Michael Pineda needs to be a member of the Royals
Michael Pineda has spent the last two seasons dealing with a serious injury and a suspension. And the Kansas City Royals should sign him for 2020.
There are plenty of reasons for the Royals, or any other major league team, to have concerns about signing free-agent starting pitcher Michael Pineda. He has missed large chunks of time during his career. He spent his first two seasons with the Yankees, 2012 and 2013, unable to pitch due to shoulder issues. He missed 2018 after a Tommy John injury followed by a torn meniscus. He missed the end of the 2019 season, and the playoffs, for the Twins due to being suspended after testing positive for a masking agent for PEDs.
However, I see those as reasons the Royals should sign Michael Pineda. This is what makes him perfect for us. We all know about Dayton Moore’s fascination with signing free agent has-beens and never-weres. It is his calling card. He loves the bargain bin. Pineda is one of the few free agents in the discount section that could be a frontline starter.
Since entering the league at the age of 22, Michael Pineda has always been a good starting pitcher when healthy. Last season his ERA was 4.01 and his FIP was 4.02. He struck out more than 8 per 9 innings while walking less than 2. He was worth 2.7 WAR. And it was still, relatively, a down season for him.
Assuming Pineda can stay healthy, which is honestly a concern with any free agent, the big 6’7 280-pound right-hander could be poised for a breakout season at age 31. His last full season, in 2016, he started 32 games and pitched over 175 innings with over 200 strikeouts.
He has lost just a bit of velocity off his fastball since coming back from Tommy John surgery and now uses his power changeup a bit more. He also had some issues giving up too many home runs early on in 2019 while trying to get his control back with his deadly slider. But he figured it all out and pitched progressively better as the season wore on. Over the second half of the season, he struck out more than a batter per inning while maintaining a FIP of 3.55., a WHIP of 1.13, and getting his home runs allowed got back to a reasonable level.
Pineda’s suspension of 60 games for using a possible masking agent (after being reduced from 80 games because the league believes it was not actually being used as a masking agent) is not a character issue, in my opinion. In fact, we have one of those guys on our roster currently in Adalberto Mondesi. Baseball has always had a bizarre relationship with cheating and the masking agent suspensions are just one issue among many on that topic. It’s not as if Pineda was lecturing young players about “playing the right way” while cheating for years by stealing signs electronically. Now, that would seem like a character issue.
Pineda would immediately become the best pitcher in our rotation. Due to his circumstances, he can be had on a cheap, short-term deal. I would go as high as $15 million on a one year deal if need be. And we should try to sign him to a two-year deal. (No, a mutual option does not count. as a two-year deal.) He is precisely the free agent Dayton Moore should be pursuing aggressively this offseason if we are serious about competing.