This year’s free agent class is extremely bad. Teams are having to pay a premium just to guarantee the services of the most mediocre pitchers. It’s so bad that even league-average trade targets aren’t worth the price of doing business. Things are so dire that teams have actually been calling about possibly acquiring Michael Pineda from the Yankees. You also know it’s bad when the Yankees say no, too.
At this point in his career, Pineda can’t be considered anything other than a buy-low candidate. Heading into his last season before free agency, he just finished his second consecutive year with an ERA over 4.00, despite excellent peripherals. He constantly throws strikes, avoids walks, and collects strikeouts, but when you lack good fastball command and constantly miss your spots when it counts, you don’t amount to much.
Pineda suffers from a home run problem that has resulted in him allowing more than a home run per nine innings. That’s because he can’t consistently execute his pitches and they end up over the heart of the plate instead of harmlessly outside the zone. It has become a problem for a weakened Yankees rotation, and it will continue to be going forward. They would likely love to unload Pineda by now, but because of a lack of better options, they are stuck with him and his tired act.
We have all seen Michael Pineda stand out on the mound, put his hands on his hips, and look back at where the ball went over the fence like he can’t understand how they keep doing that to him. It’s an incredibly annoying visual to see every fifth day when all we are really asking for is that he keep the team in the game. When you can’t do that on a regular basis, while also mowing down 10 batters a night, the sight gets old and tiring.
The Yankees are still hopeful that he can figure it out and be the good pitcher they think he can be. But we know better. We’ve seen this act before, and despite what the experts say, we know nothing is going to change. At least not permanently. It’s like whenever Pineda puts his hands on his hips and looks out to the outfield in a considerable state of confusion, the entire front office does the same motion from their vantage point in the stadium. The coaching staff must do it too because everyone is still hoping that Larry Rothschild can figure him out and make him be non-miserable to watch. These people will be the only ones who are surprised when it doesn’t work out again. Maybe I’ll have my hands on my hips looking bewildered and afraid when the Yankees seem surprised for the 900th time that it didn’t work out.
The thing is, though, as much as many Yankees fans would probably love to be done with Pineda by now, it is so bad right now that the team has no choice but to keep him. They are already lacking a complete rotation with only Masahiro Tanaka, CC Sabathia, and Michael Pineda as locks. The last two slots will be split between Luis Severino, Luis Cessa, Adam Warren, and whatever treasure trove of mediocrity they can dig up out of Triple-A. They need proven veterans who can take the ball and offer enough length to keep the bullpen rested every few days. A solid innings eater who might not be interesting but isn’t bad. Pineda isn’t so bad that he wouldn’t be a strong fifth starter, but when he’s the third best option on the team it becomes a problem.
The Yankees never sell low, so that’s doubly why they would never trade Michael Pineda right now. Maybe at the deadline if he does really well and the team does really poorly, but not in the offseason. This team just spent a hefty wad of cash from Hal Steinbrenner’s butt crack to bring back the buzz around the stadium when Aroldis Chapman pitches, or something. That $17 million a year might look bad now, but if they are selling off Pineda and crossing their fingers that some minor league call-ups can pitch 175 innings this year, it will look like an even worse allotment of resources than any of us are comfortable admitting.
Simply put, they are stuck with him for the time being and it would be a colossal mistake to get rid of him now if they don’t plan on adding anyone else, even if Michael Pineda is not going to be very good this year. I’m sure that once he goes elsewhere, a bigger stadium will wash away some of those hanging sliders and the Pirates, or someone, will have their new ace for the next three years. We’re all ready to move on, but for now we’re stuck in this waking nightmare.