Maybe there were no household names involved, but Michael Pineda-for-Jesus Montero is a huge trade, one that, at first inspection, appears to have been won by the Yankees.
The Mariners picked up Montero after originally passing on him in a Cliff Lee deal in the summer of 2010. They chose the Rangers’ package headed by Justin Smoak instead of a Montero-centered trade with the Yankees then, a mistake that they may well have compounded tonight. While Montero is likely to be a terrific hitter for the next 10 or 15 years, that’s probably all he’s going to be. His catching hasn’t progressed to the point at which he can serve as a major league regular, and if he’s simply a DH, then his upside doesn’t match Pineda’s.
Pineda, who turns 23 next week, didn’t overwhelm with a 3.74 ERA as a rookie, but it came with a 173/55 K/BB ratio in 171 innings. He was that good despite having just 25 starts in the upper minors under his belt. With his mid-90s fastball, he has a great chance of serving as a top-of-the-rotation starter for a good long time. Of course, he’s a young pitcher and there’s always the possibility that he’ll run into elbow or shoulder problems. Still, with no sign of them so far, the Yankees were smart to jump. Arms like Pineda’s are so rarely available. Given his ceiling and the fact that he has five years left before free agency, he was worth significantly more than the other talented pitchers traded this winter, Mat Latos and Gio Gonzalez included.
The deal, which also includes right-handers Hector Noesi going to Seattle and Jose Campos to New York, brings to mind the Josh Hamilton-for-Edinson Volquez swap the Reds and Rangers pulled off four years ago. Both teams were happy with their returns after one year, but Volquez blew out his arm in 2009 and struggled to make it back. The Yankees will hope it’s the pitcher who prevails this time. With Pineda behind CC Sabathia in the rotation and a free agent designated hitter (Johnny Damon? Vladimir Guerrero?) replacing Montero, they certainly seem to be in a better position to make a postseason run this year than they did a day ago.
MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosch reports that Cardinals’ shortstop Aledmys Diaz has been sporting a new look around Busch Stadium with a pair of “strobe glasses,” technology-enhanced specs designed to help athletes focus on the ball. Like a strobe light, the lenses of these glasses affect a player’s vision by rapidly changing opacity, giving its wearers the illusion that the objects they see are moving more slowly than normal. Once a player adjusts to the new speed of play, they gain a greater sense of control and are able to time their actions with more precision.
Diaz isn’t the first MLB player to utilize the technology, just the first Cardinals’ player to do so. It’s been tested by Bryce Harper, Corey Brown, Tommy Joseph, Austin Hedges and Joe Mauer, among others around the league, and has been used for everything from refining a catcher’s reflexes behind the plate to tweaking a hitter’s ability to track a pitch. Per Langosch, Diaz has been using the glasses to hone in on the ball during pregame drills, increasing both his confidence and response time on the field and improving his defense at short.
The shortstop has been the focus of some concern this season after seeing a sizable dip in his production at the plate, and his five fielding errors, 0.6 UZR and 0.6 fWAR haven’t helped matters, either. He sustained a minor thumb injury during an at-bat on Friday night, and was left off of the Cardinals’ starting lineup on Saturday, though manager Mike Matheny didn’t rule out his ability to pinch-hit during the series. While the strobe glasses are a good start, Diaz will need more than a pair of specs to match the spotlight-worthy performance he turned out during his rookie season in 2016.
Red Sox’ left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez may finally get a chance at cracking the rotation again, assuming all goes well in Double-A Portland first. Rodriguez took the field prior to the club’s afternoon session with the Angels, firing 68 pitches in a simulated game as he prepared for an upcoming rehab assignment in Portland on Thursday.
The 24-year-old southpaw suffered a right knee subluxation during pregame warmups on June 1, and it’s been a slow path to recovery ever since. It’s not the first time Rodriguez has had issues with his right knee — he sustained a similar injury during spring training last year — and this time around, the Red Sox weren’t about to gamble with their starter’s health. Ian Browne of MLB.com reports that Rodriguez was put in a knee brace and underwent exercises designed to help him regain some mobility and stability while he worked back up to full strength on the mound.
He’ll still need to prove he can throw a 75- to 80-pitch outing in Double-A, and barring any significant setbacks, will likely rejoin the Red Sox’ pitching staff when they visit the Rangers next month. In the meantime, the club will continue to cycle starters through the No. 5 spot, which has seen no fewer than three different pitchers since Rodriguez hit the disabled list. The lefty is 4-2 in 10 starts this season after logging a 3.54 ERA, 3.1 BB/9 and career-high 9.6 SO/9 through his first 61 innings.