Hindsight is 20/20, and if Brian Cashman and the New York Yankees were to look back now, I’m not sure whether the team would have pulled the trade that sent then-top prospect Jesus Montero to the Seattle Mariners for Michael Pineda.
The Yankees thought they were getting a 23-year old who could give the team a duo of aces atop the rotation, and were willing to give up the best hitting prospect in baseball to acquire him. Instead, Pineda’s mechanics caught up to him, and the righty suffered a tear in his right shoulder in Spring Training last season that caused him to miss the entire year.
Now, going into the 2013 season, the Mariners are committed to making Montero a full-time catcher, while the Yankees are planning on running a less-than-idea option in Francisco Cervelli behind the plate. As for Pineda? He won’t be a factor until at least June of this year.
So no, things did not turn out the way that the Yankees had planned as far as the trade goes. But, there’s still plenty of time for that outlook to change, and the team’s patience could be rewarded yet.
Yes, Pineda slowed badly in the second half of his rookie season, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that for half of his rookie year, the then-22-year old was among the elite pitchers in the league, and made it to the All-Star game as a rookie (it was as a replacement, but I digress).
If he can bring the kind of explosive stuff that got him to that point with the Yankees by mid-season, the Yankees would immediately receive the impact of a number-two pitcher with the raw abilities to challenge even C.C. Sabathia as the top dog.
That kind of addition can’t be understated. Even though Phil Hughes showed stretches of excellence last year, and Ivan Nova have good enough stuff to be a more-than-adequate No. 5 starter for this team, neither provides the kind of upside that Pineda brings to the table.
The Yankees are hoping that he can do that by June this year. The 24-year old reportedly showed up to camp 20 pounds lighter than he did last year, and while Cashman is “cautiously optimistic” about the sophomore’s progress this year, the team will not hesitate to hold him back until he’s absolutely certain that the shoulder is 100% ready.
As Bryan Hoch of MLB.com points out, the track record of pitchers with torn labrums is littered with disappointment, and Pineda has his work cut out for him to buck that trend. He will need to show the velocity that he lost before the surgery, and there might be set backs on the way. That said, he’ll be given every chance to validate the price it cost to bring him to New York last year.
Giving the Yankees four months of the All-Star caliber stuff he had as a rookie will go a long way to doing that in 2013.