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  • Moving on from Big Mike


    Cody Pirkl

    The Twins are in need of rotation help for 2022 and have a convenient candidate in  Saturday-starter Michael Pineda already on the team and likely willing to come back. Perhaps the Twins shouldn’t be so quick on a reunion, however.

    Image courtesy of Scott Taetsch, USA Today

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    Pineda has been one of the success stories of the current front office when it comes to free agent acquisitions. In between a suspension and time on the Injured List, he threw 260 innings across three seasons and accumulated a 3.94 ERA.

     It seemed like it was a given Pineda was on his way out at this July’s trade deadline. Lo and behold, here we are near year’s end and Pineda is still in Minnesota. It was reported that there just wasn’t a whole lot of interest in Big Mike from contenders at the deadline, and for several good reasons. The Twins may be wise to consider these reasons this winter as they weigh the idea of bringing Big Mike back to Target Field.

    Declining Health

    It may be jumping the gun to say Pineda’s health is “declining” as he’s had somewhat frequent IL trips for the entirety of his Twins career. The Twins originally signed him coming off of Tommy John surgery. After an expected debut late in the 2018 season was called off due to a torn meniscus, Big Mike was on and off the IL in 2019 with recurring knee issues. He then had a freak forearm injury after being hit with a comebacker earlier this year and just recently was reactivated after missing time due to an oblique strain.

    Pineda will be 33 years old in 2022. While many pitchers can continue being effective into their early and mid 30s, Pineda’s body has been through a lot in his career. Things like knee injuries and pulled obliques can have long standing repercussions with athletes and can certainly be recurrent injuries. Teams in need of a starting pitcher at the deadline likely weighed the chances of Pineda actually being healthy down the stretch and passed. Rightfully so, as Pineda still didn’t look right and hit the IL shortly thereafter.

    The Twins have a significant amount of innings to fill in 2022. They may be wise to consider just how many of those innings they can really count on Pineda to fill.

    Walking the Tightrope

    For the first time since Pineda became a full time member of the Twins rotation, it’s fair to question just what quality of innings you can expect from him moving forward. Once possessing a mid 90s fastball, Pineda averaged a respectable 92.5 on his heater in 2019 and 92.1 in 2020. In 2021 Pineda is averaging just 90.1 mph, two entire ticks off of his fastball in just one year. More recently it’s been rare to see Pineda even hit 90 mph.

    This decline in velocity could be tied to the aforementioned injuries he’s dealt with this year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it can be disregarded. Pineda likely isn’t getting any healthier and his fastball has already declined to the point where not being at 100% appears to leave him with a sub 90mph fastball.

    We’ve seen the high-wire act it takes to succeed in the majors with a fastball that fails to reach 90. Arms like Devin Smeltzer and Lewis Thorpe have flashed success but have never been able to fully maintain Major League success for long periods. Pineda, whose repertoire consists of two pitches being thrown near 85% of the time, likely wouldn’t be an exception.

    Big Mike may not have been on the field as often as the Twins hoped these last three years, but he’s been one of their steadiest arms when healthy. Headed into a season where every pitching acquisition will be incredibly important, Pineda is a risk to both the quantity and quality of innings he can provide. 

    It’s entirely possible that Pineda tries to leverage his successful three years in Minnesota into one last payday. In a vacuum, his previous performance could likely net him another multi-year deal with upwards of $8-10m per year, and it’d be fair to look for good money.

    I’d argue that in order for Big Mike to return to Minnesota, it likely has to come on a much cheaper deal to account for the risk involved on the Twins end. The Twins need to avoid making such a risky pitcher one of their main additions to a currently bare 2022 starting rotation just because he’s a familiar face.

    Pineda was passed by at the deadline by contenders for several concerns that still very much exist. The Twins, having several additions to be made and needing to hit on all of them, need to be extremely careful if they want to pursue a reunion. Do you agree?

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    I agree - but what you are discussing will be part of the narrative of Buxton as well, and hopefully not Kiriloff, but his minor and major league career is filled with injuries.  Donaldson's next contract will be injury impacted too.  

    The difference is that pitchers are the center stage for every pitch.

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    If the Twins sign Pineda, that’s an indication that they are building for 2023.  Pineda would be a one year placeholder for someone else.  If the Twins sign a number one starter, that is a sign that they plan to contend.  

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    I would be willing to give him a 1 year low pay contract.  If he is healthy he is a good starter, not great, but good.  If he is not healthy or is not effective it does not hurt to move on from him.  I just would hope they would not keep throwing him out there like Happ this year. 

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    He is a veteran the Twins are familiar with and who has had success here.  I think the Twins bring him back,  I think the raised injury concerns are legit and I don't think the Twins can bank on him for a whole season but I still think they bring him back. 

    Not sure how much of a discount they can get as I am pretty sure he will be looking for 8 to 10 mil per year again and would probably like at least a two year deal.  He might find that somewhere else hard to say how desperate some teams might be.

    As the OP said you have to decide if he is in decline mode or not.  If the FO believes in decline I would let him walk if they think there is still something there then they need to find a price point they can live with.

    I could go either way with this one I just thought that since they didn't trade him they would resign him and given all the turnover in the rotation he could be one stabilizing piece if he still has what it takes. Like I said I think they bring him back but who knows what they are thinking.

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    3 hours ago, mikelink45 said:

    I agree - but what you are discussing will be part of the narrative of Buxton as well, and hopefully not Kiriloff, but his minor and major league career is filled with injuries.  Donaldson's next contract will be injury impacted too.  

    The difference is that pitchers are the center stage for every pitch.

    The difference in Buxton is it looks like he'll be an MVP level player when he's on the field. Now that Pineda is throwing under 90 mph it's fair to wonder whether he can even get by in a rotation at all over the course of a full season.

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    If Ryan is ready for the show moving forward as is Ober, Pineda signing is like having an extra Dobnak and Gant at the ready for the 5th spot in the rotation.  I think he is good for 20 - 25 starts we have enough prospects coming that someone will get opportunities because he can't stay on the field.  but when he does start he will give you average results.  with an above average offense and pen that equals more wins then loses.

     

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    I'm not saying Pineada is the answer to any questions or prayers, but with Maeda likely gone for the entire 2022 season,  the returning starters without Pineada are Bailey Ober, Griffin Jax, John Gant??, Lewis Thorpe??, Randy Dobnak??, and Joe Ryan.

    I'm far from being a front office expert, but those names indicate a need for at least 3 free agent starters. Maybe I'm still scarred by Happ and Shoemaker, but I don't know if this front office can sign 3 free agent starters who are better than Pineada.

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    5 hours ago, strumdatjag said:

    If the Twins sign a number one starter, that is a sign that they plan to contend.  

    With that as the criterion, the Twins haven't contended since 2014 when they signed Hughes and Nolasco 1991 when they signed Morris.

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    3 hours ago, ashbury said:

    With that as the criterion, the Twins haven't contended since 2014 when they signed Hughes and Nolasco 1991 when they signed Morris.

    I’m not saying that is an indication every year.  However, after trading Berrios and with Maeda out for most if not all of next year, the Twins are unlikely to be a serious contender without signing a number one starter.  
    Otherwise, they are looking to 2023 - and that might be the best course anyway. 

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    While I agree with the OP that Pineda is on the decline and won’t get any healthier, this Team needs to acquire 3 starting pitchers this offseason. They won’t sign 3 multi-year at 20 million per season free agents. 


    If Pineda is the 4th or 5th starter, the worst acquired, and a Happ type signing, that’s OK. If Pineda is the best pitcher they acquire, there’s a problem.

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    I watched Pineda throwing 93 today vs the Royals?  I think with the Twins dealing Berrios that they should probably go with what they got and see if they can rely on maybe 3 guys or so.  Then go after a big ace type pitcher the following year so as to get that main guy in the rotation.  But really next year they should see how their young guys can fair in MLB.  I'm just speculating but let's say that Ryan, Ober and Balazovic can get major league outs over 6+ innings and then the following year you get Maeda back and you pick up an Ace, now you have a solid rotation.  But if you pick up a couple of scrap heap starters and bring back Pineda then, at least to me, that limits how much MLB info you can get on the guys in your system which they have quite a few at this point in time that by age wise should be getting opportunities now if not sooner.

    It really seems like to me that the twins pitching prospects toil down in the minors a little too long.  I mean they brought Berrios up when he was 22, and don't get me wrong, he stunk it up, but at 22 it gives a player enough time to go back down and work on the things that will make him better, I think those guys need to see what the MLB hitter are going to do to them and then they can adjust and come back up and be ready to get outs.  But when you wait till these guys are 25, 26 or 27 before giving them a shot, (I mean you know they are going to go through major struggles at the highest level,) when they ultimately go through their failures they really don't have any more time to go down to the minors to right the ship, they are now pretty much too old to make those adjustments and come back.  I think they need to give Balazovic a shot and those other young guys they have, that way they can send the ones struggling back down in June and July and let them work on their adjustments and bring them back up in September etc.... Just my opinion, but I really think the Twins need to see what they now have in the system.  They have so many young guys down there now with all of the trades bring em up and see what they got and what they can tweak to get them ready for the following season.  I don't think keeping them in the minors behind another shoemaker or Happ replacement does the team any good.  

    Or if you don't want to go that route then trade those kids for some vets.  But me personally I'd rather see what those kids can do.  Don't sign a bunch of scrap heap guys which will hold the kids down.  Play the kids and when you know who is going to step up then sign that ace to complete the rotation.

     

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    Sign him for depth, but it's gotta be cheap.  If the guy could just get in better shape I think it would particularly prolong his career.  He and Gordon should become roommates.  Gordon cooks for Michael for Big Mike for Flash. 

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    13 hours ago, tony&rodney said:

    Big Mike for $2 million is acceptable. He can spot start or be a long reliever perhaps.

    Agreed.......doubt he'd accept that deal without a series of escalators/incentives-------Games Started/IP---that would increase a 1 year deal between $5-$7m.  Others thoughts?

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    2 hours ago, Twodogs said:

    I watched Pineda throwing 93 today vs the Royals?  I think with the Twins dealing Berrios that they should probably go with what they got and see if they can rely on maybe 3 guys or so.  Then go after a big ace type pitcher the following year so as to get that main guy in the rotation.  But really next year they should see how their young guys can fair in MLB.  I'm just speculating but let's say that Ryan, Ober and Balazovic can get major league outs over 6+ innings and then the following year you get Maeda back and you pick up an Ace, now you have a solid rotation.  But if you pick up a couple of scrap heap starters and bring back Pineda then, at least to me, that limits how much MLB info you can get on the guys in your system which they have quite a few at this point in time that by age wise should be getting opportunities now if not sooner.

    It really seems like to me that the twins pitching prospects toil down in the minors a little too long.  I mean they brought Berrios up when he was 22, and don't get me wrong, he stunk it up, but at 22 it gives a player enough time to go back down and work on the things that will make him better, I think those guys need to see what the MLB hitter are going to do to them and then they can adjust and come back up and be ready to get outs.  But when you wait till these guys are 25, 26 or 27 before giving them a shot, (I mean you know they are going to go through major struggles at the highest level,) when they ultimately go through their failures they really don't have any more time to go down to the minors to right the ship, they are now pretty much too old to make those adjustments and come back.  I think they need to give Balazovic a shot and those other young guys they have, that way they can send the ones struggling back down in June and July and let them work on their adjustments and bring them back up in September etc.... Just my opinion, but I really think the Twins need to see what they now have in the system.  They have so many young guys down there now with all of the trades bring em up and see what they got and what they can tweak to get them ready for the following season.  I don't think keeping them in the minors behind another shoemaker or Happ replacement does the team any good.  

    Or if you don't want to go that route then trade those kids for some vets.  But me personally I'd rather see what those kids can do.  Don't sign a bunch of scrap heap guys which will hold the kids down.  Play the kids and when you know who is going to step up then sign that ace to complete the rotation.

     

    Excellent analysis that I totally agree with!  I know the game has changed immensely, but I seem to remember a certain young SP that got lit up for a couple of seasons then became the WS MVP in 87.

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    The lower spots in the rotation do allow for some of the prospects to see what they can do. This is what Ober and Ryan are doing right now. To use a third spot would be pretty risky. It is one thing to finish the year with all prospects showing their skills in a lost season but another to begin the year experimenting with prospects. A staff of "seeing what we have" at the start of the year would almost certainly guarantee 100+ losses. Pineda on a lower paying contract with incentives may fill a #3 spot, although that is not a preferred path. I'm hopeful that a few trades and several free agents can right the ship. There is always room for any player to push their way into a lineup or rotation. Lastly, there should not be any repeats of signing "we hope that..." veterans. 

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    21 hours ago, Cody Pirkl said:

    The difference in Buxton is it looks like he'll be an MVP level player when he's on the field. Now that Pineda is throwing under 90 mph it's fair to wonder whether he can even get by in a rotation at all over the course of a full season.

    Buck may have a better chance at utilizing his speed, if  he would bunt once a week and hit away from any shifts. Why is this so difficult to do? Maybe I'm wrong in thinking Wee Willie Keeler was correct. Now it seems the mantra is to hit it as hard as you can, no matter where the shifts are playing you and no matter if there is a runner on second with no outs.. His batting average has dropped 60 points since his return. Not exactly an MVP ending to this season which, for Buck, began on an MVP pace.

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    The main argument made in this article is that Pineda has become injury prone thus the Twins should not resign him.  Use your crystal ball and tell me what pitcher they currently have or will sign that isn't going to have an injury. They could sign a top free agent pitcher for next season that has never been injured and the guy could blow his arm out the first game he pitches for the Twins. There are no guarantees. The current rotation stacks up as Ober, Jax, Ryan, and a combination of Pineda, Dobnak, Gant and any other arm that is still attached to someone's body. If this is the plan for 2022 and to take a look at Balazovic, Duran, Winder, during the 2022 season then they are looking to 2023 and beyond, which means there won't be any big moves this off-season but more of the same dumpster diving for live arms to patch a rotation for the season. The guys like Smeltzer, Thorpe, Albers, Barraclough have no value going forward. They need to stop looking back for old arms that aren't worth anything and start looking forward to the young talent they have.

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    Saturdays game shows why we do need to resign Big Mike for 2022.  He throws this kind of game again and again.  Perhaps this years injury will persuade him to come into camp next year in better shape.  Perhaps being in better shape will make him less prone to injury.  I can picture him consistantly pitching this kind of game for several years to come. :)

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    On 9/11/2021 at 9:27 AM, strumdatjag said:

    If the Twins sign Pineda, that’s an indication that they are building for 2023.  Pineda would be a one year placeholder for someone else.  If the Twins sign a number one starter, that is a sign that they plan to contend.  

    Yes.  Pineda would be a waste of money.  Blocking people not what the Twins need to be doing. 

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    How about this?  Sign him for 1 year if the money you give him doesn't affect any other decisions.

    Duran and Canterino are going to lose 2022 to TJS, though apparently the Twins are intent on including 2023 as well.  The Twins need a pitcher to eat innings

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    12 hours ago, twinstalker said:

    How about this?  Sign him for 1 year if the money you give him doesn't affect any other decisions.

    Duran and Canterino are going to lose 2022 to TJS, though apparently the Twins are intent on including 2023 as well.  The Twins need a pitcher to eat innings

    It's not a question of wasting money by signing Pineda. It is a question of Pineda blocking young prospects pitching in the majors so we can see who will be good and who will not plus to get rid of the "yips" for those who will be good.

     

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