When the Yankees and Mariners announced their out-of-the-blue swap of Jesus Montero and Michael Pineda (yes, a few other players were included, too) in January, you could find a lot of strong opinions, but no consensus.
The kind of trade that is rarely made these days (young talent for young talent), there was one person who thought the Mariners got a steal for every observer who insisted the Yankees made out like bandits.
There was great risk and reward on both sides. Yes, Montero could be locked into DHing at the tender age of 22, but he could also be an annual 30-home run threat in a league with increasingly few of them.
And yes, Pineda’s fastball-and-flyball ways may not be as effective in new Yankee Stadium as they were in Safeco Field, but how often can you acquire a pitcher who posted a 3.74 ERA while striking out over a batter per inning in 171 frames as a 22-year-old rookie?
It was a trade with so many layers, what-ifs and intrigue that it couldn’t possibly be declared a win for either side until many years down the road. That is unless, of course, extenuating circumstances came into play.
They did in a huge way on Wednesday, one that has darkened the Yankees’ short-term outlook, severely clouded Pineda’s future and made the Mariners feel all the more fortunate they’re now DHing a player who’s been ranked among Baseball America’s Top 10 Prospects each of the past three seasons.
A spring that began with Pineda displaying a noticeable loss of velocity has ended with his placement on the disabled list with a torn labrum in his pitching shoulder. It’s that kind of injury that can end careers if things break the wrong way, and will leave Pineda as a markedly different pitcher even if he’s able to complete what will be a long and winding rehabilitation.
If he is taking the hill every fifth day at some point in the future, it won’t be with the 94.2 mile per hour fastball he averaged in 2011, and it certainly won’t be with the title of “future ace” he was sometimes given as he made his way through the Mariners’ minor-league system.
So as Montero continues to settle into his new role and home, the Yankees will try to figure out if Phil Hughes or Freddy Garcia should be penciled in as the fifth starter once Andy Pettitte enters the fray in May. That would have been an undesirable reality even if the Bombers had kept their bomb/BB catching prospect. Now it’s a reminder that baseball is as fragile a game as any, and that we only know everything until we know nothing.
Huff Steps Away
The cruel side of the game was also on display 2,910 miles away from the Bronx in San Francisco on Wednesday.
Two days after Aubrey Huff left the Giants to attend to a “family emergency” in his native Tampa, he was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an anxiety disorder.
Whether it had anything to do with his embarrassing mishap in Saturday’s loss to the Mets or overall poor play the past two seasons is unknown, but it continues a courageous trend of players openly dealing with issues that used to be foolishly taboo in the testosterone-fueled world of baseball.
Zack Greinke and Joey Votto are among Huff’s contemporaries who have publicly taken on and conquered psychological issues the past few seasons, and though Huff is well past his playing prime, he’ll have no shortage of positive examples to look to as he attempts to get his head back in the right place and body back onto the field.
Even though Brandon Belt didn’t start Wednesday, Huff’s absence should finally get him an extended look at first base. He’s worth a flier if an impatient owner cut him loose earlier this month.
Craig Enters Final Stages of Rehab
After spending the past few days with High-A Palm Beach, Allen Craig (recovery from knee surgery) will take his rehab to Triple-A Memphis on Thursday, setting the stage for his major-league return early next week.
An integral part of the Cardinals’ World Series run last season (he hit .327/.364/.692 in September and .243/.391/.622 during the playoffs), Craig also represents a highly-intriguing fantasy option despite his lack of an everyday role when the Cardinals are at full health.
Eligible at both second base and in the outfield in a large majority of formats, Craig can be stuck almost anywhere in your lineup, and offers serious power potential in the middle of the Cardinals’ loaded offense.
Craig wouldn’t be penciled into the Cardinals’ “if things were perfect” lineup, but with creaky veterans Carlos Beltran, Lance Berkman and David Freese (veteran aged, at least) all in need of regular rest and the occasional DL stint, things will rarely be perfect for the Birds as they defend their title.
At least for now, Craig should be owned in all formats.
Game notes: Matt Kemp did bad things to Brandon Beachy. … Alex Gordon continued to heat up, going 3-for-5 with a three-run homer. He’s now 14-for-54 (.259) since starting the season 0-for-17. … Gordon’s teammate Billy Butler went deep twice as the Royals snapped their 12-game losing streak. Eric Hosmer also homered for the third time in six games. … Phil Hughes and Clay Buchholz both got shelled again, further clouding the futures of players who used to be two of the American League East’s most promising prospects. With Boston low on starting pitching, Buchholz should be given every opportunity to round back into form, but the same isn’t true of Hughes, who needs an immediate turnaround if he hopes to keep his rotation spot when Andy Pettitte returns next month. … Jason Hammel turned in another exceptional start. It’s well past time to scoop him up in your mixed league. … Pedro Alvarez homered in each game of the Pirates’ doubleheader with Colorado. It’s time to take the plunge if you’re in need of power at the hot corner. … Paul Konerko hit his 400th career home run. … Javy Guerra took his second loss in as many days. The Kenley Jansen watch is officially on. … Bryan LaHair homered again. … Chris Davis finally delivered bomb No. 2. … Jarrod Parker turned in a solid A’s debut as Yoenis Cespedes hit his fifth home run.
American League/National League Short Hops: Renewed soreness in Carl Crawford’s left elbow sent him to the office of noted orthopedic surgeon Dr. James Andrews. News, grim or otherwise, should come down the pipe later today. … Ryan Zimmerman (shoulder) will take a session of batting practice before it’s decided whether or not he needs a stint on the disabled list. A Wednesday MRI confirmed he’s suffered no structural damage. … Cody Ross left Thursday’s game with left knee soreness, but is expected to play Thursday. … Sergio Santos (shoulder inflammation) will be sidelined for at least the next four weeks. Francisco Cordero is now the man to own in Toronto. … Shin-Soo Choo is day-to-day with left hamstring tightness. … Lorenzo Cain re-strained his groin in a Tuesday rehab appearance with Double-A Northwest Arkansas. Originally set to return Friday, he could now be sidelined several additional weeks. … Chris Parmelee was hit in the head by a Justin Thomas fastball, but appears to have avoided serious injury. He’ll be re-evaluated this afternoon.
As of 8:00 ET This Morning: It will have been 186 days, nine hours and 85 at-bats since Albert Pujols’ last home run. His 0-for-19 hitless streak is also the longest of his career. Angels fans will soon deserve halos for their patience.