Michael Pineda addition a big win for Yankees

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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.

Marcus Stroman named World Baseball Classic MVP

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United States starter Marcus Stroman was named Most Valuable Player of the World Baseball Classic after helping lead the U.S. to its first ever WBC title on Wednesday night in an 8-0 victory over Puerto Rico. Stroman flirted with a no-hitter through six innings, but gave up a double to lead off the seventh before being relieved by Sam Dyson.

Stroman also pitched 4 2/3 scoreless innings against the Dominican Republic in Pool C play on March 11. He struggled in Pool F play against Puerto Rico last Friday, surrendering four runs in 4 2/3 innings.

The WBC MVP award understandably goes to a player of the winning team. However, Wladimir Balentien of the Netherlands deserves special mention. In 26 at-bats during the WBC, he hit a double and had a WBC-high four home runs, 12 RBI, and 12 runs scored while putting up a .615/.677/.1.115 batting line. That’s MVP-esque as far as this tournament is concerned.

U.S. blanks Puerto Rico 8-0 to win first World Baseball Classic title

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The United States handed Puerto Rico its first loss in the World Baseball Classic, winning 8-0 for its first title in the fourth iteration of the tournament.

Puerto Rico starter Seth Lugo was matching Marcus Stroman zero-for-zero through the first two innings, but the U.S. broke out for a pair of runs when Ian Kinsler deposited a two-run home run just beyond the fence in left-center at Dodger Stadium. The U.S. tacked on two more in the fifth on RBI singles from Christian Yelich and Andrew McCutchen, pushing the lead to 4-0.

Meanwhile, Stroman was dealing. The right-hander, normally seen in a Blue Jays uniform, held Puerto Rico hitless through his first six innings, giving up just a lone walk. The U.S. put together a long rally in the top of the seventh, scoring three runs on three hits, two walks, and a hit batter. Stroman came back out for the seventh but immediately served up a double down the left field line to Angel Pagan. U.S. manager Jim Leyland immediately lifted Stroman from the game, bringing in Sam Dyson who escaped the inning without any further damage.

Pat Neshek allowed a leadoff single to Yadier Molina to begin the eighth, but induced a double-play, then worked around a two-out walk by striking out Kenny Vargas to end the frame.

In the ninth, David Robertson took over. He induced an infield pop-up from Enrique Hernandez. After Pagan singled up the middle, Francisco Lindor sharply grounded out to Eric Hosmer at first base for the second out. Finally, Robertson closed it out, inducing Carlos Correa to ground out to third base, making the U.S. 8-0 victors over Puerto Rico to win the World Baseball Classic.

Puerto Rico had an admirable run, defeating Venezuela, Mexico, and Italy to get out of Pool D undefeated. Then, in Pool F, it beat Venezuela again as well as the U.S. and the Dominican Republic to move to the semifinals. It narrowly edged Netherlands 4-3 in the semifinals to get into the finals.

The U.S. lost to the D.R. but beat Canada and Colombia to get out of Pool C. In Pool F, the U.S. lost to Puerto Rico and defeated the D.R again as well as Venezuela. The U.S. took down Japan in the semifinals to advance to the finals to play Puerto Rico.

The U.S. joins Japan (twice, 2006 and ’09) and the Dominican Republic (2013) as countries to win the World Baseball Classic. The 2017 tournament was a rousing success, setting attendance records, drawing over one million fans to ballparks to take in the games. It will hopefully encourage commissioner Rob Manfred and others to make a concerted effort to make the 2021 tournament bigger and better.