Yankees trade Montero for Pineda, sign Kuroda
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So much for a quiet offseason: The Yankees shook up the baseball world Friday night with two moves designed to bolster their starting rotation and get them back to the World Series.
They agreed to send top catching prospect Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners in a four-player trade that brings stud righthander Michael Pineda to the Bronx. Then they agreed to a one-year, $10-million contract with free-agent righthander Hiroki Kuroda.
Both the trade and signing are pending physicals for all the players involved and were confirmed by a person familiar with the situation. Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, who has sat out most of the offseason as star players have changed teams at a dizzying pace, did not return a call seeking comment.
Pineda, a hard-throwing 6-7, 260-pound righthander who turns 23 on Wednesday, is the kind of young ace-in-the-making the Yankees have been seeking to develop or acquire for years. They have long coveted Seattle ace Felix Hernandez, but Pineda might be the next-best thing.
Pineda went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA for the Mariners last season and made the All-Star team after going 8-6 with a 3.03 ERA before the break. He tailed off in the second half, going 1-4 with a 5.12 ERA, but his 173 strikeouts in 171 innings led American League rookies. He finished fifth in the Rookie of the Year voting, a spot behind the Yankees' Ivan Nova.
Kuroda, who turns 37 on Feb. 10, went 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA for the Dodgers last season. He is a reliable veteran who should slot in nicely behind CC Sabathia and join Pineda, Nova, A.J. Burnett, Phil Hughes and Freddy Garcia to give the Yankees seven viable starters -- two or three more than they had in 2011, when they won an AL-best 97 games but lost to the Tigers in the first round of the playoffs.
The Yankees also picked up 19-year-old righthander Jose Campos from Seattle and sent righthander Hector Noesi to the Mariners in the Montero-Pineda deal. Campos was 5-5 with a 2.32 ERA for Class A Everett in 2011.
Noesi, 24, was 2-2 with a 4.47 ERA in 30 games, including two starts, for the Yankees in 2011.
Montero, 22, is among the top hitting prospects in baseball but is a raw talent as a catcher. The Yankees had planned to use him as a designated hitter this season; they now might look to sign a veteran bat to round out their roster, or they could be done adding payroll after signing Kuroda.
Yankees general partner Hal Steinbrenner told Newsday on Wednesday at the baseball owners' meetings in Arizona that he is "concerned" about the team's payroll. But Steinbrenner also said, "Having said that, if a deal comes up that has favorable terms, then it's something I'm going to look at."
Montero showed glimpses of his offensive potential when he hit .328 with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 61 at-bats last September and forced his way on to the postseason roster. But the Yankees have a bevy of top catching prospects behind him, including Austin Romine, who spent time in the majors last season. Still, it's unlikely the Yankees would have moved Montero except in a trade for what they consider a No. 1 or 1A pitcher.
Cashman also can dream about a future rotation of Sabathia, Pineda, Nova, Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances. Banuelos and Betances, the Yankees' top pitching prospects, are considered a year away from joining the big club.