1:24 pm Apr. 25, 20121
Tuesday night, the Yankees were completely shut down by Yu Darvish, the celebrated Japanese import making his fourth major-league start for the Texas Rangers.
If it seems strange that the expensive new toy in a Yankees game was the pitcher facing the Yankees, it shouldn't be. New York is aggressively trying to get its payroll down to a paltry $189 million by 2014, and signing Darvish to a six-year, $60 million contract, as Texas did, wouldn't have helped in that pursuit. (Nor was it free to negotiate with Darvish; that cost the Rangers another $51.7 million.)
But the combination of Darvish's dominance, and the news that New York's biggest offseason acquisition, Michael Pineda, may be more seriously injured than first believed, has led some observers to point out, correctly, that the Yankees are suffering as a result of spending less to get less of a sure thing.
Not that they could have known this would be the case at the time.
Consider that in Pineda, the Yankees were acquiring a pitcher who was more than just a minor-league phenom. Pineda had pitched a strong full season in Seattle, making the All-Star team and striking out better than a batter per inning. He'd pitched without serious injury as he climbed the minor league ladder, and nothing about his workload suggested that he'd be any riskier than any other pitcher, while his performance was a good bet to be very solid.
Darvish, meanwhile, had been utterly dominant in Japan. But Daisuke Matsuzaka had also been utterly dominant in Japan, and Kei Igawa had been very good in Japan.
This is not to suggest that either was the equal of Darvish. But plenty of players had struggled after coming across the world to a new, more challenging league. Darvish's performance wasn't, and still isn't, a known quantity. It was a high-upside risk, but a risk all the same.
Darvish's workload, too, carried with it some red flags. If it wasn't his 232 innings last season alone, it was his consistently high pitch counts as well. As we've seen with Pineda, and so, so may others, that sort of work rate could catch up to him at any time.
And if it does, the Rangers will still be on the hook for that $60 million. That $51.7 million posting fee isn't coming back. By contrast, for the rights of Pineda, the Yankees lost Jesus Montero, a prized prospect, and Hector Noesi, an expendable pitcher, while receiving prospect Jose Campos in the deal as well. (Campos, by the way, has a 1.23 E.R.A. in his four minor league starts this year.)
To be sure, the trade hasn't worked out nearly the way the Yankees had hoped so far. But Pineda over Darvish wasn't just the cheaper option. It was arguably the safer one, too, whatever the results.