Michael Pineda an intriguing option for Phillies

BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - JUNE 01: Starting pitcher Michael Pineda #35 of the Minnesota Twins (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MARYLAND - JUNE 01: Starting pitcher Michael Pineda #35 of the Minnesota Twins (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images) /

As the Philadelphia Phillies enter a crucial stretch that will determine whether they will be buyers or sellers at the MLB trade deadline, their focus must be on potential players to target should they shift into “buy” mode. The Phillies could use help just about anywhere, but shoring up the rotation should be front and center. And one name who could fill in nicely for the club is current Minnesota Twins starter Michael Pineda.

The 32-year old right-hander has had a rocky road over the years, from suspensions to seemingly omnipresent injury concerns, but Pineda could fit the mold of what the Phillies need at the moment as they attempt to reach the postseason for the first time in a decade.

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First, by virtue of his track record, Pineda does not figure to fetch too great a ransom from an acquiring team. He’s also in the last year of his contract and the Twins, enduring a miserable season, will be motivated sellers with no real reason to keep him around. The trade market may or may not become awash with starters from failing clubs, but Pineda is someone that you can mark down right now as firmly in play.

Pineda is fresh off the IL after a bout of elbow inflammation, and his first start back didn’t produce the desired results. The Phillies would be wise, however, to see how he fares in his next turn or two after the all-star break and be ready to pounce if he shows the kind of form that he did earlier in the season when his ERA stood at 2.62 after his first eight starts. It’s jumped to 4.11 for the time being, but even something hovering around that mark would give the Phillies a better chance of success than what they’ve been sending to the hill to round out their rotation.

Veteran pitcher Michael Pineda could give the Philadelphia Phillies what they need for the rest of 2021.

Another factor that might help the case for Pineda to come to Philadelphia is his history with Joe Girardi, as Pineda played under Girardi from 2014-2017 in New York. Joe could very well be the determining factor in whether or not the Phils pursue Pineda, dependent on how he views his former hurler. For the record, Pineda’s time in the Yankees yielded mixed results: a 31-31 record and 4.16 ERA over parts of four seasons. Might the two be headed for a reunion?

Aside from whatever assets the Phillies might have to surrender in a trade, a move for Pineda isn’t overly risky. Yes, he will always have the health concerns, but Pineda should be motivated about pitching his way to a new contract with a strong showing down the stretch in 2021. And even if said contract wouldn’t be in Philadelphia, the Phillies should let him loose to prove himself. There will be no need to protect his arm or shelter him, as callous as that might sound. No, the Phillies would just need about 80 effective innings from a pitcher like Pineda the rest of the way, and then possibly a few more if those innings are good enough to help get them to the playoffs. This is what being a hired gun is all about.

It remains to be seen what the Twins might ask for in a trade, but hardly anyone in the Phillies farm system should be off the table, with the exception of Mick Abel and a handful of others. Perhaps an arm like Adonis Medina or Damon Jones might be enough to get it done. Or would this be an opportunity to finally turn Mickey Moniak into something? It will all depend on the strength of other offers that Minnesota might receive.

Unfortunately, MLB is not allowing teams to trade international bonus pool money this year, denying the Phillies a further sweetener if their offer seems to be lacking a bit. Still, I’m confident that even the Phillies’ middling farm system can produce the right return for a reasonable target like Pineda.

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This will all end up being moot if the Philadelphia Phillies stumble over the next few weeks, but active measures must be taken to improve the team if they stay within shouting distance of first place in a very winnable NL East. In this case, a move for Michael Pineda would make sense based on the low acquisition cost and his ability to bolster an area of need for a club who should be desperate to play past game #162 this season.