Yes! Yes, you should be scared of the Yankees in 2012. Terrified, probably. Because a pair of big moves made their biggest problem—35-year-old A.J. Burnett, who is owed $33 million over the next two years—essentially disappear. No more hanging knucklecurves in big games, no more walks, no more hits, no more 5.15 ERA. A frictionless world.
On Friday evening, while you all were watching basketball or something, Brian Cashman traded super-prospect Jesus Montero for super-rookie Michael Pineda and signed super-innings-eater Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year deal. Montero's a nice hitter and everything, and he'll go on to success with Seattle. With any luck, he'll soon remind doubting, aged Mariner fans of Edgar Martinez. But the Mariners aren't going anywhere in 2012.
They might have been able to go somewhere if they could make two pitchers like Kuroda and Pineda appear from nowhere. As a rookie last year, Pineda struck out 9.1 and walked only 2.9 per nine innings. He allowed only 18 homers. He was pretty terrific. And you might have lost track of Kuroda, who's been trapped in Chavez Ravine, that pit of burning money, since he came to MLB in 2008. But he has been very good—eating those aforementioned innings, walking few and striking out enough. In 699 big-league innings, he has pitched to a sub-1.2 WHIP and allowed less than one homer per nine. He's the Japanese Greg Maddux! (No, not that one.) Sure, both Kuroda and Pineda will allow more homers in bandboxy Yankee Stadium, but, barring catastrophe, they won't approach Burnett's 31-gopherballs-in-190-innings 2011.
Which brings us back to A.J., whose agent told the Daily News that he expects his client to be in the Yankees' rotation. Hah. If A.J. Burnett is in any rotation, it will be in that storied Trenton Thunder starting five, where Kei Igawa pitches. More likely, he will spend his summer days in the bullpen, asking Cory Wade what it's like to still feel, you know?
Now that A.J.'s a non-factor, the Yankees' staff might just be the best in the American League (the Rays' rotation is probably better but their bullpen, eh, not so much), and they still have that offense, too. Yikes. Get spooked.