid as well in 2011, but his kitchen sink act could blow up at any moment. A.J. Burnett is a known quantity, and unfortunately that means he’s going to be below average. Phil Hughes is a total enigma. Kuroda helps provide that stability at a reasonable price.

It’s no secret that the Yankees have liked Kuroda for quite some time, dating back to the August waiver trade period in 2010. They reportedly considered him the second best pitcher on the free agent market last winter, but didn’t get a chance to pursue him because he re-upped with the Dodgers during the exclusive negotiating period. They made a push for Kuroda at last year’s trade deadline but couldn’t work out an agreement, but it wouldn’t have mattered since he invoked his no-trade clause and refused to come east and pitch for the Red Sox. Once the Dodgers pushed him out of the picture this offseason, he changed his mind and came the New York.

Kuroda will turn 37 next month, and he’s thrown at least 180 IP in three of his four seasons in MLB. The one exception was 2009, when an oblique strain shelved him for two months and a concussion (caused by this) cost him for another three weeks. In the two years since, he’s made 63 starts and thrown 398.1 IP. There’s little chance Kuroda will repeat the 3.23 ERA and 3.52 FIP he posted from 2010-2011 given the shift to the tougher ballpark in the tougher division, but adjusting upward half-a-run or so still gives us a ~3.80 ERA, ~4.00 FIP pitcher. Not an ace, but a valuable starter.

The transition to Yankee Stadium and the AL East is a very real issue, but it should help that Kuroda will be throwing to a catcher who knows him well. Russell Martin caught 71.8% of the right-hander’s innings while with the Dodgers from 2008-2010, so there’s certainly some familiarity there. As a true four-pitch guy — low-90’s four-seamer, low-90’s sinker, mid-80’s slider, mid-80’s splitter and a show-me high-70’s curve — with a bit of a reputation for pitching backwards, I’m sure he’ll appreciate having someone behind the plate that knows his stuff and what he likes to throw to certain hitters in certain counts. I don’t know how much it’ll help, but I have a hard time believing it won’t help in some way.

The trade for Pineda is a long-term move. The Yankees acquired him in hopes that he will contribute something now and develop into a dominant, top of the rotation starter down the road. Kuroda is just a band-aid, a short-term solution on a reasonable contract designed to improve the team’s chances of winning in 2012 and nothing more. He’s been successful during his first four years in MLB as a moderate strikeout (6.73 K/9 and 18.0 K%), low walk (2.10 K/9 and 5.6 BB%), and above-average ground ball (48.6%) pitcher, which is all the Yankees are asking him to be again next year. Kuroda won’t garner as much attention as Pineda, but he’s more important to the 2012 team.

Categories : Players
  • Thomas Cassidy

    I predict a 16-9, 3.88, 177ks.

    In other news, V-Mart is out for the year. So it looks like one DH is probably off the market (Pena, I’d say).

  • Thomas Cassidy

    Sabathia: 20-7, 3.22, 211ks

    Pineda: 15-8, 3.95, 183ks

    Kuroda: 16-9, 4.02, 177ks

    Nova: 15-8, 3.66, 159ks

    Garcia (if he starts): 11-7, 4.43, 103ks

    Burnett (if he starts): 12-11, 4.67, 175ks

    Hughes (if he starts): 14-8, 4.11, 159ks

    I would be very happy with that rotation. Seems realistic to me.

    • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

      So Nova is just as good as Pineda give or take a few tenths of a run and a few strikeouts on either side? Also no pitcher will have double digit losses? This is optimistic as much as we’d all love to see it?

      • Thomas Cassidy

        Burnett has double digit losses. What starters on the Yankees had double digit losses last year? I’m too lazy to look it up. Kuroda is only one away, and Pineda/Nova are only two.

        I wouldn’t be surprised to see Nova have a better year than Pineda. I expect him to. Pineda wasn’t that impressive last year. I regard him highly, but he didn’t blow my mind by any means whatsoever. He should regress in 2012 because of the division and park, but I expect him to be a future number one or two.

        • CP

          Burnett had 11 losses and Colon had 10.

          Records from last year:

          CC Sabathia 19-8
          A.J. Burnett 11-11
          Ivan Nova 16-4
          Bartolo Colon 8-10
          Freddy Garcia 12-8
          Phil Hughes 5-5

        • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

          I was assuming AJ is in the pen

      • Ted Nelson

        Nova might be as good as Pineda, sure.

        As much as I don’t care about P wins… The Yankees had a 15 and 10 game loser in 2010 (when AJ and Javy both just fell apart) and an 11 and 10 game loser in 2011. Only one SP over 10 losses isn’t crazy.

        • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

          I’m saying Kuroda will lose 10 as he was over fifteen last year if memory serves. I’m also assuming AJ will not as he is in the pen. A full season for freddy would be about 14-10 but I doubt he plays enough. If hughes wins the role probably the same line. I’m saying that only one guy at 10 or over is optimistic.

    • ADam

      Jut curious, where are those numbers from?

      • Thomas Cassidy

        My ass.

        • Robinson Tilapia

          Appreciate the honesty. :)

          • nedro

            Don’t laugh. Dude’s ass has outprojected ZIPs and Oliver 3 years running.
            Dude’s ass is the Vegas line.

  • Avi

    Kuroda is a great signing. Every pitcher carries risk and the fact Kuroda is 37 contributes to that. The worst case scenario though is $10M down the drain.

    • Thomas Cassidy

      I think he will be a solid starter here. Of course he won’t have a 3.07 like he did last year. But at least he won’t have 16 losses or there’s a serious problem!

      • Avi

        Between the two extra starters they have on the active roster and Warren, Phelps, Mitchell, Banuelos, Betances it’s pretty safe to assume no Yankee starter will make many awful starts. They’ll lose their rotation spot before they do.

        • David, Jr.

          It could all mean plenty of possibilities for The Ninja to make another appearance.

          • Avi

            Indeed. Truth is the Yanks have TOO many starters right now. They have 11 starters between the ML club and triple A that can all be ML average (i’m not counting Burnett who I consider replacement level). This is part of the reason I don’t like the Montero trade, but forget about that. There’s a very strong possibility of multiple starters going in a trade between now and the deadline, and probably for a hitter or hitting prospect. There’s really a logjam there right now.

            • Mike HC

              I don’t see too much starting pitching at all. Garcia and Kuroda are both on one year deals. AJ has two left and I’m sure the Yanks would like to get rid of him even before that. So trading away some young pitching pieces just because you have Garcia, Kuroda and AJ on 1 or 2 year deals would not make much sense. Unless you are talking about guys like Warren and Phelps, and in that case, those guys seem destined to be traded at some point.

        • Thomas Cassidy

          I hope so. And I’m assuming that they will have one of Hughes/Garcia/Burnett to step in whenever the fifth starter is sucking it up, whoever that is this year, hopefully Hughes.

        • Robert

          Does anyone really think that ManBan,Betances will be better than average? This team has no ability to develop pitching.look at Joba and Hughes.

          • thenamestsam

            Solid sample size of two there.

          • David, Jr.

            Noesi and Kennedy apparently were developed enough to picque the interest of the powers that be at Seattle and Arizona.

          • Robinson Tilapia

            Doesn’t get any truer the more you say it.

  • TampaRob

    Pineda physical taking place tomorrow

  • viridiana

    I think there may be a temptatation to trade Hughes for a bat but I hope this doesn’t happen. His value has bottomed, I believe, and should begin rising once he shows restored velocity this spring. With a good performance early in the year, he might really become an attractive trade chip. At the very least, i hope Cash waits til June or July before moving Phil. With a good early showing and still relatively cheap, he might fetch quite a package at that point. He may in the end be the odd man out as Yanks add Pineda and B’s develop. But let’s get max value for him if he has to go.

    • Thomas Cassidy

      As much as I like Hughes, and as much as I expect him to have a great year next year, you can’t get shit for him right now. He’s had one good year as a starter his entire life.

      • vin

        “He’s had one good year as a starter his entire life.”

        Not counting the other 3 years.

        • Thomas Cassidy

          What other three years were any good?

          • viridiana

            Hughes-bashers forget that Yanks would not have won pennant in 09 without his lights-out pen performance.

            • Thomas Cassidy

              I’m not a Hughes basher. I like Hughes. And I said starter, not reliever. And yes, they would have.

            • vin

              Can’t tell if you’re serious or not.

              They won 103 games that year, and Phil was worth about 2.5 wins. They were winning the division regardless. As for the pennant… he didn’t contribute anything positive during the playoffs, and they won despite their lockdown reliever completely losing his effectiveness.

          • vin

            2005, 2006, 2007 and 2010. Missed some time with injuries in ’05 and ’07. And yes, I consider his time as a 21 year old in the big leagues to be a success (2:1 k/bb ratio, 7.9 h/9).

            • Thomas Cassidy

              He wasn’t even on the Yankees in 2005 or 2006. 2007 was a small sample size. And 2008 he was terrible. 2009 he was terrible as a starter. And 2011 he was terrible.

              Like I said, he has had one good year as a starter.

              • vin

                You said “his entire life.” Which I interpreted to mean as a professional. Also, his 7 starts in ’09 is enough to say he was terrible, but his 13 starts in ’07 was just a small sample size?

                I don’t need to defend Phil. We all wish he lived up to his potential, but he hasn’t so far. He’s been victimized by some fluke injuries, he’s been lackadasical about his conditioning, and he’s been the odd man out.

                I think we really agree on Hughes, but I think it’s not fair to say “He’s had one good year as a starter his entire life.” You know who’s had one good year as a starter in their entire (professional) life? Andrew Brackman. I’m of the belief that if a pitcher can show that he can handle major league hitters, even for a relatively short period of time, then he’s got something going for him. Of course injuries can derail that. I’d give him one more shot at the rotation this year.

                • raisin

                  i heard he had some great seasons in little leaguel, too!

  • RobertGKramer@AOL.Com

    Garcia was also solid for the White Sox in 2010. So I think the plumbing is more stable than we suppose!

  • Matt DiBari

    In the short term, strictly 2012, I’m more excited about Kuroda than Pineda.

  • vin

    I could’ve sworn Mike Petriello dropped this bit of news via Twitter a few days or a week before Kuroda signed…

    “Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness called this one on Twitter, kinda, on Tuesday.

    “Not to stir the rumor mill, but Kenji Nimura, who joined the Dodgers in 08 to translate for Kuroda, has moved on to the Yankees.”

    I don’t recall seeing anyone speculating about it, so I pushed it from my mind. The Yanks don’t have any other Japanese players of note, and weren’t going to sign Nakajima (or the deadline had already passed by that point). Should’ve seen it coming, I guess.

    http://www.feelinkindablue.com.....-with.html

    • CP

      Apparently he’s also fluent in Spanish.

    • Klemy

      To be fair though, Nimjura also speaks Spanish – right? I’m not saying it didn’t mean something at all, just that it didn’t absolutely mean he was signing here.

      • Klemy

        Beaten.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    Will the Yankees wait for a ST from AJ that will improve his value. I hope so. Looking at the possible rotations its unbelievable that AJ has sunk to the level of being salary dumped.

    I’d give Hughes every opportunity to prove himself to management, fans and himself.

    Garcia could be long man out of the bullpen if Hughes or Burnett show anything. But one of these three may not be here.

    • Mike HC

      You gotta see where they come in at during spring training. If Hughes is all of sudden averaging like 94 on his fastball, wishful thinking, I don’t think you can end up starting a one year guy like Garcia over him. But if Hughes looks solid, nothing spectacular and Garcia looks the same as last year, I think you have to go with Garcia in that case. AJ gets no where near the rotation in my opinion unless there is an injury.

  • GardnergoesYardner

    What’s the best possible scenario for what could happen in an AJ trade right now, in terms of the best prospects we could get or least amount of salary we’d have to pay?

    • Avi

      The Zambrano trade should be used as a point of reference. I don’t see the Yanks getting any prospects for him even if they pick up ALL his salary. It would have to be salary dump for salary dump. Adam Dunn and Jason Bay make at least some sense.

      • LarryM.,Fl.

        Dunn would be an increase in team salary and not very useful except at DH from the porch side. Bay may have seen better days and we have a 4th OF.

      • vin

        It could also be AJ plus cash for nonprospect… like the Derek Lowe deal.

  • LarryM.,Fl.

    IMHO if we could save or pay 50% of his salary I would be in for this trade. How about a middle IF prospect with a chance at big league play.

  • PinedaColada

    If anything I think signing Kuroda allows the yanks to give Hughes more room to prove himself as well as takes pressure off the other youngsters Nova/Pineda because they slide down the rotation and Nova lines up with other #3s and Pineda lines up with other teams 4s

    • vin

      Rotation order doesn’t mean a whole lot once you get past the first week of the season, but I’d be shocked if Pineda is slotted in after Nova. I can see Kuroda starting the 2nd game of the season (veteran, doesn’t throw as hard as CC).

      I do agree though regarding Hughes. I’d love for him to be able to find his way in the 5th spot. Problem is either Garcia or AJ needs to be moved (with the other going to the pen), and I don’t really see it happening. Maybe Phil takes Noesi’s spot in Scranton and is the 6th starter ala 2009. But I think if he comes to ST throwing gas, and is in top shape, then I bet they give him a starting spot over the two veterans, then decide what to do with the AJ/Garcia situation.

      Ideally, I’d like to see the rotation have another lefty (damn you Cliff Lee!). And I do like the change of pace that Freddy’s kitchen-sink approach brings to the mound. However, I wonder if Phil and Nova are too similar (with Nova having the better fb).

      • Mike HC

        Lots of starter depth is definitely a good problem to have. Gives the Yanks an opportunity to make another trade if need be, or simply sit on the depth until it will inevitably be needed during the year.

      • GardnergoesYardner

        I think Girardi will go CC – Nova – Pineda – Kuroda, as Joe has shown a willingness to use Nova in the 2 spot late last year. However, as you said, rotation order means nothing past the beginning of April.
        I am an advocate of putting Garcia in the 5 spot and using Hughes in the pen. Burnett should not even be an option at this point. If Hughes can find success in the bullpen, maybe that’s his career path from now on. I don’t think the Yankees can afford to keep moving their young pitchers from the rotation to the bullpen. Hughes could develop into an effective reliever and be worth more to us than as an average starter. People are giving him too much rope, and the fact is Freddy will probably help us more in the rotation next year, which is what we should be focused on.

        • vin

          In fairness he used Nova in the #2 slot last year in the playoffs because he had no other options. Burnett and Hughes were awful. Colon had come back down to earth, and Ivan was pitching a bit better than Freddy at the time.

          Doesn’t matter to me though, as long as everyone gets through ST healthy, I’ll be happy.

  • Mike HC

    Really nothing not to like about this move. Should be a consistent performer, lots of Quality Starts, and legit chance to win every time he starts. I do expect his K’s to drop, walks increase and everything else increase as well, but still end up being quite valuable.

    I do disagree that he is more important than Pineda, but that is just semantics and both are being relied on to hold down a rotation spot and pitch well.

  • David K.

    Just a bit of caution about Pineda, he like Nova also has only one season under his belt. So we really don’t know what he’ll do. That’s probably the biggest reason to dislike the trade. As far as Kuroda, I don’t think he’ll pitch well in the AL east. So really, I don’t like either of these moves.

    • vin

      “As far as Kuroda, I don’t think he’ll pitch well in the AL east.”

      Care to elaborate? Even applying conservative adjustments for park factors and NL-AL transition, as Mike did above, he’s still an above average pitcher that only costs the Yankees money (something they have an abundance of), and has no impact on future payrolls.

    • candyforstalin

      Just a bit of caution about Pineda, he like Nova also has only one season under his belt. So we really don’t know what he’ll do. That’s probably the biggest reason to dislike the trade.

      rookie hitters, on the other hand, are .400 woba certainties.

  • Monterowasdinero

    “A true four pitch pitcher”. I thought there were 5 pitches mentioned.

    Kuroda is a true pitcher. 4 or 5 pitches

  • CJ

    I was hoping yanks could move Freddy to Arizona but they signed Saunders today

    • pat

      Why wouldn’t the D’Backs have just signed him, then?