Hooray for Yankees! XD~ See how quite Yankees’ front office was in winter but here we go! Not only the most urgent rotation problem is solved but the way to 2012 World Series Champion seems to emerge! 😛
“How can I improve what I already have?” Cashman said on Thursday, repeating to a reporter the very question he’d been asking himself since November.
Only 24 hours later, the American League had its answer.
The Yankees on Friday bolstered their starting rotation with stunning efficiency, acquiring Michael Pineda in a trade with the Mariners and signing free agent Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal.
Just like that, the Bombers not only separated themselves from the Red Sox and Rays in the East, they cleared a path back to the World Series.
The moves didn’t come without cost, of course: The Yankees parted with catcher-DH Jesus Montero, whom they considered a latter-day Mike Piazza, as well as Hector Noesi, who had a chance to become the No. 5 starter this spring. Both players were products of an improving farm system that, Cashman loved to say, was laying the groundwork for the post-Derek Jeter, post-Mariano Rivera, post-Jorge Posada era.
The Yankees were moved by Pineda’s power numbers, notably the strikeout ratio that exceeded one per inning. They considered his age (23 on Jan. 18) ideal, not to mention his affordability ($415,000 salary last year) and the fact he’s under team control through 2016 and not even arbitration eligible until after 2013.
Pineda, arguably the best (very) young pitcher in the game, likely will end up as the Yankees’ No. 2 starter behind CC Sabathia, taking pressure off Ivan Nova, who becomes the No. 3 starter, and forcing Hughes, Burnett and Freddy Garcia into a desperate battle to hold onto their spots at the back of the rotation.
Two of the three are guaranteed to become casualties, as Kuroda will lock down the No. 4 spot. It would be an understatement to say the Bombers have been chasing the Japanese right-hander; they’ve all but stalked him, having attempted to sign him as a free agent last offseason, making a second run at him before the trade deadline in July and resuming negotiations again this winter.
Kuroda, after all, posted a very respectable 1.21 WHIP in 2011 and averaged nearly a strikeout an inning in his age-36 season. There will be an expected deterioration in 2012, given the NL-to-AL transition, but Cashman was able to persuade Steinbrenner to inflate the payroll by another $10 million with the assurance that Kuroda gives the Yankees their best rotation in at least four years.
But as much of an upgrade as Kuroda is over Burnett or Hughes, the centerpiece of Friday’s moves was still Pineda, whose 95 mph fastball generated a 12 percent swing-and-miss ratio last year, nearly 50 percent better than the league average.
A week ago the world was (almost) convinced it was going to be a quiet winter in the Bronx. Fat chance.