Talkin Sox with Dan

Where baseball fans gather for commonsensical, opinionated Red Sox banter.

Yankees Assume Upper Hand

Photo via usintoday.com

By now, it is no secret that the Yankees’ front office put together quite a nice Friday evening. Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi were shipped from the Bronx in exchange for Seattle’s Michael Pineda and Jose Campos. John Heyman first reported the deal when it went official. Less than sixty minutes later, ESPN’s Buster Olney tweeted that the Bombers had also inked free agent Hiroki Kuroda to a one year deal worth $10MM. And I thought dinner and a movie was a solid Friday night.

It is rare for two teams to come together to make a deal that involve young studs like Montero and Pineda, both of whom have proven that they are  primed to succeed in the big leagues.

Montero just turned 22 in November. He is a catcher who hits an absolute ton. Scouts have questioned Montero’s defensive abilities. Given the fact that teams often to choose to protect offensive assets, like Montero, from the rigors of being an everyday catcher, it is likely that the former Yankee finds himself at DH more often than not. Before making his Major League debut against the Red Sox towards the end of 2011, Montero was the coveted prospect in the Yankees’ system. It did not take long to see why the boys from the Bronx liked him so much. In only 69 at bats, Montero collected four homeruns and posted an OPS of .996. Not bad for a 21 year old kid in limited action. The success of the trade for the Mariners may hinge on Montero’s ability to develop defensively and their willingness to put him behind the dish. Catchers who hit are a precious commodity around baseball, while designated hitters are far less valuable.

Pineda is a young right handed flame thrower. He possesses an intimidating presence on the mound. The former Mariner is 6’7″ tall and has a body that looks it is built to sustain a 30+ start season. Pineda’s big league sample size is larger than Montero. As a rookie, he made 28 starts, notched a 3.74 ERA, and struck out 173 batters. He undoubtedly wore down in the latter half of 2011, but that is to be expected. Pineda’s only start against the Red Sox was not a good one for the young righty. He went 4.1 innings and gave up seven earned runs in a late July outing. Nevertheless, Pineda is flat out good, and the best part for New York is his contract situation. He is under team control through 2016.

From Seattle’s perspective, the deal made sense. The Mariners organization churns out quality starting pitching as a hobby to pass the time, and Montero looks like he is a stone cold middle of the order lock for years to come. It should be fun to watch both he and Dustin Ackley team up in the Seattle lineup.

The Yankees have a group of mashers. They’re not going to miss Montero’s bat too much this year. Although it’s not a reason to pursue a deal, Montero’s departure opens up the DH spot which will allow Joe Girardi to provide his aging players a respite from time to time. The acquisition of Pineda is just plain solid. He struck out 9.1 batters per nine frames in his rookie season. Getting consistent swings and misses is absolutely vital to maintaining consistent success in the AL East. Anytime a team is able to add a young quality starting pitcher who is under control for several years, it is usually a win.

The Kuroda signing will probably get more attention than it deserves. He will turn 37 next month, and has spent his four year Major League career pitching in the NL West. It will be at least a point of interest to see how he adjusts to hitter-friendly ballparks, the designated hitter, and the east coast–a place he did not want to go as recent as the 2011 trade deadline. However, the Yankees are not going to ask him to be more than a middle of the rotation guy in a suddenly stacked staff.

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I do not believe that Friday’s moves by the Yankees will have much of an effect on how the Red Sox approach the remainder of the offseason. According to Mark Polishuk of mlbtraderumors.com, the Kuroda signing was approved by ownership. In other words, GM Brian Cashman will not need to find a way to move a player or two to accommodate Kuroda’s salary. If the Red Sox were to make a run at a pitcher like Roy Oswalt, Ben Cherington would likely need to same approval from John Henry.

The Red Sox apprehension to pull the trigger on a one year deal for a pitcher like Oswalt or Kuroda is a bit troubling. It did not seem like it was very long ago when the Sox would have leaped at an opportunity to sign a one year deal for a relatively quality starting pitcher. I loathe multiyear deals just like the Red Sox, but a one year pact carries little risk.

This is coming from the guy who didn’t think the Red Sox were going to do anything big last offseason, so take it for what it is worth, but I can’t see Cherington relinquishing the load of top tier prospects that Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer will likely demand for Matt Garza. The Cubs certainly do not need to trade the right handed starter. Consequently, they have all of the leverage in a potential deal.

The addition of Kuroda to the Yankees’ staff shrinks the market for Edwin Jackson. Could Scott Boras cut his losses this offseason and allow Jackson to sign a one year deal (a la Ryan Madson, Adrian Beltre)? Time will tell. If the Red Sox brass chooses to open their wallet a bit wider, it will be because the asking price for available starting pitching decreases and patience by Cherington pays off, not because the Yankees had a productive Friday night in mid-January.

Thank you to baseballreference.com for providing the statistics used in this entry.

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2 thoughts on “Yankees Assume Upper Hand

  1. ..You know I was waiting for you to post this post Corrado
    Where to start? It is safe to assume that Theo, if still our general manager, would sit back and let the yankees quietly bulk up their rotation, while we still sign low cost/risk pitchers cheaply? ABSOLUTELY NOT!
    In fact, he will counterattack this by opening his wallet and signing Roy Oswalt or Joe Saunders and making a run for either Edwin Jackson or Jeff Francis.
    Fast forward to the present and to our current GM Ben Cherington..
    You have constantly supported, and while I have no problem as well in the recent minor league signings such as Carlos Silva, Aaron Cook , Germano and possibly Padilla, his theory of trying to find low cost rewarding pitchers has to come to and end quickly and resort to “THEO ESQ” mentality.

    Heck it still surprises me why up to this hour, the red sox have not jumped on the Oswalt sweepstake and contradict the yankees move.. The Yankees probable rotation is : CC PINEDA KURODA NOVA AND EITHER GARCIA/HUGHES/AJ..
    In a matter of minutes, they became a somewhat Ok rotation to a solid, while us? We still sit back waiting for pitcher prices to lower, while we watch other teams jump the gun and grab the pitchers that could keep us in contention in the division. If you were to tell me a few days ago, before this trade, that with the current lineup and signings we have done I will have told you : Were doing okay, we still have a chance to take this division.. but now? Comparing the rotations that both the yankees and rays have? One has to worry.

    I think that after last night, our panic meter just went up to 6 or 7. You know me for a few years now, and you know how critical I can be at times of our red sox.. This is out of love and out of the passion I have for this team, but when I see moves like this happen and we continue with a mentality that is not going to take us anywhere this year, it irritates me and frustrates me as a fan.

    The only solution that I see to this problem is sign a solid #4 starter, a possible #5 starter, and use our low cost signings to beef up our bullpen. Even if this means leaving Bard as a set up man. While we might not have the strongest rotation to compete, we will sure have if not the best bullpen if both aceves and bard remain in the bullpen along with melancon and bailey.

  2. Jorge, like always I appreciate and admire your passion. BUT if the Red Sox ownership gives Cherington a budget, then there is only so much he can do. Your boy Theo has made some poor choices in the free agent market which is now limiting the Red Sox from making the desired splash that you’re looking for. Dice-K and John Lackey are going to be making a nice hunk of dough for little to no production in 2012. If the Red Sox get a starter with more cache than what they’ve already done, it will be because their price tag has dropped.

    It’s never a good idea to try to match another team move for move. Let’s see how things shake out in the next three weeks or so.

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