It is remarkable how news is delivered and digested in the Twitter Era. It comes at us in a flurry–rumors, confirmations, reactions, analysis. There is little time for reflection and an overload of hyperactive reaction.
Last night, the trade of Jesus Montero to the Mariners for Michael Pineda, prompted conflicting feelings for Yankee fans. Many are disappointed to see Montero leave. Here is a player that was nurtured by the organization–even though they dangled him a year-and-a-half ago to Seattle for Cliff Lee–a guy who looked more than promising when he arrived in the Bronx late last year. Montero was hyped, of course, this being New York, but he was also a player that many of us felt would be a pleasure to watch in pinstripes for the next decade. And now that is gone–whoosh.
Montero is being replaced by the another promising player, a young pitcher with a great fastball and an effective silder, but Pineda is not our guy. We’ve got no attachment to him yet. He’s just a face, a stat line. He’s not The Jesus.
The arguments run both ways–hitters aren’t as risky as pitchers, a starting pitcher is more valuable than a DH, a great hitter catcher is even more important than a good starting pitcher–and they are all valid. Yankee fans are experiencing duel emotions but there is room to mourn the loss of Montero and to be eager about the addition of Pineda. The risk involved in trading something as precious as Montero and Pineda makes this all the more unsettling. So we’re anxious, and that’s what makes this exciting and gives us baseball nerds something to keep our engines going in the middle of winter.
Here are reactions around the web from: David Waldstein (The Times); Cliff Corcoran (SI); Paul Swydan (Fangraphs); Steven Goldman (Pinstriped Bible); William J (The Captain’s Blog); can’t forget No Maas, and over at It’s about the Money Stupid, check out this fine collection of links from around the web.
Finally, here’s Dave Cameron with a scouting report on Pineda over at Fangraphs:
Among qualified AL starting pitchers last year, only Brandon Morrow and Justin Verlander posted a higher strikeout rate than Pineda, who whiffed 24.9% of the batters he faced. His K% was better than David Price, CC Sabathia, and yes, even Felix. Pineda’s live fastball and willingness to live up in the strike zone led to a lot of swinging strikes, and that had nothing to do with the park he played in.
Lots of young pitchers can throw hard and rack up strikeouts, however. What sets Pineda apart is his impeccable command at such a young age. 66 percent of the pitches he threw last year were strikes, and his 7.9% BB% was below the league average. It is highly uncommon to see a kid with that kind of live arm arrive in the Major Leagues pounding the zone, but that’s exactly what Pineda did. 94-97 MPH fastballs to get ahead, and then an out-pitch slider or a fastball out of the zone with two strikes to get the K. It was a recipe for success, and Pineda used his command of those two pitches to establish himself as one of the game’s best young starting pitchers.
So, while he’s not perfect (his change-up is lousy and left-handers can still jump on him from time to time), Yankees fans should be thrilled with their new addition. And, given the price that other young arms have been fetching this winter, they should be even more thrilled with the cost.
Pineda is the third quality young arm to get traded this winter, following the trades that shipped Gio Gonzalez to Washington and Mat Latos to Cincinnati. Given that both pitchers come with one fewer year of team control and lack Pineda’s dominating fastball, a strong case could be made that the Yankees new starter is the most valuable asset of the three guys that were moved. However, compared to the other two packages surrendered, the Yankees didn’t really pay much of a premium to get Pineda, and one could even make an argument that they gave up less value overall than what the Reds surrendered to get Latos.