It’s finally here! Pitchers and Catchers report to spring training today, unofficially marking the end of the offseason and the beginning of the preseason. The Yankees will report to camp this year with some key personnel changes. In fact, this has been the busiest offseason for the team since the winter of 2008.
The most recent change, of course, is the long anticipated departure of A.J. Burnett. While the deal isn’t yet official, barring an unforeseen surprise A.J. has pitched his last game as a Yankee and his reign of terror in Pittsburgh is about to begin. The move essentially guarantees that Phil Hughes will be given every opportunity to prove himself as the Yankees’ fifth starter. Failing that, expect the Bombers to move him to the bullpen and turn to veteran Freddy Garcia as an insurance option.
The Yankees also signed Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda’s signing was somewhat under the radar, for a Yankee move, but he brings proven talent to the team. His presence allows the Yankees to ease some pressure off Ivan Nova. Entering the 2011 postseason Nova was looked on to be the team’s second starter (thanks again A.J.). Ivan was up to the challenge, but that was a lot to ask of a pitcher still learning to harness his full potential. Hiroki allows the Yankees to make Nova the team’s fourth starter, a less demanding responsibility that will allow Nova to develop more freely.
The reason, of course, that Hiroki isn’t the Yankees second starter is because the team dealt Jesus Montero for Michael Pineda, in the largest trade the Yankees have made in years. This trade was painful for many fans. Montero was big-league ready, and the team’s best offensive prospect since Derek Jeter. However, this deal was the right move for the Yankees. The Yankees are stacked on offense, but are reliant on aging players whose value is fast disappearing. The team needed pitching (when is that not the case?) and will get lots of it from Pineda. Michael is a young, cost-controlled pitcher with Ace potential. He slots in as a perfect heir apparent to CC Sabathia, a pitcher with a similar build and repertoire to Pineda, making him an ideal mentor. While there is always a risk that Pineda doesn’t live up to his potential, that is also true of Montero. The Yankees made the calculated decision that a young future staff Ace was more valuable to them than a future middle of the order bat. It was the right move.
In total, the Yankees come into spring training with their most complete rotation since 2010, when they also had five legitimate starters breaking camp. Unlike 2010, however, this season the Yankees come in with what figures to be the core of the rotation that they will have for several seasons. CC is pretty much locked up until he retires. We have to be optimistic and assume Pineda is legit until he proves otherwise. The same can be said for Ivan Nova, meaning that the success of Phil Hughes is the only thing that will keep the Yankees from having four starters whom they can keep around for a few seasons.
Furthermore, this is the most the team has transformed in the offseason since 2009, when Brian Cashman signed CC Sabathia, A.J. and Mark Teixeira. They’ve added two legitimate pitchers to what already figured to be one of baseball’s best offenses. As a result, barring injury, the Yankees will put the most complete team they’ve had on the field since 2010. None of this means all that much, of course. The 2010 Yankees featured a high octane offense and a full rotation but that wasn’t enough to get them back to the promised land. No one will know anything until the game is played, but no one can fault the Yankees either. The team with the best record in the American League got better on paper this winter. And now, we’re about a month way from seeing if they got better on the field as well.
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TagsA.J. Burnett Alex Rodriguez Andy Pettitte Austin Romine Baltimore Orioles Bartolo Colon Boston Red Sox Brett Gardner Brian Cashman Bullpen CC Sabathia Chien-Ming Wang Cliff Lee Curtis Granderson David Robertson Dellin Betances Derek Jeter Francisco Cervelli Freddy Garcia Game Recap Hiroki Kuroda Ivan Nova Javier Vazquez Jesus Montero Joba Chamberlain Joe Girardi Johnny Damon Jorge Posada Manny Banuelos Mariano Rivera Mark Teixeira Melky Cabrera Michael Pineda New York New York Yankees Nick Johnson Nick Swisher Phil Hughes Prospects Rafael Soriano Red Sox Robinson Cano Russell Martin Tampa Bay Rays Yankees