Yankees Rumors: Big Mike Could Be a Valuable Trade Chip

The New York Yankees could take advantage of the weak pitching market this winter by trading starting pitcher Michael Pineda, whose contract expires after the upcoming season.

In a recent column, Joel Sherman of The New York Post predicts that the New York Yankees could continue to sell off veterans in the coming weeks even as they eye some of the big names on the free agent market. The team already traded away Brian McCann to the Houston Astros on Thursday, and general manager Brian Cashman has confirmed he has offers in hand for veterans Brett Gardner and Chase Headley as well.

One new name Sherman adds to the rumor mill is starting pitcher Michael Pineda, suggesting that the club “could seize on a weak starter market” with no high-end free agent options available this offseason. While it may seem strange for the Yankees to trade away a starter when Cashman has stressed his main goal of the winter is to add pitching depth, the GM may find the chance to cash one season of the erratic and injury-prone Pineda for a huge prospect haul too tempting to pass up.

It’s difficult to say how opposing clubs would value the 27-year-old righty after another uneven campaign. Pineda struck out 27.4% of the batters he faced this season, which was the third-highest mark among qualified American League starters. He led all AL starters with a 3.30 xFIP, a stat which tries to eliminate bad luck and bad defense from a pitcher’s results.

As strong as his peripheral stats were, however, you can’t ignore that for the second season in a row, Michael Pineda’s actual run prevention was below average. He put up a 4.82 ERA in 175.2 IP this year and a 4.37 ERA in 160.2 IP. That split between his expected results and his actual results has led to a huge gap in how the two most popular WAR metrics value Pineda.

Baseball-Reference uses actual runs allowed in their model, so they estimate that Pineda has been worth a combined 2.9 WAR from 2015-2016. FanGraphs, which bases their stat on FIP, thinks Pineda has been more than twice as valuable as that at 6.7 WAR the last two years.

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Different MLB clubs all have their own ways of valuing players, so I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a fairly wide array of estimates on just how valuable Michael Pineda is among rival executives. I guess the trick this winter might be seeing if there’s a GM who thinks much more highly of Big Mike than the Yankees do, and seeing what he is willing to give up for him.

I would much prefer to see the team explore an extension with Pineda because the future of their rotation looks so uncertain at the moment. If Masahiro Tanaka opts out of his contract after next season and they let CC Sabathia walk, things could get pretty dicey if guys like Luis Severino and James Kaprielian don’t develop as expected.

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