The Twins bet $10 million in the hope that Michal Pineda's demons can be exorcised.

Today the Twins announced that they have signed RHP Michael Pineda to a 2 year $10 million dollars that will pay him $2 million in 2018 (a season likely lost due to Tommy John surgery last July) and $8 million in 2019 with up to an additional $2 million in incentives based on innings pitched.

At first glance and remembering Pineda's age 22 rookie season with the Mariners, which was somewhat akin to Fransisco Liriano's rookie performance with the Twins, I thought that it was money well spent, but looking closer to Pineda's history, I started having my doubts.

Pineda was signed as a 16 year old by the Mariners and started his pro career in the DSL in 2006.  He was cruising through the minors moving fast until after 2008 when he threw 138-1/3 innings in full season A ball.  He had to be shut down most of the next year due to an elbow strain, pitching only 44 innings in high A+.    He moved to AA and AAA in 2010, and made his debut in the majors in 2011 performing admirably enough (3.42 FIP, 24.9% K%, 17% K-BB%, 1.10 WHIP/.258 BABIP) for the Yankees to trade their top prospect catcher Jesus Montero and young pitcher Hector Noesi for the 6-7 tall Pineda.  That's where his troubles, other than the previous elbow issue begun.

He showed up out of shape at 270 lbs to Spring Training and his velocity dropped from his previous season 94-96 to low 90s.  He developed shoulder issues, and was shut down with shoulder tendonitis.  It was discovered that he had a torn labrum (albeit the rotator cuff was fine) that was repaired with lighter arthroscopic surgery on May 1st.  The mellifluous New York press wrote about him: "Pineda arrived in his first Yankees camp 30 pounds overweight. In an effort to create velocity that wasn’t there, Pineda overthrew and blew out the shoulder. Surgery followed".  If that were not enough, during his rehab in Tampa, on August 20, a police officer stopped his SUV that was swerving around at night with its lights off.  His blood alcohol level was close to twice the legal limits.  Pineda got arrested and next February pleaded guilty to DUI, receiving a slap on the hand: was fined $500, received a year of probation, was ordered to attend DUI classes and perform 50 hours of community service.

He started 2013 in the DL and was optioned (the only time that happened to him, which means he still has 2 options remaining) to AAA Scranton, pitching in six games all season.  In 2014 he started the season in the Yankees' rotation, where another incident happened.  In a game against the Red Sox, he was ejected, for having pine tar on his neck, and suspended 10 days.  Apparently it was not the first time he did that in the season or in the game, and was forewarned by the umpired, resulting in having his intelligence openly questioned  by the press.   While pitching a simulated game during his suspention, he strained his teres major muscle, a shoulder rotator muscle on the back side that kept him on the DL until August 13th.

In 2015 he struck out 16 players in a game, before missing a chunk of time since July 30 with  "a strained flexor muscle in his right forearm", the second time in his career he had elbow issues.  In 2016, he showed up in camp in shape, and with his fastball up to 94-95 mph, he has aspirations to be the Yankees ace.  Those aspirations ended in the middle of last season, when he tore his UCL and had Tommy John surgery performed on July 18th.

Michael Pineda might be able to help the Twins towards the end of last season and there is potential for the 2019 season.  He comes with more baggage that one can fit in a FedEx 747,  but he also comes with one of the best sliders in the game, which is a true out pitch.  Other than the fastball and the slider, he has an average change up that he does not like to throw much.  Based on set up men going for $8 million a season, the Twins investment might be a good one, because even if he cannot make it to the rotation, he could be a force out of the pen.  However, the Twins know by their very own aforementioned Liriano, what a reconstructed UCL can do to one's slider and it is questionable that the time frame of healing will be enough for the slider to return during his Twins' tenure. And this assumes that all that bad luck and the demons are not around Pineda the next couple seasons.

It is more of a bet than an investment, about the equivalent to that with Byung-Ho Park.  Time will tell if this bet will pay for the Twins, but the cards are stuck against them somewhat.



Twins off-season thoughts: Another trade and not only for starting pitching

So far, I have proposed that the Twins sign three free agent relievers, and trade for front line pitching with the Mets.  Unfortunately Brandon Morrow and Yusmeiro Petit have already signed elsewhere, and close for what I thought they will sign.  There is still room for improvement and the Twins go for it in Pittsburgh.

The Twins get:

RHSP Gerrit Cole (2 years of service left, second arbitration season),  OF Andrew McCutchen ( 1 yr $14.5M left), and closer Felipe Rivero (3 years of arbitration left.)

The Pirates get:

OF Max Kepler, OF Alex Kirilloff, LHSP Stephen Gonsalves, RHRP Nick Burdi, RHSP Kohl Stewart.

In other words, the Twins solidify their rotation, get a young closer, and a premiere RH OF bat and glove that will be a huge improvement over Kepler.   They can extend a qualifying offer to McCutchen after the season.

The Pirates save about $20-22 million dollars for 2018, a season they will not compete, get a whole bunch of prospects, including their home grown former first round pick Kirilloff, three arms with some potential that their history with pitchers might help, and an MLB-ready OF.

I think that this is a win-win trade.