I recently wrote about the Twins’ conundrum in dealing with Michael Pineda. The Twins rotation faces uncertainty beyond 2021. Kenta Maeda has regressed significantly since his Cy Young contention in a shortened 2020. José Berríos is only under team control through 2022. Randy Dobnak, recently, has looked like no sure thing to be a major league staple. This leaves Pineda. Opinion was fairly divided about exactly what to do with Pineda in the comments of my previous piece, less so now. Today, I’ll look at 3 possible destinations and packages for Pineda if the Twins decide to trade him.
Pineda has been a standout for the Twins since he joined them in 2017. In that time, he has accrued their highest ever winning percentage by a starting pitcher, ahead of Johan Santana. Pineda has been a model of consistency in a rotation which has not typically been a strength of the Twins. He has the stuff to start a playoff game for a team with a poorer rotation, heightening his value and worth.
Pineda is a free agent after the 2021 season, diminishing his value. Additionally, he missed time due to a PED suspension in 2020 and has an extensive injury history. With all that in mind, what are some potential destinations and packages for Pineda?
A note on trades: I made each of these hypothetical trades a 1:1 swap. As opposed to going into the minutiae of exact prospects and packages, I picked a prospect the Twins might be interested in who is part of each organization. Think of each trade as ‘Pineda plus’ and each return as ‘listed prospect plus’.
Destination 1 - Toronto Blue Jays
After an aggressive offseason, the Blue Jays sit tantalizingly at 31-29 in a tough AL East (albeit in 4th). The Blue Jays starting pitching has been rancid in 2021, ranking 26th in fWAR (one spot ahead of the Twins), with a combined output of 1.7 fWAR. After Hyun-Jin Ryu (1.1 fWAR) and Steven Matz (0.7 fWAR) their rotation has offered little. Pineda would slot in as their #3 starter after the return of Nate Pearson, who has been shelved all year due to injury.
Jays receive RHP Michael Pineda
Twins receive: SS Orelvis Martinez
With the injury to Royce Lewis, the Twins farm system is short on solid upside infield prospects. Martinez is the Jays #6 prospect and signed for $3.5 million out of the Dominican Republic in 2018. Martinez's primary tool is power, with a stocky frame and solid defensive skills which should allow him to stick at SS. Martinez has slugged .449 in 2021 at High A Dunedin but could take a leap forward in his first full season in pro ball.
Destination 2 - Atlanta
Atlanta has struggled in 2021. They currently sit 3rd in a weak AL East at 29-31. They worked aggressively and early to address their rotation in the offseason, to no avail. Atlanta currently has the 19th best rotation in MLB at 3.3 fWAR. Atlanta has a strong 1-2 punch between Ian Anderson and Charlie Morton, but little beyond that with Huascar Ynoa on the 60 day IL and Max Fried having an inconsistent year. Pineda would give Atlanta another solid starter to help them make a run at a highly winnable division.
Atlanta receive: RHP Michael Pineda
Twins receive: LHP Jasseel De La Cruz
This package would likely be De La Cruz plus for the Twins. Signed for just $55,000 in 2015. De La Cruz has the questionable distinction of two MLB call ups without making an appearance. De La Cruz may be headed for a relief role long term. His fastball sits 97-98 mph and tops out at 100 mph. His 55 grade slider may be enough for him to be a devastating weapon at the back of the bullpen if he can continue to reduce his BB%. The Twins bullpen needs a major retooling after a horrendous 2021. De La Cruz would give them a high upside bullpen arm for the next several years.
Destination 3 - Chicago Cubs
After being lambasted for doing literally nothing in the offseason, the Cubs find themselves in a strong position in a poor NL Central. The Cubs starting pitching has been worse than the Twins in 2021, wow. Chicago ranks 29th in MLB with a 0.9 fWAR contribution from their starting pitching group. Woof. Pineda would slot right into the 2nd or 3rd behind Kyle Hendricks.
Cubs receive: RHP Michael Pineda
Twins receive: RHP Kohl Franklin
Franklin is the nephew of former All-Star Ryan Franklin and was a 6th round pick out of Oklahoma in 2018. Franklin is developing quickly, adding velocity which will have him eventually sitting 93-96 mph with an excellent changeup. Franklin projects as a solid mid rotation starter for an organization which, like the Twins, has struggled to develop its own starting pitching.
Honorable mention destinations: New York Yankees, Oakland Athletics, St. Louis Cardinals, Boston Red Sox.
What do you think are the best team fits for a Pineda trade? What type of prospects and return would you be aiming for?