Michael Pineda Should No Longer Start for the Yankees

The Yankees have talked about their need to find two starters among their stand-out group of young pitchers. But they really need to find three starters and some new way Michael Pineda can help the team, namely, by leaving.

I was not writing for this site when Michael Pineda was traded to the Yankees for Jesus Montero in 2012. Had I been, I would have written how much I loved the trade for both teams as much as these folks did. I saw Montero as a power hitting catcher ready to arrive. And I loved Pineda as a power pitcher already arrived. There was little doubt this would greatly benefit both teams and I had visions of a new ace starting the first game of a future world series.

Full disclosure: I also thought Manny Banuelos was going to be a one or two, so that tells you what I know.

Fast forward to today. If you stopped following either team right after the trade, let me bring you up to speed. Montero’s dietary and workout habits seemed to share an inverse relationship; before long he was fully fat and lazy. Never considered a great catcher, his skills eroded, then evaporated, quickly.

The Mariners tried to get what they could from him on the field, with poor results. Today he is a recently signed member of the Baltimore Orioles, trying to find work as a DH. He also has a fifty game suspension to serve for PED use.

Pretty bleak. Yet I am no longer sure the Mariners lost this trade.

Maybe He Should Breathe Through His Eyelids

Pineda has more skill in his body than most pitchers will ever see in a movie about a guy who has incredible skills. But, like Nuke Laloosh, I fear he has a million dollar arm and fifty cent head. Not that I think Pineda is unintelligent. I have never seen an indication of that.

No, his mental issues are concentrated in one area: concentration. He does not seem able to marshall his mental forces for every pitch. That is why many of his pitches look untouchable while others are, well, touchable. And they tend to go a long way.

Sometimes I feel more tortured by him than his opponents. It’s not supposed to be this way. At least Montero is no longer making Mariners fans suffer.

But the facts are the facts and you are what your record says you are. This is Pineda: in 2016, he pitched to a 4.82 ERA and had more hits than innings pitched (184/175). The numbers show that he is pitching as a number five. The problem for the Yankees is they already have a number five: CC Sabathia. And he is still a better pitcher than Pineda, so Michael must go. Pineda needs to be traded before the end of the year, preferably before the end of Spring Training, to a team desperate for pitching.

I Still Believe In Luis Severino

This means the Yankees need to find three starting pitchers in spring training, not two. Of course, they hope to have three or four competent starters at Triple-A because it takes at least 7 or 8 pitchers to get through a season. So, they really need three starters for the Bronx and three waiting in Scranton; here is the wish list for how it will play out.

My first choice is that they trade for a middle of the order guy. Getting a three will not break the system and they should not have to give up any of their very top prospects. Instead, they should be able to trade a large number of mid-range prospects. I doubt the Yankees share my point of view, so, on to internal options.

Bryan Mitchell will undoubtedly start for the Yankees, no matter what happens with Pineda. Mitchell struggled in 2015, as young pitchers do, giving up 37 hits in 29 innings with an ERA of 6.37. But when he came back to make five starts in the Yankees playoff chase last fall, he pitched to a 3.24 ERA with only one more hit than IP (26/25).

And he already won a spot in the rotation last spring training, only losing it to injury. My guess is he keeps it this year.

Next, hopefully, is Luis Severino. I say hopefully because he has the best stuff of any of the competitors, as we saw in 2015. But has already failed once, as we saw in 2016. He, too, will come in with a job to lose, although his leash will be much shorter. Unless he completely falls apart in Spring Training, he will leave camp as a starter in the Bronx. As I wrote, I am very hopeful it all works out.

Take a Chance, Yankees

The last spot will go to Luis Cessa, but only as a placeholder. There are a lot of strong arms coming, at least for tryouts, but most are not quite ready. Justus Sheffield, Chance Adams, and James Kaprielian all look like potential starters, as does Domingo Acevedo.


Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

But none has conquered Triple-A and seem unlikely to be allowed to jump that far. More likely Brian Cashman will want each to get a few starts in the Minors before being trusted. Cashman’s recent interview on Yankees Hot Stove shows how much he thinks of Chance Adams, but I doubt he will let him go directly from Trenton to the Bronx.

This leaves only Chad Green and Cessa as serious candidates for the final spot, and that competition has already been decided. Green started 8 games and ended with an ERA of 4.73 while giving up more hits than innings (49/45). Cessa was marginally better: an ERA of 4.35 and with fewer hits than innings in his nine starts (64/70). He also seems to have a more aggressive attitude and less fear in his eyes than Green.

So, Cessa over Pineda and Green. That puts Green, Adams, and Acevedo at Triple-A immediately, with Kaprielian and Sheffield due to arrive later this year. And it puts Pineda on a bus out of town.

Unrequited Love

I still love his stuff. In fact, I love it too much. His best is better than anyone in the league and he can dominate any lineup. I used to think he could start an All-Star game and a World Series in the same year. He should have already taken over the number one role from Masahiro Tanaka.

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Now, I would rather the Yankees lineup to face him rather than line up behind him. He can do all of the above. He also can, and will, give up a home run to anyone at anytime. It is time for Pineda to leave the Yankees and a different starter given a chance. And it is time to declare the trade a draw.

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