What Went Wrong: Michael Pineda


(REUTERS/Steve Nesius)

A year ago, the Yankees somewhat surprisingly won 97 games and a division title despite featuring a patchwork rotation behind CC Sabathia. Rookie Ivan Nova was given a rotation spot and excelled, but behind him you had a struggling/injured Phil Hughes, a junkball specialist in Freddy Garcia, and the definition of a retread in Bartolo Colon. He hadn’t thrown more than 80 innings in a big league season since 2007. Yet the Yankees won and won a lot with that starting staff.

When the offseason came, Brian Cashman & Co. set out to improve that patchwork rotation. They brought Garcia back for depth but otherwise waited the market out. And waited. And waited some more. Then, in one fell swoop, the Yankees swung a four-player trade for Michael Pineda and signed Hiroki Kuroda to a one-year contract. News of the two moves broke within about an hour of each other, and just like that the rotation was fixed. At least in theory. Kuroda was fantastic this season, but things hardly went according to plan for Pineda.

* * *

Pineda, who turned 23 a few days after the trade, was coming off an All-Star season with the Mariners in which he became the first rookie in baseball history (!) to record a 9.0+ K/9 with a sub-3.0 BB/9 while qualifying for the ERA title. His fastball lived in the 94-96 range and his mid-80s slider generated a swing-and-miss nearly 40% of the time (38.5%, to be exact). He needed to work on his changeup and the Yankees knew that, but pitchers that young who can miss bats and limit walks are rare breeds. With the 2014 payroll plan looming and the club in desperate need of a young, high-end arm, Pineda seemed like exactly what the Yankees needed.

With the media circus circling like vultures and waiting for any slip-up, Pineda came to Spring Training overweight. He said it was ten pounds but Brian Cashman said it was 20. For a kid that big (listed at 6-foot-7, 265 lbs.) gaining 10-20 pounds isn’t a huge deal but it wasn’t a good first impression. The club griped about Seattle’s unconventional offseason workout regime — their pitchers don’t start throwing until a few weeks before Spring Training — but that was mostly just frustration being vented. Pineda did his work and set out to lose the weight.

When the Grapefruit League schedule opened a few weeks later and Pineda made his first start, his trademark fastball was in the 88-91 range. First start of Spring Training? Not a huge deal. Next time out he hit 93 on the gun, but in his third start he was back around 90-91. After three starts you’re expecting to see some improvement as the arm strength builds and the cobwebs are shaken off, but it wasn’t happening for Pineda. His fourth and fifth starts featured more of the same, and what was supposed to be his sixth and final start of Spring Training wound up being his final start of 2012.

(Ron Antonelli/New York Daily News)

The Phillies pounded Pineda (six runs in 2.2 innings) on March 30th and after the game the right-hander complained of soreness in the back of his right shoulder. He had felt it before the game but declined to tell anyone. The Yankees sent Pineda for an MRI, which revealed only shoulder tendinitis and no structural damage to his labrum or rotator cuff. He was to be shut down for 10-15 days and placed on the DL. Pineda gradually worked his way back, first playing catch, then playing long-toss, then throwing a bullpen session, then throwing to hitters in an Extended Spring Training. He felt weakness in his shoulder during that ExST game was shutdown after one inning.

The Yankees sent Pineda back to New York for another MRI and two doctor’s examinations — one by the team doctor and one by a doctor of Pineda’s (and his agent’s) choice per league rules. Both exams revealed the same thing: he had an anterior labral tear and would need arthroscopic surgery. It wasn’t the kiss of death SLAP tear (a full labrum tear, all the way around), but the surgery would cause him to miss then entire season and the start of next season as well. Pineda had his surgery on May 1st.

The Yankees moved on without Pineda and were fine, they won 95 games and another division title. His rehab progressed slowly down in Tampa and various check-ups came back positive, but on August 20th, less than four months after his surgery, Pineda was arrested for driving under the influence down in Tampa. We haven’t heard anything about his sentencing or punishment, but that could still be pending. That really doesn’t matter though, DUI is an inexcusable crime in my book and it reflects terribly on him.

Reports indicated that Pineda was scheduled to start throwing around September and Cashman recently confirmed that Pineda has in fact been throwing off flat ground. Earlier this week the right-hander was cleared to continue his throwing program following another check-up, so his shoulder rehab appears to be going well. He still has a very long way to go though. Cashman said he doesn’t expect him back until June, so he’s not even halfway through the process yet.

Regardless of what happens going forward, Pineda’s first year in pinstripes was a disaster. Within his first eight months as a Yankee he showed up to camp overweight, hid an arm injury, and was arrested, plus he still has to come back from the shoulder surgery. The Yankees don’t know what they’ll get out of him going forward and there’s a chance he’ll never be the pitcher he was in 2011 again. The injury could sap velocity, command, or both. We won’t know until he gets back on a mound in a game situation. Jesus Montero‘s disappointing year (90 wRC+) might have softened the blow a little bit, but you can’t sugarcoat it. This year was pretty much the worst case scenario for Pineda.

Categories : Players


  1. Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM) says:

  2. William says:

    I still think the deal will work our for both sides. Pineda still can develop into an ace, and I’m sure Montero will hit a lot better than this Year.

  3. Robert says:

    Unfortunatly Pineda will be a bust and Montero will go on to a long ML career.Probably not a Superstar but average.

    Only chance of salvaging this trade is if Campos becomes a ML pitcher.

  4. Murderers' Row Boat says:

    All lies, Pineda will become such a horrible player that the shear mass of disappoint will cause a tear in space-time, dragging the entire South Bronx with him.

  5. Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

    Montero posted a robust -0.2 WAR this year for the Mariners so technically Pineda was the more valuable out of the 2 players this year.

    Mark this trade down as a win so far.

  6. The Guns of Navarone says:

    “he became the first rookie in baseball history (!) to record a 9.0+ K/9 with a sub-3.0 BB/9 while qualifying for the batting title.”

    I don’t understand this.

  7. YanksFanInBeantown says:

    not to come off as callous, but I’ll take the DUI over a SLAP tear. His injury is much more Anibal Sanchez than it is Brien Taylor.

  8. Steve T says:

    Kudos for not mentioning AJ Burnett. Anyone remember him?

  9. Gonzo says:

    This injury isn’t the kiss of death. I heard someone say that how he comes back depends on his dedication to rehab, and after that, his dedication to training. I’m not sure which ballplayer said that though, so take it with a grain of salt.

  10. Ton Lon ton says:

    Pineda will win the 2018 cy young with a 20-4 2.18 record and 210 Ks and 34 BBs. Unfortunately that will be three years after Cashmans disastrous 2015 trade with the Padres for a PTBNL and a box of cracker jacks

  11. UncleArgyle says:

    Chances are Micheal Pineda will never throw a meaningful pitch for the New York Yankees. Not only is his shoulder made of shredded wheat, he also lacks a work ethic (see showing up 20 lbs over weight to your new team) and lacks intelligence (see DUI). Pretty bad combo.

    • jjyank says:

      And he’s 23. I’m not excusing the decisions he’s made, but that doesn’t mean he can’t grow up. Most people make several stupid decisions at 22/23.

      • UncleArgyle says:

        I guess. Maybe Pineda will learn to take his job seriously and get in shape. Maybe he will learn not to flat out lie to his employers at the first opportunity. Maybe he will go to A.A. and sober himself up. Maybe he will defy the odds with his injury rehab. But I’m not betting on it.

        • jjyank says:

          Getting a DUI once doesn’t make him an alcoholic. Not being forthcoming about an injury? Seriuosly? What are your thoughts on Derek Jeter? Or most other ahtletes? Especially with all the pressure he was getting, I’m sure he thought he could pitch through it and he’d be fine. This doesn’t need to be extrapolated into some major character flaw, because the fact is we just don’t know.

          He probably won’t be the exact same after the injury. But I will bet you a thousand internet dollars he throws quite a few “meaningful” pitchers. His career isn’t over yet.

      • toad says:

        Most people make several stupid decisions at 22/23.


    • gc says:

      Another armchair psychiatrist. Stop talking out of your ass.

    • Brian S. says:

      Are you saying smart people don’t get DUI’s?

  12. BB says:

    unfortunately he will never be able to break 91 mph again after having these shoulder issues…

    trade is horrendous. period.

    • UncleArgyle says:

      Totally agree. If he breaks 88 MPH ever again with his fastball then the Doctor who did the operation should get an award. Its about 200 times more likely this kid gets his 2nd DUI before he makes his 2nd Allstar team.

    • Hugh says:

      Trade was a perfectly good one where both teams got what they were looking for.

      Get rather fed up with these negative hindsight judgements.

  13. Get Phelps Up says:

    These comments have not dissapointed. I am surprised that there’s not 100+ though.

  14. BB says:

    how else do you want to judge it?

    the end results are awwfulll

    there is nothing else to think about.

    • Preston says:

      You never have the benefit of hindsight when you make a decision. So the only way you should dissect your decision making process is by what you knew/didn’t know going into it. I don’t see anything terribly flawed in the Yankees reasoning for trading for this kid before the trade was made. So the results don’t matter, because if the exact situation came up in a few years and if Gary Sanchez is languishing in AAA as an elite bat with no position and Tajaun Walker is coming off an elite rookie season, I pull the trigger and do it all over again.

      • dalelama says:

        Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.

        • Preston says:

          Except that we are talking about people, it isn’t a repetition, there are thousands of unpredictable variables the only way to make sure a pitcher doesn’t have an injury is to not have pitchers. The volatility of pitching is exactly what makes them so valuable. So you need to take the risk.

    • Cris Pengiucci says:

      One season does not show us the end results. Pineda and Montero are under tam control for quite a few more seasons. Let’s see what the next few years bring. I will grant you that the first year doesn’t make it look promising, but I suspect Pineda will provide some value to the Yankees. I’m just not sure how much.

    • UncleArgyle says:

      Amazing, The yankess trade for a pitcher who immediately gets hurt and will miss AT LEAST the first 1 and a half seasons of his Yankee career with that injury. Then the pitcher goes out and gets a DUI at about 3 times the legal limit while rehabbing, and you have Kool-Aid drinkers wondering why people are down on Michael Pineda. Goodness.

      • Preston says:

        No one is asking you why you’re down on Pineda, his stock has obviously fallen in the last year. But we still have him for several years to come and I’m optimistic he can be a useful starter if not the star he showed the ability to be in 2011. And I don’t think that Cashman should have the ability to see the future of a guys shoulder beyond what the doctors tell him. All the other stuff, being 10 lbs. over weight, getting the DUI is just noise, players do that crap all the time. David Wells was 40 lbs. overweight and threw a perfect game when he was still a little hung over/drunk. The only thing that’s relevant is his shoulder.

      • dalelama says:

        The Kool Aid drinkers never rest. They are the same ones who thought the Nick Johnson trade was ok despite his career of fragility.

    • johnny says:

      The end result is five years away

  15. tino!_24 says:

    Ironic that even if Pineda was an ace this year yanks still lose in playoffs due to lack of hitting!

  16. Darren says:

    The trade was a dumb one at the time. Can you please not trade the only young live bat we had, especially one with Mike Piazza potential, just because he might be a below average catcher? Yeah, I know it’s nice ot have a shut down ace, but a half season from a rookie does not make a shut down ace. If both of their careers were a toss up, just stick with the guy you have.

    • jjyank says:

      I disagree. You may disagree with the trade, but it wasn’t dumb. The Yankees didn’t have a position for him. And if you want to play the “half a season from a rookie does not make a shut down ace”, then neither does a month of good hitting make the next Mike Piazza. it works both ways.

      To be clear, I liked Montero, and I was as excited anyone for him to come up. But there was quite a bit of logic behind this trade. Maybe you don’t agree with it, but it wasn’t dumb.

      • Darren says:

        Right, my point was essentially, you didn’t know what you had with either once. So, all things being equal, stick with your guy. I get it that it had som elogic, but I thought ht logic was faulty (shutdown pitcher better than below average catcher). It should have been homegrown potential hitting superstar better than unknown rookie pitcher.

    • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

      Montero was never as valuable as Yankee fans made him out to be because the guy has no position. The Yankees aren’t in a position to give one player DH 500+ ABs as DH therefore their best move was to trade Montero.

      You can fault Cashman and the medical staff for missing something in his medicals though we have no evidence of prior injury other than his loss of velocity at the end of the previous season but this just looks like some really bad luck on the Yankees part.

    • Raul Ibanez AKA Tom Marvolo Riddle AKA True Yankee(TM) says:

      And 50ABs doesn’t make you Mike Piazza.

      • Darren says:

        half a season doesn’t make you Roger Clemens either.

        And the point is, Montero did have a position. Catcher. Yanks won 4 rings with Jorge, right? And Girardi HATED his defense (as did just about everyone else). Montero allegedly had higher offensive upside than Jorge. Plain and simple, Yankees overvalued ctaching defense, in large part because (a) Girardi was a defensive catcher and (ii) they got sick of Jorge and Montero was guilty by association.*
        * absolutely no proof to back this up.

    • Need Pitching & Hitting says:

      Half a season from a rookie doesn’t make a shut down ace.
      He was a pitcher with shut down ace potential.
      Just like raking (kind of) in AAA doesn’t make a hitter the future Miguel Cabrera.
      Both teams were betting on what the respective players would become, not what the already were.

  17. Lester Munson says:

    I really didn’t jive with Girardi announcing to the world that Pineda needed to compete for a rotation spot. Lot of blame to go around and Joe G doesn’t deserve all or most of it.. but he definitely deserves his share for this media blunder

    Piss poor management of a young talented pitcher(Very Familiar in these parts) I can’t help but wonder if this caused him to overwork himself to injury. You can’t trade the future of you organization for an fire-breathing 22 year old pitcher and tell the world he needs to compete with Freddy Garcia/Ivan Nova. Unmitigated disaster as Mike has said many times

    • Andy Pettitte's Fibula (formerly Manny's BanWagon) says:

      and if the Yankees didn’t try and light a fire under his ass and he got hurt, it would have been because he was fat and out of shape, undisciplined and the Yankees coddled him kind of like how people made Phil Hughes out to be in 2011.

  18. thenamestsam says:

    Imagine how people would feel about this trade if Montero hadn’t had an unmitigated disaster of a rookie year. Given what we saw from Montero this year the Yankees made a very astute judgement to trade him when they did. He’s clearly not a catcher and his plate discipline looks like a real issue in terms of him becoming a truly elite hitter, which he’ll need to be since he’s either a DH or bat-only 1B going forward.

    The only question then as I see it is did they target the right guy? Looks bad in retrospect, but at the time Pineda met a lot of the criteria. He was young, lots of team control left, and had already had a tremendous year at the major league level. There were some red flags there, but there were counterarguments to each of them, and ultimately if there aren’t any red flags you’re talking about a Matt Moore or a David Price of a few years back, a guy who just isn’t available.

    Hasn’t worked out, but I still think there was solid logic behind the trade and I still believe Pineda will bounce back.

  19. pistol pete says:

    Young pitchers health and durability is always a crap shoot. This trade was one and it backfired, it’s that simple. The Yankee’s wanted a high level young pitcher under control and they got one. The fact is young pitchers get hurt, a lot of them do. Veteran pitchers are more durable and get hurt less often. Deals like Kuroda and Pettitte are safer than expecting someone like Pineda to be a No 2 in the fish bowl of NY and expecting 200 plus innings and be able to pitch effectively in the post season. I don’t think Pineda will everbe a good pitcher for the Yankees but at the time it’s exactly what the Yankees wanted.

  20. panos says:

    bad trade. dude was out of shape last year.

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