Mike D., a writer for the Yankees Fans Unite blog, generously agreed to answer a few questions I had about the Yankees’ offseason. In exchange, I answered his Rangers questions here: http://yankeesfansunite.wordpress.com/2012/02/19/previewing-the-2012-rangers-interview-series/
How do you feel about Pineda and Kuroda? Would you have preferred other FA SP such as Buerhle, Wilson, or even a trade to acquire Gonzalez, Danks, or Cain?
I have to say- when I first saw the news that the Yankees were trading Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda, I was extremely disappointed. No matter who you are trading a hyped top prospect for, the initial reaction is not typically a good one. However, the trade really grew on me and I eventually became very supportive of it. Although Montero would have been a terrific young bat to plug into the Yankees’ lineup, young talented starting pitching was more of a need for the Yanks. Pineda probably brings the pitching equivalent of what Montero would provide in terms of offense. He is young, extremely talented, under team control for a very long time, and has room to grow. I look forward to seeing how he develops as Pineda has the potential to be a MLB ace. Just an hour or two after the news of the trade broke, it was announced that the Yankees had signed Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal. It is pretty impossible not to like the signing, as Kuroda is a very solid number 3 or 4 starter. He should be a stable arm that will eat up a large number of innings and keep the Yankees in the ballgame when he pitches.
I’m quite happy with the Yankees’ offseason pitching additions. Brian Cashman did an excellent job in holding off from splurging on guys like C.J. Wilson and Mark Buehrle, or emptying the farm system for Gio Gonzalez or Mat Latos. Instead, he waited and was able to trade a young, promising bat for a young, promising arm, without overspending.
Brian Cashman has stated that he is making every effort to get the Yankees under the luxury tax threshold for the coming seasons. How do you see the Yankees limiting their spending somewhat affecting the team going forward?
I think the Yankees are being and will continue to be very conscious about their spending. The Pineda trade is living proof of that. Rather than pursuing one of the top free agent pitchers like C.J. Wilson or Yu Darvish, Cashman chose to make a move for cost-controlled young pitching. I would expect him to do the same in the near future (within the next year or so) for a solid bat. With the $189 million 2014 threshold looming, the Yankees will have to make some difficult choices. They could opt to go with a lights-out pitching staff by signing someone like Cole Hamels or Matt Cain after this season, OR they could try to sign another bat to add to the everyday lineup. The general consensus is that Cashman won’t be able to do both next offseason, and still remain under the $189M mark in 2014. That is why I think we’ll be seeing more moves like the Montero for Pineda trade moving forward. It might be necessary to continue to pursue young, cost-controlled players in order to stay under the luxury tax threshold.
I’m not overly worried about the farm system currently. Although it would have been quite nice to see Montero have a full season for the Yanks and for Andrew Brackman to pan out, the Yankees will be fine. They still have one of the stronger lineups in the game, and their starting rotation is terrific 1-4, not to mention a lights out bullpen. The minor league pitching depth is a definite area of strength especially in the upper levels, with guys such as David Phelps and Adam Warren pretty ready for the majors. Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances will be in AAA this year, and could possibly (but not probably) be additions to the MLB pitching staff late in the year. I will say that Betances’ development has been a bit concerning, as it seems more than likely that he will become a bullpen arm rather than a SP in the majors. Even without Montero in the system anymore, catching depth remains a strength of the organization. They have very promising guys like Austin Romine in AAA, and Gary Sanchez and J.R. Murphy in the lower levels.
However, I am worried about the teams supply of impact bats in the upper levels of the system. With Montero gone, high impact bats are fairly scarce. With an aging MLB lineup, the Yankees could definitely use some more offensive depth in the upper levels of the minor league system. With that said, the Yankees do have quite a lot of position player talent in the lower levels. They have some very interesting young outfielders in the system like Mason Williams, Ravel Santana, and Slade Heathcott. Additionally, they are fairly deep in the infield with players such as Dante Bichette Jr. and Tyler Austin in the lower levels.
I think that the Boston Red Sox are a very, very formidable opponent for the Yankees in the AL East. Bobby Valentine certainly brings a different dynamic to Boston, and with that lineup, they remain extremely dangerous. The Rays and Blue Jays aren’t teams to brush aside either. With their talent, they could provide some strong competition for the throne of the AL East. Although the Yankees improved a lot this offseason, I think the competitiveness of the AL East will remain high in 2012, as well as in the future just as it has always been.
I expect great things from the Yankees in 2012. I certainly don’t think a 95-100 game season is out of reach for them, as they really are a very well balanced team. The rotation looks very good with C.C. Sabathia, Ivan Nova, Hiroki Kuroda, Michael Pineda, and either Phil Hughes or Freddy Garcia. The bullpen on paper looks to be one the best (if not the best) in the MLB, with Mariano Rivera and terrific arms like David Robertson, Rafael Soriano, and Joba Chamberlain (who is coming back from Tommy John Surgery in June). I’d say the key to the Yankees 2012 season and postseason is the lineup. Because they no longer have Montero at DH, I think guys like Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez, and Nick Swisher really need to step it up a notch in order for the Yankees to achieve maximum success in 2012. But on paper, I think the Yankees are as good a team as any in the American League.