Pair of moves land Pineda, Kuroda with Yanks
Bombers to send Montero to Seattle, near deal with veteran righty
NEW YORK -- The Yankees solved the lingering questions of their starting rotation and shattered their quiet winter in just one night, nearing completion on deals that will fit right-handers Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda for pinstripes in 2012.
In Pineda's case, the price proved to be a steep one, as New York agreed to ship power-hitting catcher Jesus Montero to the Mariners in a four-player trade.
Though the teams have not made an official announcement, sources confirmed that Seattle is set to send Pineda and Minor League pitcher Jose Campos to the Yankees for Montero and 24-year-old right-hander Hector Noesi.
Shortly after news of the Seattle trade leaked, the YES Network reported that the Yankees also completed a one-year, $10 million deal with Kuroda. The deals are pending the completion of physicals.
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman had shown steady interest in Kuroda as a free agent for weeks and had, in fact, gauged the Yankees' chances of trading for him last summer when the veteran was with the Dodgers.
Kuroda, who turns 37 in February, was 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA in 32 starts for Los Angeles last season. He has a career record of 41-46 and a 3.45 ERA in 115 big league games since 2008 and had also drawn some level of interest from the Red Sox this winter.
Pineda and Kuroda figure to slot behind ace CC Sabathia, bolstering a rotation that the Yankees had hoped to upgrade before pitchers and catchers report in approximately five weeks.
Managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner approved the expenditure for Kuroda, which the Yankees saw as a reasonable fit, even though New York has been quietly hoping to reduce its payroll below $189 million for the 2014 season.
Pineda, who turns 23 on Wednesday, showcased a bright future by going 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA last year as a rookie starter. The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Dominican made the American League All-Star team after an outstanding first half.
He then struggled some and did not win a game in his final seven starts over the final two months of the year, as the Mariners cut back on his workload to protect his arm.
The youngster led all AL rookies in strikeouts with 173 in 171 innings last year, walking just 55. He posted the lowest WHIP (1.10) and second-lowest opponents batting average (.211) and quality starts (19) among AL rookies.
During a May series at Safeco Field, Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira called the pairing of Pineda and ace Felix Hernandez "the best one-two punch in baseball."
Subscribing to Cashman's mantra that "pitching is the key to the kingdom," it was the type of tantalizing arm that the Yankees were willing to dig deep for, despite the fact that they think highly of the 22-year-old Montero.
Generally regarded as one of baseball's premier right-handed power prospects, Montero batted .328 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 61 September at-bats last year. He was set to enter 2012 as New York's starting designated hitter and a backup to catcher Russell Martin.
Seattle is likely to view Montero in the same mold, expecting him to provide middle-of-the-order production for an offense that finished last in the Majors in scoring the past two years.
Indeed, the Mariners also had interest in trading for Montero in July 2010, when talks with the Yankees for left-hander Cliff Lee crumbled and Lee went instead to the Rangers.
While he has earned some comparisons to Mike Piazza, there have been questions about Montero's long-term future at catcher, with some scouts viewing him more as a designated hitter or first baseman.
New York also receives Campos, a 19-year-old right-hander who went 5-5 with a 2.32 ERA for Class A Everett last year and is regarded as a quality prospect.
Cashman had trumpeted Noesi, 24, as a solid rotation contender. Clocked in the high 90s during winter ball, Noesi pitched 30 games for the Yankees last season -- including two starts -- while posting a 2-2 record and a 4.47 ERA.
The Yankees had decided that Noesi would be starting this year to build his endurance. He figures to compete for a starting slot with Seattle behind King Felix, for whom the Mariners have steadfastly refused all offers.
Montero was ninth on MLB.com's Top 50 prospects list for 2011, with Pineda 13th. Montero is now sixth.
New York's rotation now projects as a crowded mix behind Sabathia, Pineda and Kuroda, after the club re-signed Freddy Garcia to a one-year, $4 million contract earlier in the winter.
They also figure to have A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and 16-game winner Ivan Nova competing for slots when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training on Feb. 19.
It is possible that one person in that group could be dealt before that time if the Yankees choose to pursue the trade market for a bat to replace Montero in the DH slot.