Yanks could have something special in Pineda
All of these starting pitchers were, or still are, available to the Yankees this offseason. Some via free agency, some via trade, one via the posting system for Japanese League players.
The Yankees sniffed around each one. They bandied about trade proposals or exchanged preliminary contractual concepts with agents. In the case of Darvish, they made a bid that turned out to be much lower than the winning one.
In the end, only one potential No. 2 starter intrigued the Yankees enough to warrant the inclusion of their top hitting prospect, Jesus Montero, in a trade that was agreed to Friday.
Pineda, who turns 23 Wednesday, was not linked to the Yankees -- or anyone else, for that matter. So it was a surprise when word leaked about the four-player trade that will be announced sometime this week after the players involved take -- and presumably pass -- their physicals.
The other pitcher the Yankees added Friday, free agent Hiroki Kuroda, has been on their radar for more than a year. His one-year, $10-million deal -- also yet to be announced and awaiting a physical -- was less of a surprise.
Pineda is the kind of young pitcher teams drool over. The kind that rarely is available in trades because he will be under the Yankees' contractual control for the next five seasons.
"Those kinds of guys you just don't trade," a baseball executive who requested anonymity in exchange for his thoughts on Pineda said Saturday. "Guys that you control for five or six years. You can trade a fourth or fifth starter, but this guy has the potential to be a one-two."
A 6-7, 260-pound righthander from the Dominican Republic, Pineda made the American League All-Star team in his rookie season for Seattle. He finished fifth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting, one spot behind new rotation-mate Ivan Nova of the Yankees.
"He's a big kid who has a very good arm," the executive said. "He's got velocity between 94 and 97. He's a strikeout guy. He's only 23 years old. He's one of the better young pitchers, especially power pitchers, in the game."
Pineda went 9-10 with a 3.74 ERA in 28 starts for Seattle last season. In 171 innings, he struck out 173, gave up only 133 hits and walked only 55. His 1.10 WHIP was eighth-best in the AL.
Pineda's win total reflects the poor offense of the Mariners, who were the worst-hitting team in the AL. Remember, Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young Award in 2010 with a 13-12 record; voters did not penalize him for Seattle's chronically weak bats.
According to the website Fangraphs.com, Pineda averaged 94.7 miles per hour with his fastball, 94.3 with a sinker he rarely threw, 87.7 with his developing changeup and 84.1 with a slider that is his second-best pitch.
In other words, he's a power pitcher.
"Not only does he throw hard, but he has command," the executive said. "He only has two pitches. He's going to need more than that."
Pineda faded in the second half of the season, with a 5.12 ERA compared with 3.03 in the first half. In 2009, he threw only 471/3 innings in the minors because of elbow trouble that did not require surgery. He upped that to 1391/3 minor-league innings in 2010. The Mariners were careful with him, imposing innings limits the last two seasons.
According to the website baseball-reference.com, the two pitchers most similar to Pineda at age 22 were Josh Beckett and Roy Halladay. It's a funky statistical way of saying what scouts have been saying about Pineda since he grew from a 6-3, 180-pound 16-year-old the Mariners signed for about $35,000 in 2005: He's got a chance to be really, really good for a long time.
"I think the Yankees made a good trade," the executive said.
The Yankees also will receive 19-year-old righthander Jose Campos, who was 5-5 in Class A last year.
The Mariners will get major league-ready righthander Hector Noesi, who turns 25 Jan. 26. He pitched in 30 games for the Yankees in 2011.