The Morning After: Pineda & Kuroda

(Pineda via AP, Kuroda via Getty)

After a winter of all talk and no action, Brian Cashman made his two biggest moves in roughly two years in the span of an hour or so last night. First he acquired Michael Pineda and Jose Campos from the Mariners for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi, then he agreed to sign Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal worth $10M. Just like that, the rotation went from question mark to strength. Freddy Garcia, A.J. Burnett, and Phil Hughes went from the three, four, and five starters to fighting  for one rotation spot. It’s pretty awesome.

We’re going to analyze these moves from every freakin’ angle in the coming days, I’m sure of it, but for now let’s start with a collection of thoughts and links…

  • Cashman said over and over again that he didn’t like the pitching prices this offseason, and sure enough his patience was rewarded. After four years of Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez were each traded for a package of four young players earlier this winter, Cashman got five years of Pineda for just two young players, and he got the Mariners to kick in another prospect as well. Pineda was a steal compared to Latos and Gio.
  • My prospect game is slipping with age, and frankly I had never heard of Campos until the trade. Baseball America provided a full scouting report on the right-hander in their trade analysis, which I recommend reading to familiarize yourself with him. It’s free, you don’t need a subscription. Both Kevin Goldstein and John Sickels considered him the fifth best prospect in the M’s system.
  • There are a lot of great trade recaps out there, but I highly recommend Lookout Landing’s. Jeff Sullivan killed it when he wrote about the emotional disappointment involved with trading young players. We’re all going to miss Montero, but the fans in Seattle feel the same way about Pineda.
  • Assuming he throws a substantial amount of innings, I bet Noesi has a really good year in that division and in that ballpark with that defense next season. Don’t be surprised if he outpitches Pineda in terms of ERA and people are declaring him the “real loss” in the trade by the end of the year.
  • I honestly have no idea what they’re going to do with that last rotation spot, assuming CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Pineda, and Kuroda are locks for the first four spots (in some order). Chances are the Yankees don’t even know what they’re going to do either, and I bet my opinion about what they will/should do will change by the day. Is there a right answer? I’m not sure.
  • I also don’t know what the Yankees will do about their now vacant DH spot, but I highly doubt they’ll sign Prince Fielder. I mean, maybe if he’s willing to do a one-year, $20M “pillow” contract, but I wouldn’t hold my breath. I think they’re more likely to start the year with a rotating DH than they are to sign or trade for a new one.
  • The ESPN Stats & Info Blog put together a great statistical look (with heat maps!) at Pineda, Kuroda, and Montero. It’s relatively short and painless, but informative.

I’ll close with this: it never ceases to amaze me how the Yankees — in the biggest media market in the sport — manage to pull off these deals with no leaks. Pretty much everything they do is a surprise. We heard nothing about their interest in Pineda until after the trade was made, and although we knew they liked Kuroda, we never heard they were close to a deal. The quiet weeks earlier in the offseason were frustrating, but the surprise sure is fun.

Yankees agree to sign Hiroki Kuroda

(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Rotation problem? What rotation problem? Less than an hour after acquiring Michael Pineda from the Mariners, the Yankees agreed to sign Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal worth $10M according to Jack Curry and Joel Sherman. The right-hander still has to pass his physical, and Buster Olney says Hal Steinbrenner approved an expanded budget to sign him. The Yankees will not have to give up a draft pick.

I, and really all of us at RAB are Kuroda fans and have been pining for him this offseason, so it goes without saying that we like the contract. Kuroda isn’t a star but he’s a rock solid veteran pitcher that will give the team innings and a chance to win basically every time out. He misses bats (7.23 K/9 and 19.4 K% last two years), limits walks (2.19 BB/9 and 5.9 BB%), and gets ground balls (47.1%), so he does everything someone needs to do to succeed in a tough environment.

It’s worth noting that Russell Martin knows Kuroda from his Dodgers days, so that should help the right-hander with the adjustment to the new league, the tougher ballpark, basically everything. Also, the Yankees recently hired Kenji Nimura, who was Kuroda’s translator with the Dodgers (caption of picture #10). He’ll have a similar role here, so that should help as well. Apparently he speaks fluent Spanish and Japanese, so I doubt he was brought in specifically for Kuroda, especially since the hiring occurred earlier this offseason.

It sounds crazy given where they were a few hours ago, but the Yankees now actually have a ton of pitching depth. Pineda and Kuroda will join CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova in the rotation, leaving A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia, and Phil Hughes to duke it out for the fifth starter’s spot. A trade is always possible, but pitching depth is never a bad thing.

Yankees trade Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos

(AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

According to multiple reports, the Yankees have traded Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi to the Mariners for Michael Pineda and Jose Campos. Jon Heyman, Greg Johns, Larry Stone, and Jerry Crasnick all deserve some level of credit. Heyman says the Yankees asked about Felix Hernandez before pulling off this deal, but were told he is off limits. That’s not a surprise.

I wrote this mailbag about Pineda back in November, so you can check that out if you’re unfamiliar with the young right-hander. He turns 23 next week and finished fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting last year thanks to his 9.11 K/9 (24.9 K%) and 2.89 BB/9 (7.9 BB%) in 171 IP. He is a fly ball pitcher (36.3% grounders last year) and kinda homer prone (0.95 HR/9), so that is a concern. As a fastball-slider pitcher with a show-me changeup, Pineda also has a bit of a platoon split. Plenty of time to work on that though, the guy’s got exactly the kind of power stuff that can play in the AL East. He is under team control for another five years, the next two for the league minimum. Here’s some video.

Campos is a 19-year-old right-hander with enormous upside according to Ben Badler and Kevin Goldstein. Apparently he’s related to the Escobars (Kelvim and Alcides), so he has baseball bloodlines. He checks in at a healthy 6-foot-4 and 195 lbs., and was considered Seattle’s fifth best prospect according to Goldstein (subs. req’d). “Campos had one of the best fastballs in the short-season leagues in 2011,” said KG in his write-up. “It’s plus and more in terms of velocity, sitting in the low 90s with plenty of 95-96 readings every time out. Campos also throws the pitch with the kind of command usually found only in big-leaguers; he works both sides of the plate, paints the corners, and comes at hitters with a strong downward angle.”

In 14 starts and 81.1 IP in the short season Northwest League, Campos struck out 85 and walked just 13. Just dominated the level. Goldstein does caution that he can become a one-pitch pitcher at times, as his changeup and slurvy breaking ball need work. At his age, that’s not much of a surprise. It sure sounds like the fastball is elite though, and that’s a good thing. Here is some video. It’s worth noting that the Yankees and Mariners are the two biggest spenders in Latin America year after year, and all four players involved in this trade were acquired as international free agents.

Losing Montero obviously hurts, especially since the regular lineup isn’t getting any younger. Despite all their work to help him over the years, it was pretty clear that the Yankees didn’t consider him a long-term catcher based on how they used him in September. A few years ago they were willing to trade him for three months of Cliff Lee, and now they got five years of Pineda. They certainly ended up getting better value in return for one of the best position player prospects in baseball, even if it cost them a shot at the 2010 World Series.

I liked Noesi more than most, but he was just a notch above the Adam Warren/David Phelps level in terms of long-term value. He can miss bats and can step right into a big league rotation, but the Yankees have the depth to cover the loss. Noesi’s inclusion in the trade is essentially the cost of doing business. The Yankees will end up with an open 40-man roster spot as a result of the trade, but that will eventually go to Andruw Jones. It hurts to lose Montero, no doubt, but Pineda fits the team’s needs better. This could easily end up another Josh Beckett-Hanley Ramirez situation, where both sides are happy with their return.

Chilly Friday Night Open Thread

We had some flurries earlier today, but now it’s just brutally cold and windy. Definitely not baseball weather, but we’ll get there eventually. If you’re like me and are staying inside so you don’t have to put on pants brave the cold, use this thread to talk about anything your heart desires. The Nets are the only local club in action though, so I hope you have something good on Netflix. Have at it.

Hannah put that video together, so show her some love. Well, show her some more love since this is the second time it’s been posted.

The reward for remaining patient

I go, “Brian Cashman, just get me a pitcher. Please, all I want is a pitcher.” And he wouldn’t give it to me! All I wanted was a pitcher, just one pitcher, and he wouldn’t give it to me. Just a pitcher!

When Brian Cashman emphasized pitching as his No. 1 off-season need, we didn’t expect that he would fill it by signing Freddy Garcia and no one else. Yet we’ve seen at least a half dozen pitchers sign free agent contracts or change teams via trade this winter, and the Yankees have remained on the periphery. We’ve heard various reasons, but it essentially boils down to them not liking the prices on anything.

Luckily for them, a few quality pitchers have remained on the market. While there are issues with all three of Roy Oswalt, Hiroki Kuroda, and Edwin Jackson, each would represent an upgrade for the Yankees’ rotation. The idea, it seems, was to wait out these guys until the prices fall. It appears, then, the Yankees patience has paid off. According to ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, the prices have come down. He specifically pegs Oswalt at $8 million and Kuroda at $10 to $11 million. He also mentions Jackson, but only by name.

As Stephen mentioned in his post yesterday, the Yankees are reportedly against signing anyone to a multi-year deal. That includes Jackson, who seems like a prime candidate to receive one. Now that the prices have fallen on two guys who are seeking one-year deals, the time seems ripe for the Yankees to pounce. We could quibble forever over which of Oswalt and Kuroda helps the team more, but that’s beyond the point. Getting either one would put a nice bow on this off-season.

There has been plenty of impatience and frustration over the Yankees’ lack of activity this off-season. It’s understandable to a degree. They’re the Yankees, therefore they’re supposed to make big moves. But this is not a team in need of a huge move. They just need to augment what they currently have and bide their time until players they really want become available — or else their minor leaguers prove they’re ready for the show. Their tack of patience and restraint just might pay off.

The RAB Radio Show: January 13, 2012

Last week we hoped for some developments in the pitching market. Did we get them?

  • Edwin Jackson. We saw the two parties connected once again in the past week, further fueling speculation that a marriage with the Boras client is inevitable. But…
  • The Yankees reevaluated their budget, so that could change things. Mike and I discuss what the Yankees could be up to.
  • And yeah, the whole show is pretty much about pitching, now and in the future. We have basically a whole segment on the 2013 class.
  • And onto Jorge Posada. His career comes to an end, so Mike and I think back on his career and what it meant to the Yankees and to the game.

Podcast run time 50:21

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  • Download the RAB Radio Show by right clicking on that link and choosing Save As.
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[audio:http://riveraveblues.com/podcasts/TheRABRadioShow011312.mp3]

Intro music: “Die Hard” courtesy of reader Alex Kresovich. Thanks to Tyler Wilkinson for the graphic.