Yankees Improve Rotation by Trading for Michael Pineda and Signing Hiroki Kuroda

Josh BurtonContributor IIIJanuary 14, 2012

The Yankees surprised the baseball world on Friday by trading highly touted catching prospect Jesus Montero and young pitcher Hector Noesi to the Seattle Mariners for young, hard-throwing, right-handed SP Michael Pineda and minor league righty Jose Campos, according to multiple sources including MLB Trade Rumors.

There were some rumors about the Mariners making a blockbuster trade earlier in the day, but the Yankees seemed to pop out of nowhere to finalize the deal. Then, after all the excitement of the trade, the Yankees made another big transaction by signing free agent and former Dodgers starting pitcher Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year contract in the $10 to $11 million range.

Regarding the trade for Pineda, I love it from the perspective of both teams, as the main players each team received fit their respective stadiums well. Safeco Field, where the Mariners play their home games, is more of a pitcher's park (try much more) than Yankee Stadium, and a power hitter like Montero is someone Seattle desperately needs to liven up that terrible offense.

In an extreme bandbox like Yankee Stadium, the Yankees need to have as effective a pitching rotation as possible, and the additions of Pineda and Kuroda to their staff greatly increase the chance of that happening.

Now, the Yankees' rotation from No. 1 to No. 5 looks like: CC Sabathia, Pineda, Kuroda (Pineda and Kuroda could flip-flop), A.J. Burnett and finally, Ivan Nova. There are also a few exclusions to that rotation, who could find themselves in the bullpen or in Triple-A, like Freddy Garcia, Bartolo Colon or Phil Hughes.

The moves are bringing in an excess of productive starting pitchers for Joe Girardi to choose from, which gives the Yankees skipper and GM Brian Cashman the flexibility to try to get rid of the incredibly inconsistent and much-maligned Burnett, whose contract and performance are evidence of another Yankee contract that went horribly wrong.

Montero had the chance to be the next great homegrown Yankee, hopefully to be in the company of Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Mariano Rivera or even Bernie Williams,  but yet again, the Yankees chose to trade away the homegrown talent for a more established player that another organization developed through the minor leagues.

Most of the times the Yankees have done this, the trade has overwhelmingly worked in their favor (think Curtis Granderson trade), but it has also cost the Yankees a lot of money in terms of overpaid players.

However, the reason that the Pineda trade seems to be one of the best ones that Cashman has made in his tenure with the Yankees is that he is being paid next to nothing right now ($414,000, which will change when Pineda hits arbitration in 2013).

With this trade, the Yankees don't handcuff themselves financially, which they somewhat do with the Kuroda signing. There is no doubt that Hiroki Kuroda is a solid MLB pitcher who has posted near-200 IP and mid-3.00 ERA seasons throughout most of his career.

I don't personally think that a pitcher with those stats deserves an annual salary of around $10 million, but then again, they are the Yankees.

Even if Kuroda turns out to be a major dud (which I don't think will happen, but it is certainly possible), the deep pockets of the Steinbrenners will make that mistake somehow disappear.

If I were to grade the moves separately, I would give Cashman and the Yankees an A for the Pineda trade and a B- for the Kuroda signing.

Don't get me wrong, the players the Yankees added to their team will no doubt help the team more than the players who left would have, but I think the Yankees would have fared better to spend less on the free-agent pitcher signing, and if I was GM, I would have gone after a less expensive option like Edwin Jackson as a middle-of-the-rotation reliever.

That's just my opinion, and I'm sure it's one of many about the Yankees' Friday the 13th transactions.