The Seattle Mariners needed to add one more starting pitcher last year to discontinue their “bullpen games”, so they acquired Tyler Anderson last year at the deadline to fill that void. However, Anderson is now a free agent, and the club needs to replace his spot at the back end of the rotation. One possibility lies in a former Mariner, who was once a top prospect in the Mariners system: right hander Michael Pineda.
Michael Pineda was a member of the Mariners organization from the time he signed as amateur free agent in 2005, to the time he was traded to the New York Yankees for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi in 2012. He only pitched one year in the big leagues for the Mariners, but he had a very good year that year; he made the All-Star team and finished 5th in Rookie of the Year voting.
Pineda, 32, had many injuries in 2012 and 2013 that kept him out of the majors until 2014, and also missed the 2018 season with a torn meniscus. He has never been the most fortunate with injuries, which could be due to his incredibly large frame; he is 6’7″ and weighs 280 pounds. By contrast, Diego Castillo is another notably big pitcher, but he is only 6’3″ and 250 pounds.
The Mariners have a plethora of young pitching talent, as many fans know, but they aren’t ready for the big leagues yet. The Mariners can’t start the year with Justin Dunn, Justus Sheffield, Matt Brash, George Kirby, or Brandon Williamson as the fifth starter. That simply isn’t good enough for a team that wants to compete for a wild card spot. I believe they need to bring someone in to at least fill that spot to begin the season, and Michael Pineda could fit that well as the Mariners would probably not be able to count on Pineda to pitch 150+ innings.
So what about Michael Pineda gives the Mariners reason to sign him?
Michael Pineda controls the strike zone, which is one of the Mariners’ biggest philosophies, and that could lead to them being interested in his services. He had a 1.73 BB/9 last year for the Twins in 109.1 innings, and also had 88 strikeouts, giving him a 7.24 K/9. He will not give up free passes to batters, which would be nice for the Mariners, especially compared to Sheffield and Dunn who walked too many hitters last year.
Pineda uses a three pitch mix headlined by his fastball that sits around 91 mph. He has a very low spin rate on his fastball, and it is generally considered that the top and bottom of the spin rate spectrum are good places to be; a low spin rate can have a reverse effect of a high spin fastball, and be a good change of pace from all the high velocity, high spin fastballs in the game today. He uses a slider and change-up to make up his off-speed offerings.
All in all, Michael Pineda is about an average pitcher, who is a slight improvement in ability compared to Tyler Anderson, but less consistent. He will have a bit more variance in his performances, especially over the course of a full season, but he will go deeper in games generally than Anderson. He could be a solid fifth starter that could go about five innings per start, but with the right help, he could be better.
Pineda’s injury history does suggest that he will get hurt at least at some point, so if he doesn’t, that would be a major plus. If he does, however, get hurt in the middle of the season, that could open the door for one of the Mariners’ pitching prospects; if Matt Brash, Brandon Williamson, or George Kirby are performing well and are looking like they’re big league ready, they could get the call up. Logan Gilbert got called up after injuries last year, so it could be the same situation.
The Mariners should seriously consider bringing in Michael Pineda as a low risk, high reward play as their fifth starter for the 2022 campaign. He provides insurance for the readiness of the Mariners’ young arms, so if Seattle decides to go with a younger guy part way into the season, they could even have the option to trade Pineda at the deadline for some minor league depth.