The Asssassin Strikes Again

All winter we have waited, waited for Brian Cashman to make a move to improve the Yankees. Tonight he struck with authority. Not only did he dramatically remake the roster, he did it intelligently. Let’s start with the big trade- Montero and Noesi to Seattle for Pineda and Campos.

There’s an old baseball adage, never trade a pitcher for a hitter. I agree with that, with one important exception. Trade the hitter when you don’t have a position for him and the Yankees clearly didn’t with Montero. If you were one of the ones who believed Montero could catch in the bigs, tonight is a bad night for you because the Yankees just potentially gave up one of the best offensive catchers ever. But, if you are like me and countless others who doubted Montero’s abilities behind the plate, you have to like this trade.

Let’s go through the obvious objections Yankees’ fans will have. Start with- would you rather have A-Rod or Montero? Of course, I would prefer Montero at this point, but there is no way you could get rid of A-Rod, period. Any trade scenario you can dream up that includes A-Rod is a fantasy. Move onto- would you rather have Teixeira or Montero? Again, I prefer Montero, but like A-Rod, how do you trade Teixeira? At some point, even the biggest Montero supporter has to realize that he is a man without a position on the Yankees. His catching is suspect, first is blocked and A-Rod is going to have to DH a lot in the very near future. We can bitch and moan about that being the case, but remember, without A-Rod and Teixeira, you probably don’t have a 2009 championship. And, please remember how you feel about those two now the next time you want the Yankees to sign a free agent to a big deal. Sooner or later those deals turn sour. (To be fair, I think Teixeira will be just fine for awhile longer. A-Rod’s health worries me greatly.) So, what do you do with Montero in that case? You turn him into a something you need and the Yankees needed pitching.

Enter MIchael Pineda, a 6′ 7″ flamethrower who threw 171 innings in the bigs last year and posted a 3.74 ERA (3.42 FIP). This guy is what you hope Betances turns into and he is under team control until 2017. He’s not Felix Hernandez, but this guy is plenty good and will have the protection of Sabathia in front of him. He may not be the #2 guy immediately but he should grow into the role. If you are one of the guys (like me) hoping the Yankees develop a Betances or Banuelos for the rotation, you cannot dislike this move.

As much as I like the primary part of the trade, the secondary part is where I think the Yankees got a steal. I like Hector Noesi, but I doubt his upside is much more than 5th starter/long reliever. He’s 25 and the Yankees have plenty of other arms (Phelps, Warren, etc.) who project to Noesi’s level. In exchange for him they get a huge prospect, Jose Campos. Campos is a long way from the bigs, but he has already impressed people with his performance and his stuff. We probably won’t know until 2014 or so, but Campos looks like he will be a big piece of the staff in the future.

After that big meal the Yankees gave us all a nice dessert with the addition of Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda isn’t as good as his 3.07 ERA last year indicates, but he is a 200-inning pitcher who should produce an ERA around 4 in the AL. More importantly, with Sabathia, Pineda and Kuroda, the Yankees can trade AJ and still have Nova, Hughes and Garcia around to fill out the rotation.

And I would bet almost anything the Yankees aren’t done. They have suddenly created a hole in the lineup at DH and there are plenty of bats that could fill that void on the market and very few internal ones. We can dream of a one-year flier on Prince, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Carlos Pena or Johnny Damon back in pinstripes in the near future.

For now, enjoy a great night for the Yankees.