One of the biggest stories of this offseason had been what the New York Yankees weren’t doing this year.
But so much for that. After standing silently for the past 10 weeks, the Yankees struck with the biggest shock-and-awe move of the offseason.
In a matter of hours Friday night, the Yankees made two high-impact moves to restructure their pitching staff, first obtaining 22-year-old right-hander Michael Pineda in a trade with the Mariners for highly touted catcher Jesus Montero, and then signing free-agent right-hander Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year, $10-million deal.
The move gives the Yankees two front-line starters behind ace C.C. Sabathia. Adding Pineda gives them three quality starters – with Ivan Nova and Phil Hughes – all 25 or younger. And Kuroda, 36, adds an experienced stable arm that forces the wobbly likes of Freddy Garcia and A.J. Burnett to the back of the rotation.
It also ends the Yankees’ chase for free-agent right hander Edwin Jackson. And with a big spender like New York out of the chase for Scott Boras’ client, it might make Jackson a more realistic possibility for the Orioles, who have expressed plenty of interest in the 28-year-old. The biggest obstacle will still be the length of the deal.
Montero was slated to be the Yankees’ starting designated hitter – his defense at catcher has been a concern and Russell Martin was stellar behind the plate last year. So that opens a DH hole in New York’s lineup, and the possibility of free-agent Johnny Damon returning to the Bronx. If the Orioles are indeed interested in Damon as their DH, they suddenly have some competition. And the O’s haven’t had much luck beating the Yankees of late, nor do they want to get into a bidding war with them for a 38-year-old.
But the savviest part of the Yankees’ deal is obtaining a 22-year-old front-line starter who doesn’t become arbitration eligible until 2014. Just a few days ago, the work was the Yankees were balking on giving Edwin Jackson $15-17 million a year over five years.
They quickly made that problem go away. Pineda will make less an a million this season. It’s always better to get high-end arms by trade instead of paying a premium – and often overpaying – in the free-agent market. That's big for the Yankees' payroll
Look for some trickle-down reaction moves in the division. The Red Sox could counter by signing free-agent pitcher Roy Oswalt, who is reportedly seeking a one-year, $8-million deal. But Oswalt has a lack of suitors, and Boston would play the waiting game with him, a little like the Yankees did with Kuroda.
And let’s see if that trickle down reaches Baltimore.