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The Minnesota Twins announced Wednesday that they agreed to terms with starting pitcher Michael Pineda on a two-year contract.
Pineda made 17 starts in 2017, going 8-4 with a 4.39 ERA and a career-worst 4.66 FIP, according to FanGraphs. His year ended in July, when he underwent Tommy John surgery, which is likely to keep him out for most or all of 2018.
Tommy John surgery on its own is enough to cast a lot of doubt on Pineda’s value. His past shoulder issues add even more concern. He didn’t make a single start in 2012 and was limited to minor league action in 2013 after having surgery for a right labrum tear.
Pineda was an All-Star and finished fifth in the American League Rookie of the Year voting in 2011 with the Seattle Mariners. At that point, he looked like an ace in the making, and Seattle sent him to the Yankees in 2012 in a trade that included Jesus Montero, a top prospect in the Yankees’ organization.
Then came the shoulder issues, and Pineda was unable to become one of MLB’s top pitchers. He had an encouraging 2015 season, posting a 3.34 FIP. He also led the American League with 10.61 strikeouts per nine innings in 2016, according to FanGraphs. He walked 2.72 batters per nine innings, which illustrated how he could be frustratingly inconsistent from one start to the next.
Still, Pineda had established himself as a solid mid-rotation starter and was poised to earn a lucrative contract upon the conclusion to the 2017 season until his year ended prematurely.
He’s no longer a young pitcher with boatloads of potential, as he’ll have turned 30 by the time the 2019 season starts.
Some team was bound to take a chance on Pineda. The only questions were how far his salary would fall from that of a typical mid-rotation starter and whether he’d get any long-term financial security.
Nathan Eovaldi had Tommy John surgery for the second time in his career in August 2016. Last offseason, the Tampa Bay Rays signed him to a two-year, $4 million deal that had a club option in the second year. He had made $5.6 million in his final year with the Yankees.
Pineda has the potential be a bargain for the Twins. Of course, there’s also the chance Minnesota ends up receiving little return on its investment.