New York Yankees: Any Takers for Michael Pineda?

Sep 25, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda (35) leaves the mound in the sixth inning against Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 25, 2016; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; New York Yankees starting pitcher Michael Pineda (35) leaves the mound in the sixth inning against Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Sousa-USA TODAY Sports /

Despite a rough season, the New York Yankees’ Michael Pineda still has trade appeal in a bleak pitching market.

You would likely be hard-pressed to find many New York Yankees fans excited by the prospect of Michael Pineda once again returning to the rotation in 2017. But could another team be interested in bringing aboard the big right-hander?

In reviewing the Yankees’ main goals for the offseason, Joel Sherman of the New York Post mentions that the club could look to further shed payroll via trades to free up money for other needs. One of the potential bargaining chips?

“It also is possible they could seize on a weak starter market and deal Michael Pineda (due about $8 million in his final arbitration season),” Sherman says.

Coming off the year he just had, you wouldn’t think Pineda would be particularly appealing. He posted a 4.82 ERA, 1.35 WHIP and 3.91 K/BB ratio – all career worsts – over 32 starts. Anyone who has watched him over an extended period of time knows he just might be the most maddening pitcher in the league.

He can look absolutely dominant in one start and appear to have no answers in the next. Case in point: On May 10, 2015, Pineda struck out a career-high 16 batters against the Orioles. The Yankees and their fans were thinking, “Finally! This is the guy we traded Jesus Montero for.” But in his next outing five days later, he surrendered five runs on 10 hits over 5.1 innings versus the Royals. A microcosm of his tenure in pinstripes.

However, Sherman brings up a frequently-cited but nevertheless true fact: this offseason’s starting pitching free agency market is really bad. Mediocre hurlers are going to be overvalued simply because there isn’t much else out there. Imagine that Pineda was a free agent right now. In spite of all his warts, it’s not too hard to envision him getting some decent offers. Because he still has a couple factors in his favor that teams will always covet – youth and talent.

It seems like he’s been around for a while, but Pineda will be turning just 28 in January. That’s nowhere near “lost cause” territory yet. With the extensive injury issues that forced him to miss the entire 2012 and 2013 seasons, he has only logged a modest four campaigns at the big league level. Yankees fans might be tired of him, and it’s difficult to blame them, but the book is hardly closed yet on Michael Pineda.

More from Call to the Pen

You could argue that he has been the victim of some misfortune the past two years as well. In 2015, Pineda managed a lackluster 4.37 ERA. However, his FIP was a much more agreeable 3.34. This season his FIP registered at 3.79 – not exactly a sterling number, but better than his ERA by more than a full run.

Even when he’s struggled, Pineda has typically done a few important things well. He strikes out opponents at a high clip and doesn’t walk many. Last year he put up a 8.7 K/9 and 1.2 BB/9. This season his BB/9 rose to 2.7, a noticeable increase but still a respectable figure. But on the bright side, his K/9 climbed to an AL-leading 10.6.

There are going to be teams out there that will believe they can “fix” Pineda. Heck, only a few months ago the Pirates had success with a Yankees cast-off, and if they can’t re-sign Ivan Nova they might consider taking a flyer on another hurler who feels like he’s wearing out his welcome in the Bronx.

The Yankees have starting pitching problems of their own, though, and they could choose to keep Pineda for the same reasons that other clubs would want to take a chance on him. Could this be the year he finally puts it all together? That sounds like a hollow question to anyone who’s followed his mercurial, up-and-down career trajectory. But it’s still one worth asking, especially when there are so few legitimate alternatives.

Next: Yanks Continue Loading Up on Prospects

In any case, Pineda is arbitration-eligible for next year and can then enter free agency at the close of the season, which teams will keep in mind if they consider dealing for him. This feels like something the Yankees would only do if they received an offer they really liked, or if they needed to free up some money to sign a free agent they just had to have.

It’s another wrinkle in what’s already shaping up to be an interesting offseason in New York.