|Pineda, Kuroda Upgrade the Yankees||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jonathan Leshanski (Contact & Archive) on January 23, 2012
If you aren't convinced that the Yankees made themselves favorites in the American League with their moves last week, you aren't alone.
The acquisition of Michael Pineda from the Mariners and the signing of free agent Hiroki Kuroda look really good. Both deals should bolster the starting rotation, but both come with significant question marks that make you wonder if these deals are as good as the mainstream media has made them out to be.
Of the two moves, there is certainly a lot more upside in the trade the Yankees made to acquire Michael Pineda. This guy looks like a pitcher and can throw a baseball at close to triple-digit speed. But Pineda is a 23 year old with very limited, and not very impressive, AAA experience despite his middling success (9-10, 3.74) last year with Seattle. Admittedly if he had played for a team which had an offense, his record could have been 14-6. But is that real? Or is that flash in the pan type success?
And if Seattle believed in this 6'7" leviathan, would they have parted with him for Jesus Montero? Montero is a guy who can in fact hit, but he projects more as a designated hitter than as a useful piece in the field. And players who can only DH aren't exactly such hot commodities that teams regularly trade guys who could be dominant pitchers for them.
Certainly Seattle is rebuilding its team, and they are a team which needs some center of the lineup bats to bolster an atrocious offense. So Montero could have made some sense in terms of being a hitter, but by baseball standard the Mariners are a wealthy team, and they certainly could have popped for free agents like Carlos Beltran, David Ortiz, Carlos Pena, Jason Kubel or Michael Cuddyer without either breaking the bank or trading away someone who they regarded as a big piece.
So while Pineda looks like a power pitcher, he isn't a finished product yet, and the Mariners seem to have lacked confidence in him. And do you remember the last power pitcher the Yankees have finished developing? It certainly isn't Joba Chamberlain. You might have to go back to Ron Guidry, and the pitching coaches who developed Guidry are long gone.
Kuroda on the other hand looks to be a good signing. Provided he can handle the pressure of New York, he's exactly what the Yankees needed. He's an extreme ground-ball pitcher who won't serve up many of those cheap Yankee Stadium home runs, and should eat enough innings to help the Yankees preserve their bullpen.
The real concerns when it comes to Kuroda are going to be related to health and how he'll adapt not just to the American League, but to the transition from an extreme pitchers' park to one of the best offensive parks in the game. Still if he can manage to go .500 he'll be an asset to the New Yorkers and he should be effective enough as a fourth starter.
Despite what some pundits are trying to sell you, neither of these guys are sure things. The Yankees still don't have a rotation as good as the Red Sox or Rays. Is it better than it was in 2011? Certainly. And if Pineda develops it could be considerably better, but the kid is going to have some rough patches and he'll face the media firestorm that comes with playing in New York. How he handles it could determine how good the Yankees might actually be.
Either way the Yankees look better on paper going into 2012 than they did going into 2011.