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Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Michael Pineda (35) reacts to being relieved in the sixth inning against Toronto Blue Jays at Rogers Centre

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Buy-Low Candidate: Michael Pineda

Hitting free agency ahead of his age-33 season, could Pineda be a veteran arm on the Marlins’ radar?

Dan Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

A once highly-regarded pitching prospect, Michael Pineda’s career has been marred by injury and inconsistencies. In 962 career innings, Pineda owns a 3.98 ERA (105 ERA+), far from the “ace” tag ascribed to him at the outset of his career in Seattle. His 3.69 FIP, however, implies he possesses skills that are more impressive than his results.

Since the start of 2019, Pineda has pitched to a 3.80 ERA (119 ERA+) over 282 innings with Minnesota. He now re-enters free agency ahead of his age-33 season. MLB teams may not have him circled atop their offseason shopping list, but fresh off a two-year, $20M extension, he could be poised for another similar deal.

Pineda proved effective in 2021, posting a 3.62 ERA over 109 13 innings (21 starts), winning 9 games for a Twins team that lost 89 times. He missed time with forearm and oblique injuries.

Pineda’s presence could be a nice complement to an already formidable Miami Marlins rotation, headed by the likes of Sandy Alcantara and Rookie of the Year runner-up Trevor Rogers.

That being said, the red flags surrounding Pineda are ever-present. He has never crossed the 200-inning threshold in an individual season, tossing a career-high 175 23 with the Yankees in 2017. A gradual decline in fastball velocity in conjunction with fleeting swing-and-miss have prevented him from re-establishing himself as a premier pitcher.

Michael Pineda’s percentage stats, 2021
Baseball-Savant

This season, Pineda finished in the 15th percentile in average fastball velocity, down from his 79th percentile peak. His 7.2 K/9 was the lowest such mark in any of the right-hander’s seasons with 100-plus innings pitched.

The Dominican-native has allowed nearly as many hits as innings pitched in his career. The Jekyll and Hyde of it all, though? He still owns a solid 1.19 WHIP. Pineda’s almost clinical ability to throw strikes illustrates why he finished in the 96th percentile in chase and walk rates, respectively.

The benefit of pitching depth is not only the sheer depth itself, but how and when that depth is utilized, as we’ve seen with teams such as the Los Angeles Dodgers, who’ve delved into their wealth of starting pitching when dealt losses to their rotation in years past and present. What Los Angeles did with Clayton Kershaw in 2021 was somewhat comparable to Miami’s handling of Pablo López. Throwing only 102 23 innings, López struck out 115 and finished with 2.7 rWAR.

The presence of a veteran like Pineda would be even more crucial if the Marlins wind up trading some of their surplus rotation candidates this winter in pursuit of much-needed bats.

With longstanding questions surrounding his durability and fact that he is now nearing his mid-30s, Pineda only makes sense for the Marlins on a one-year basis. If he’s amenable to that length and a salary below his previous $10M, there’s a potential fit here.

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