Saturday, January 14, 2012
Analyzing the Montero-for-Pineda Trade & the Kuroda Signing
The Yankees gave up a 22-year-old right-handed-hitting catcher from Venezuela, who has a total of 69 major league plate appearances. This included 7 walks, 16 singles, 4 doubles, 4 home runs, 12 RBIs, a BA/OB/SLG of.328/.406/.590, an OPS+ of 159…and 17 strikeouts, almost as many Ks as hits.
Montero appeared to have a good future ahead of him… the question was, "Where?" As a righty hitter at Yankee Stadium (new one has some outfield dimensions as old one), he would have been at a disadvantage. He's been rumored to be trade bait since he was tearing up the Eastern League and helping the Trenton Thunder win a Pennant.
Playing his home games in Seattle's Safeco Field, a good pitchers' park, he will be at even more of a disadvantage. Plus, the Mariners stink, having lost 95 games last year, including a sub-.500 39-45 at home, 29 games behind the AL West-leading Texas Rangers. And while the M's are hanging onto their best pitcher, Felix Hernandez – King? As Jim Bouton, a pitcher who actually won 2 World Series games, would say, "Yeah, surrrre" – they gave up their best pitching prospect in exchange for Montero.
While the Oakland (San Jose in 2015?) Athletics appear to be on track to be even worse in the near future, the AL West appears to be a two-team race between the Strangers and the Whatever They’re Calling Themselves This Year Angels of Anaheim. In essence, Montero has gone from the penthouse to the outhouse.
If I were in Montero's position, I’d think I was just a tad screwed.
That's what the Yankees gave up. What did they get? Pineda is a 23-year-old right-handed-throwing pitcher from the Dominican Republic, who has a total of 28 major league mound appearances. This includes 171 innings, an ERA of 3.74, an ERA+ of 103, a WHIP of 1.099, 173 strikeouts, a K/9 of 9.1, a BB/9 of 2.9, a H/9 of 7.0, and a record of 9-10 – not bad at all considering the M's scored just 3.4 runs per game, last in the majors. The Yankees should give him much better run support. He was named an All-Star, and finished 5th in the AL Rookie of the Year balloting.
He wore Number 36 in Seattle, but that's currently being worn by another ex-Mariner pitcher, Freddy Garcia (who wore 34 in Seattle).
The Yankees also signed Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year contract. He’s a soon-to-be 37-year-old righthanded-throwing pitcher from Osaka, Japan, who has pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers since 2008, and from 1997 to 2007 for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp. He was an award-winner in Japan, and the son of a player in the Japanese leagues.
He has made 115 appearances in the North American majors, all for the Dodgers, all but one as a starter. His career record is 41-46, despite the Dodgers having been pretty good in that time. However, his career ERA is 3.45, his ERA+ is a strong 114, his WHIP a fine 1.187, his H/9 8.6, his BB/9 an impressive 2.1, his K/9 a good 6.7. He pitched for the Dodgers in the 2008 NLDS and NLCS, winning a game in each series, but got rocked in his one postseason appearance since, in the '09 NLCS.
He has experience. He is efficient. He pitched in Japan and in Los Angeles. Playing in New York is not going to throw him. He may not be Hideo Nomo, but he's not going to be Hideki Irabu or Kei Igawa, either.
He wore Number 18 with the Dodgers. That number is currently not assigned to a Yankee.
Assuming no further trades, free-agent signings or major injuries, the Yankees can be expected to have the following starting pitchers in 2012 – though this is in order of general effectiveness, not necessarily the order in which they will pitch:
1. CC Sabathia
2. Ivan Nova
3. Phil Hughes
4. A.J. Burnett
5. One of the following four: Bartolo Colon, Freddy Garcia, Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda. If either Hughes or Burnett falters, it will be two of those four. If Both Hughes and Burnett falter, it could be three of the four.
This may not be the best rotation in baseball, but if CC remains a horse (I don't see why not), Nova keeps it going (hopefully, no sophomore jinx), Hughes stays healthy (I really hope for this one), A.J. builds on his postseason start and pitches like the '09 A.J., and we can get one more year out of veterans Colon, Garcia or Kuroda, it'll be a very strong rotation.
UPDATE: Colon has signed with the A's, and is no longer an option for the Yankees. This is a disappointment, but hardly a discouragement.
Certainly, Pineda looks like a good one for the future. I wouldn't mind going into 2013 with a rotation of CC, Nova, Hughes, Pineda and Manny Banuelos -- or, failing a full recovery from Hughes, an as-yet-unknown acquisition. (Maybe turn Felix into the king people have been calling him?)
There are, of course, two elephants in the room. What do do when Mariano Rivera retires or goes into decline, and what to do with Joba Chamberlain. (I know, Joba, elephant... )
If David Robertson continues to be to Mo what Mo was to John Wetteland in '96, I would have no problem, and I don't think Joe Girardi would, either, moving him into the closer role.
If Joba is fine with being a reliever, things will be looking up. But it is possible that Joba could be one of the future starters, especially if CC runs out of tank fuel by mid-2013. God forbid, as, even with all those options, he's the only lefty. Damn, I miss Andy Pettitte. I'm even starting to miss David Wells a little. (Back to the elephant analogy.)
But, for now, the Yankees' pitching options look good. And trading Montero, in addition to bringing in Pineda, does give Russell Martin a vote of confidence that he is the Yankee starting catcher through most of the 2010s.
I think we're going to have another Pinstriped October. Granted, I'm not exactly going out on a limb here. But while the Yankees didn't make themselves appreciably better with these deals, they did give themselves more options, which could lead to them getting better.
And that's good.
I return you now to your previously-scheduled New York media slobbering over a certain blue-clad football team.