After five years of developing Jesus Montero into a budding young star, they traded him for fellow budding young star Michael Pineda. Almost instantly, Pineda disappointed with some kind of shoulder injury, which eventually developed into a labrum tear, and will not only sideline him for the remainder of year, but is a severe existential threat to his career.
Pitchers are time bombs waiting to explode. They commonly suffer catastrophic injuries. They see much more variance in their skills from season to season than do hitters. It would be foolish to judge a team by looking at the performance of one pitcher. The Yankees may have just gotten horribly unlucky with Michael Pineda.
I’m concerned about a long term pattern. Since the dynasty pitching staff was broken up in 2003, the Yankees have consistently failed to add effective pitchers, both in the rotation and the bullpen. And they haven’t failed because of a lack of trying. The Yankees have a horrible success rate in the free agent market, through trades, and the farm system.
You all know the free agent failures. Jaret Wright, Kei Igawa, Carl Pavano and A.J. Burnett failed in the starting rotation, at times spectacularly. Pedro Feliciano, Damaso Marte**, Rafael Soriano, Mike Myers, and Kyle Farnsworth were all horrible multiyear signings, especially Feliciano and Marte. Balance these against the successful signings: C.C. Sabathia and Tom Gordon? Is there any other multiyear deal that the Yankees have signed that turned out well? I guess you could add lottery tickets like 2011 Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon or Jon Lieber, but I’m pretty loath to give them too much credit one-year successes on low-risk, high-reward gambles.
They haven’t done much better on the trade market. They are already huge losers on the Pineda trade. The two Javier Vazquez trades turned out horribly. I’ll give them a pass on Randy Johnson, who was effective despite horrible Yankee defense and his advanced age. Boone Logan helped salvage some of the horrible return on the second Javier Vazquez trade.
The farm system record has been just as bad. The Yankees have developed a grand total of three MLB starting pitchers who would pitch in New York since the 90s: Andy Pettitte, Chien-Ming Wang, and possibly Ivan Nova. They’ve had plenty of chances, with Joba Chamberlain, Phil Hughes and Andrew Brackman (and possibly Dellin Betances, if he doesn’t right the ship quickly) failing on the top end, and a very long list of promising and/or expensive prospects flaming out before finding success in the majors, including names like Ian Kennedy, Tylar Clippard, Alan Horne, Jeremy Bleich, Wilkins De La Rosa, George Kontos, Christian Garcia, Eric Hacker, Daniel McCutchen, Ryan Pope, Jeff Marquez, Zach McAllister and Sean Henn either flaming out, being traded away, or getting injured before contributing to the major league team.
Prospects are prospects for a reason. Most fail. But when it comes to pitching, the Yankees have a terrible success rate. They’ve seen Double-and-Triple-A rotations loaded year after year with solid or better prospects, but only Ivan Nova has emerged from the fray so far as a real MLB starter with the Yankees. Others that have emerged were traded away, including Cy Young candidate Ian Kennedy, at times dominant (and at times bad enough to be sent to Triple-A) Mark Melancon, and the underrated Tyler Clippard, not to mention Jon Axford. They have identified plenty of pitching talent, but have very little to show for it.
Most of this is probably bad luck. I used to attribute the low success rate in New York entirely to a combination of bad luck and horrible Yankee defense. But at some point, the luck should even out and the Yankees should find some success. That hasn’t happened yet. Failures like Phil Hughes, Joba Chamberlain, and Michael Pineda have become the norm for the Yankees. One failure is bad luck, but a pattern of failures points to bad decision making, scouting, and/or coaching.
I hope that the Pineda disaster prompts introspection in the Yankee offices. The Yankees don’t have to become the Atlanta Braves, San Francisco Giants, or Tampa Bay Rays, but at some point they need to put together a competent starting staff other than C.C. Sabathia, and stop making bone-headed decisions with free agent relief pitchers.
** I know he was originally traded, but he was resigned to an extension