Friday, January 13, 2012

Yankees Upgrade Pitching Staff

What was a questionable starting rotation just a day ago suddenly has a lot more bite to it. Today the Yankees were able to acquire the hard throwing Michael Pineda from the Mariners and sign veteran free agent Hiroki Kuroda as they reload for another postseason run in 2012.
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Pineda, 22, burst onto the scene as a rookie last year and was 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA for the Mariners in 28 starts. Armed with a big fastball the touches the upper 90s and what has been called a diabolical slider, the 6'7" righty struck out better than a batter an inning and held opposing hitters to just a .211 average in 2011. A pitcher like that doesn't come cheap though. The Yankees were forced to part with prized hitting prospect Jesus Montero and 24 year old right-handed pitcher Hector Noesi.
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Kuroda, who turns 37 next month, is coming off of his best major league season. Despite having a losing record, Kuroda posted a 3.07 ERA and walked just 49 hitters in 202 innings with the Dodgers. His numbers are a bit skewed by the fact that he pitched in a pitcher's park in the National League, but he's a durable veteran with postseason experience and it's only a one year deal so it's a relatively low risk. Kuroda has never posted an ERA over 4.00 in his 4 major league seasons.

The Yankees now have the enviable problem of having 7 legitimate starting pitchers competing for 5 spots. CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, and the two new acquisitions would appear to be the logical 1-4 starters which means now A.J. Burnett, Freddy Garcia and Phil Hughes will battle it out for the number 5 spot. Not a bad problem to have.
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Let's take a closer look at what the Yankees had to give up for Pineda. Obviously the big piece of the deal was Montero. The 22 year old catching prospect made his major league debut late last season and in just 18 games hit .328 with 4 homers and 12 runs batted in. While his defense projects him to end up as a DH/first baseman type, there are no questions about his offense. He's hit, and hit for power, everywhere he's played so far. What's more, he can now pair up with Dustin Ackley, to form a nice young nucleus for the M's to build around. Noesi made his debut in 2011 as well appearing in 30 games and going 2-2 with a 4.47 ERA. Primarily a starter in the minors, Noesi was used primarily in middle relief with the Yankees although he did make a pair of starts and should compete for a spot in Seattle's rotation in 2012.

The Yankees also received 19 year old Venezuelan pitching prospect Jose Campos in the deal. Campos started 14 games last year in the Short-Season Northwest League and was 5-5 with a 2.32 ERA. He struck out 85 hitters in 81 1/3 innings.

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