Handing a Qualifying Offer to Michael Pineda
Image courtesy of © David Berding-USA TODAY SportsReports have suggested that the 2020 qualifying offer amount will drop to $17.8 million, which is a $100,000 step back from 2019. Determined by the average of the top 125 salaries in the game, it’s the first season that the amount has taken a step backwards. That alone is just another bullet point in a long list that the MLBPA must attack in upcoming CBA discussions.
Minnesota organized a shrewd pact with the former Yankees starter prior to the 2018 season. Paying him $2 million to watch over his Tommy John rehab, he then made another $8 million as a fully healthy starter in 2019. Posting one of the best seasons in his career, Pineda was estimated to be worth $21.1 million after accumulating 2.7 fWAR. His season came to an abrupt halt after failing a PED test for taking a diuretic he noted as being for weight loss. At least in part, an appeals process deemed his reasoning sufficient, as his suspension was reduced to 60 games and would not have carried postseason ineligibility.
From a merit-based standpoint, Pineda has plenty going in his favor. The 4.01 ERA was the best he had posted since his rookie season, and his 1.7 BB/9 established command not seen since 2015. After an ugly first month of the season, Minnesota got a 3.46 ERA in 117.0 IP from Pineda and he allowed opposing batters just a .670 OPS against him. Prior to his suspension, there was serious steam to him being the Game One starter in the American League Division Series.
Looking ahead we see a soon-to-be 31-year-old that has had some health concerns. Pineda is now well distanced from Tommy John surgery, but he’s never pitched more than 175 innings in a given year, and (as evidenced by the intentions of weight loss) is not slight in stature. The body of work and physical profile make him somewhat of a risk on a long-term contract, but that’s mitigated on a one-year deal, and even moreso through the 2020 qualifying offer implications.
The Twins have a substantial cash flow going into the upcoming offseason, and while they could certainly afford to pay Pineda nearly $18 million for a single year, that’s probably not the best plan of action. Fortunately, because of his remaining suspension, that’s not what the bill would look like. Having something north of 35 games left to serve for 2020, Pineda’s deal would be a prorated portion of that total QO. Rough math indicates a bill resembling something just shy of $14 million, which would be more enticing.
Again, there’s no denying that an arm like Pineda’s can’t be the premiere acquisition, but we saw how important a strong back-end starter can be with the revolving door in 2019. Allowing an internal option or two an avenue to hold down the fort until Pineda is reinstated would be a solid blueprint, and there’s no long-term commitment here either. If the QO gets rejected, Minnesota gets draft pick compensation and wins either way.
What do you think? Does Pineda get a QO if you’re in charge?
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