Tag:Michael Pineda
Posted on: February 17, 2012 2:09 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2012 5:47 pm
 

Burnett needs to be more steely in Steel City

The Pirates, spurned by free agents Edwin Jackson and Roy Oswalt this winter, need pitching. The Yankees, bastion for tabloid headlines run amok, need less chaos and fewer knuckleheads.

Call the deal sending A.J. Burnett to Pittsburgh a win-win for both clubs.

Talks for this trade have been so interminable that they've made Best Picture Oscar nominee Tree of Life seem rapid-fire. But the deal finally is moving from the on-deck circle to completion: Colleague Jon Heyman reports that the Pirates have agreed to pay $13 million of the remaining $33 million on Burnett's deal, and that two low-level minor-leaguers will move from Pittsburgh to New York: right-hander Diego Moreno, 25, and outfielder Exicardo Cayones, 20.

Only losers in this trade are the New York tabloids ("After Yankees ace flops, here comes joker" read one classic headline as Burnett followed CC Sabathia in the playoffs against the Tigers last October).

It wasn't official, but Burnett's departure papers from the Yanks' rotation were punched on that dramatic Friday evening last month when general manager Brian Cashman deftly moved to acquire Michael Pineda from Seattle and sign free agent Hiroki Kuroda. The moves were stellar and stealth, immediately adding depth and talent that has been lacking from Joe Girardi's rotation for at least the past couple of years.

That wasn't supposed to be the case with Burnett, who donated his arm to the Bronx cause (and, apparently, his brain to science) when he signed the six-year $82.5 million deal before the 2009 season. For that, the Yankees got 34 victories from him over three seasons, and a clutch (and pivotal) Game 2 win in the 2009 World Series against Philadelphia.

But more often than not, it was the Land of 1,000 Headaches with A.J. as the Yankees spend inordinate amounts of time over the past two seasons trying to fix him like a broken-down sports car on the side of the road. Who knows how many man-hours pitching coach Larry Rothschild invested in him alone last season? And just think how much quality time Rothschild now will have available for Sabathia, Kuroda, Pineda, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes and others.

And for his part there's a good chance that, away from the New York spotlight and howling masses, Burnett can put some of the pieces back together again and help the Pirates. For one thing, he won't be freaking out about whether yet another potent AL East lineup will bash his brains in every fifth day. Facing St. Louis without Albert Pujols, Milwaukee without Prince Fielder and the Astros without anybody in the NL Central might be just what the shrink, er, doctor ordered.

Look, Burnett is a nice guy, a well-meaning guy and a hard-worker. But there historically has been a disconnect between his million-dollar arm and his brain. He was great at times, but always inconsistent, in Florida. He was at his best in Toronto when he was trying to emulate Roy Halladay and Doc's incredible work habits. He's a classic second-fiddle guy, needing to play Robin to someone else's Batman, even he's had the arm of Superman.

Pittsburgh, which has now suffered losing seasons dating back to Pie Traynor (or something like that), happily showed some signs of bounceback last year, especially early. At the All-Star break, the Bucs were in the thick of the NL Central race. But a pitching staff that owned a 3.17 ERA on July 25 fell apart thereafter. Not enough stamina or talent to last. No staying power.

Manager Clint Hurdle has some pieces in James McDonald, Jeff Karstens and Charlie Morton. GM Neal Huntington acquired Erik Bedard over the winter, which is worth a shot. Problem for the Pirates is, in their current state, their most folks' 10th or 11th choice on the free agent market. Jackson signed with the Nationals. Oswalt remains unsigned, scouring high and low for another landing spot.

Which is why focusing on a trade, and Burnett specifically, maybe isn't the first choice for the contenders out there but is the perfect move right now for Huntington. As maddeningly inconsistent as he's been, Burnett did throw 190 1/3 innings for the Yanks last summer, 186 2/3 before that and 207 innings in 2009.

Pittsburgh can use that. And Burnett can use a low-key place -- at least, a place lower key than Yankee Stadium -- as he reaches out to recapture lost glory for a team doing the same.

Here's hoping he does. Pittsburgh can really use it. And, from Burnett, the Yankees no longer need it.
Posted on: January 13, 2012 9:40 pm
 

Savvy Yankees hit home run with Pineda, Kuroda

Their winter hibernation just ended. And just like that, the New York Yankees made themselves into AL East favorites.

Adding Michael Pineda from Seattle has all the earmarks of acquiring a young CC Sabathia or, ahem, Felix Hernandez -- the ace the Mariners wouldn't trade.

Adding Hiroki Kuroda on a one-year, $10 million deal adds the kind of rotation depth they could only dream of last summer -- and, presumably, a right-hander with more staying power than Bartolo Colon had.

"Wow," one scout said Friday night. "They've been laying in the weeds. They hadn't done anything."

Yes. Hadn't.

Though the Yankees gave up a consensus future star in young slugger-to-be Jesus Montero, exactly the kind of young bat the Mariners need and a great move for them, Pineda and Kuroda join CC Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Phil Hughes, A.J. Burnett and maybe even Freddy Garcia in giving the Yankees the talent, depth and clout their rotation needs to take them deep into October.

Just a few days after meeting with the representatives for free agent Edwin Jackson, the Yankees became the talk of the industry on what had been a slow Friday night with their stealth move for Pineda, who, at 22, already is within sight of becoming an ace.

"He's got that kind of stuff," a scout who spent part of last summer focusing on AL West clubs said Friday night. "If you wanted to be conservative, he's a No. 2. He's got velocity, he came up with a slider that got better and better last year and he throws strikes. When he gives up a home run or a hard-hit ball, it does not chase him out of the strike zone.

"He's got that rare combination of stuff and control. He's young, he's not afraid, he's big, he's still growing and he's got makeup. He's a prize.

"And the Yankees will have, what, five years of control over him? He's the kind of guy you build around. Holy cow."

The Mariners were worried about rushing him too quickly last summer when they installed him into their rotation coming out of spring training. He pretty much immediately showed them, no sweat.

By season's end, over 28 starts, he struck out 173 hitters while walking just 55 over 171 innings. His average fastball was clocked at 94.7 m.p.h., according to FanGraphs.

What's notable about that? The fastballs of only three other AL starters checked in higher: Texas' Alexi Ogando, Detroit's Justin Verlander and Tampa Bay's David Price.

Kuroda? He turns 37 next month. But he gave the Dodgers 202 innings in 2011, going 13-16 with a 3.07 ERA. He's a competitor with fierce pride.

"Solid No. 3," the scout said. "He throws strikes, he's got good stuff, a crisp fastball that's deceptive and he throws harder than people think. He's at 90 to 94 with sink down in the zone, a crisp breaking ball and a good split.

"He's got out pitches. I'd love to have Kuroda."

Now the Yankees do. And Pineda. And Sabathia and Nova and Hughes and Burnett. ...

And as they search for a hitter, for now, they've still got 6-8 right-hander Dellin Betances and lefty Manny Banuelos, who opened many eyes last spring.

"Hanging onto Betances and Banuelos [and with Pineda on board], they've got three young-gun studs who should pitch for them for a long time," the scout said. "And Nova's not that old and Hughes isn't that old.

"They've got the makings of a young, under-control staff."

Yeah, sure, why not? On a night on which the Yankees proved they're not sleeping through the winter, why not add to their opponents' misery just a little bit more?
Posted on: August 31, 2011 8:35 pm
 

Big vote of confidence from M's to Z

Jack Zduriencik, who one year ago was an embattled general manager, now is an extended general manager.

No longer is he on a short leash in Seattle, where the Mariners clearly think 2010 was an aberration.

The club awarded Zduriencik a "multi-year extension of his existing contract", declining to announce terms, which really isn't necessary anyway. The deal alone speaks volumes.

One year ago, the Mariners suffered through one of the most agonizing seasons in club history. Not only did they lose 101 games, but they acquired a relief pitcher at the trade deadline who a year earlier had faced rape and sodomy charges and later pled no contest to a reduced charge of false imprisonment with violence.

At the time, Zduriencik said he did not know of Josh Lueke's ugly past, which meant one of two things, neither of which were admirable: Either the Mariners didn't do nearly the homework they should have done before the deal (which sent Cliff Lee to Texas and also brought back first baseman Justin Smoak), or Zduriencik simply wanted Lueke so badly he lied to the front office about his lack of knowledge.

The Mariners embarrassed themselves on the field, and off. It was a total train wreck, and a classic case of an executive going from genius to dunce in the blink of an eye.

Because, see, nobody in the game appeared smarter than Zduriencik during his debut season as GM in '09. Thanks to a flurry of moves in the winter of '08-'09, the GM dragged the Mariners out of the depths of -- yes -- a 101-loss season in '08 to an 85-77 record in '09.

That the Mariners have regained their balance from last year's 101-loss debacle to extend the GM not only is a good thing for Zduriencik, but for Seattle baseball. This is a smart man, with a sound plan, who knows players. The best way to position yourself for long-term success in this game is with continuity, and if the Lueke incident or more cost Zduriencik his job and moved the Mariners off course from his plan, it would have been disruptive for the next several seasons.

The Mariners are 20 games under .500, really not awful considering the freakish 17-game losing streak they endured earlier this season and given the fact that 12 of the 25 players on the current 25-man roster are rookies (and that 10 players have made their major-league debuts for the Mariners this summer).

No, things aren't anywhere close to perfect yet in Seattle. But in kids like Michael Pineda, Dustin Ackley, Kyle Seager and Trayvon Robinson, the foundation has been set. Keeping Felix Hernandez remains smart, despite what several armchair GMs in the national media might think.

Somehow, Zduriencik has got to find some bats, or this will be the last contract extension he receives. But I'm sure he already knows that. And I think he'll figure out a way to accomplish it.

Hey, one of the best draft picks he made as Milwaukee's scouting director is headed for free agency this winter.

Prince Fielder, anyone?
 
 
 
 
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