I guess I should react to the trade now, huh? When I first heard that the Yankees had traded Jesus Montero to the Mariners for Michael Pineda, my first reaction was to scream a word that is not appropriate for a family blog such as this one. But, the more I thought about it, I became slightly less annoyed. It’s sad to see Jesus Montero go, especially after the tantalizing display he put on last year in his cup of coffee with the big league team. Even if the Yankees thought Montero had no future at catcher, I thought he would’ve provided value by being a cheap DH who produced like a well above average DH. But, the Yankees decided to go another route. They traded future middle-of-the-order security for future middle-of-the-rotation security. If there is a type of player you’re going to trade Montero for, it’s Michael Pineda. He’s young, extremely talented, and has many years of team control left. I swear (and I’ll break this, so I don’t know why I’m swearing) to never fall in love with a prospect again…Anyway, despite the big gains in the rotation this weekend (yay, Hiroki Kuroda!), there is still a hole left to fill for the Yankees.
Montero figured to get the lion’s share of the DH at bats this season and without him, the Yankees don’t have a clear DH. They could rotate the DH to give Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira, Derek Jeter, etc. half days off, but that presents a problem in that it gives inferior players way too many plate appearances. While the Yankees have a strong enough lineup that they could support a DH rotation, that doesn’t mean they should do it. There are some options out there, including possible reunions with Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui, but the best option out there is most definitely Carlos Pena.
Pena, who was briefly in the Yankee farm system in 2006, has blossomed since leaving. He broke out in 2007, destroying the competition by hitting .282/.411/.627 with a .430 wOBA and 167 wRC+. That year, he smacked 46 homers and had a ridiculous IsoP of .345. 2008 and 2009 weren’t quite as good, but still solid. He turned in back to back .374 wOBA marks (131/130 wRC+ respectively). 2010 was ugly in that Carlos batted just .195. He still, however, turned in a .325 OBP (thanks to a 14.9% walk rate) and a .407 SLG (.211 Iso) leading to an above average (105 wRC+) wOBA of .326. His batting average (.225) didn’t rebound in 2011, but everything else was more than acceptable. He ended with a .357 OBP (16.7% walk rate) and a .462 SLG (.237 Iso), giving him a wOBA of .354 and a wRC+ of 119.
If anything, and this is exactly what the Yankees want and need in their lineup (as does every team), Pena is a guy who’s going to get on base a lot and hit a lot of balls into the stands. The strikeout totals are a bit annoying, but they’re clearly offset by all the walks and the power. Michael Kay, who can’t stop commenting on Pena’s strikeout problems when the Yankees face him, may not approve, but signing Pena would be wise. And if he is brought in to DH, I’d like to see him used strictly against right handed pitching. Why? Because he mauls, destroys, terminates, demolishes, and straight-up-wrecks right handed pitching. Since and including 2007, here are his OBP/SLG/wOBA/wRC+ numbers against righties:
He may not be in the crazy stratosphere against righties like he was a few years ago, but it’s abundantly clear that Pena can more than handle himself against righties. If he’s signed, there are a few ways the Yankees could approach the lineup. They could do a straight up DH platoon with Pena and Andruw Jones, leaving Brett Gardner to play LF, even against lefties. They could decide to give Alex Rodriguez DH days against lefties, while inserting Eduardo Nunez at third and Andruw Jones in left, while Pena and Garder hang on the bench. They could bring in another RHB. There are a lot of things they can do.
This all makes a lot of sense, but of course it’s only part of the equation. We may want the Yankees to want Pena, but do they want Pena? (Looks like they have at least some interest) And more importantly, does Pena want the Yankees. There is the possibility that he wants to sign somewhere else to play first base. If those things line up, and it looks like they might, Pena would be a wonderful fit for the Yankees at first.
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