JW asks: Given that the Yankees truly appear committed to 2014 payroll plan, does the Michael Pineda trade look even worse in hindsight? In other words, it always seems like there are starters who can be had on one-year deals, but as we can see, even guys like Torii Hunter look to be in a position to command multi-year deals. In other words, for payroll management, the Yankees would have been better off with the relatively low-cost hitter under control instead of a pitcher.
I disagree with that, I think the exact opposite it is true. It seems to be much easier to find position players willing to take a one-year contracts than starting pitchers, or at least starting pitchers who can have a real impact. Let’s not go off memory though. With some help from the MLBTR Transaction Tracker, here’s a breakdown of one-year contracts by position over the last three years…
- Catchers: 31
- Corner Infielders: 29
- Middle Infielders: 32
- Outfielders/DHs: 63
- Starters: 50
- Relievers: 69
These are guaranteed contracts only, so no minor league deals. If you click the link and dig through the data, you’ll see that nearly all of the catchers were backups and that the vast majority of the starting pitchers were reclamation projects, guys like Erik Bedard (three one-year deals), Chien-Ming Wang (three), Ben Sheets (two), Bartolo Colon (two), Scott Olsen (two), Rich Harden, Justin Duchscherer, so on and so forth. In fact, the best one-year deals given to starters these last three years went to Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte. It’s not all that close either. Feel free to look for yourself.
I didn’t like the Jesus Montero-Michael Pineda trade because a) I (foolishly?) held out some hope that Montero could catch for at least two or three years before moving out from behind the plate, and b) I thought the Yankees needed the young bat. That said, it was easy to see why they made the trade. Ivan Nova was the team’s only other established starter aside from CC Sabathia, and he had one full season under his belt. Compared to what other young guys like Trevor Cahill and Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez were fetching in trades, the Yankees actually got a steal. That sounds hilarious in retrospect, but it was true at the time of the trade. Things have just gone horribly wrong since.
The Yankees need to add some offensive pieces at the moment, but their top four prospects are all position players. With Phil Hughes due to become a free agent after next season, Nova and David Phelps represent the team’s only two young and cost-controlled starters at the big league level, and Nova just had a terrible year while Phelps has eleven career starts to his credit. Pineda has been a non-factor at this point and I’ll continue to consider him one going forward until he actually gets on a mound. Outside of Kuroda and Pettitte, there are no starters available on one-year deals who are slam dunks to upgrade the rotation. There are plenty of hitters who could help on one-year pacts, however.