Posted on December 6, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
If it’s not broke, the Minnesota Twins aren’t going to try to fix it. After winning the AL Central in 2019, the Twins have agreed to bring back one of the pitchers who helped make it happen. The club has reached an agreement with starter Michael Pineda on a two-year deal worth $20 million. The deal will help the Twins keep intact the rotation that helped deliver their first division crown since 2010.
The soon-to-be 31-year-old Pineda was on the open market after coming off a two-year, $10 million deal with the Twins. Of course, the Twins signed him to that deal knowing they would only get one year out of Pineda, who sat out all of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. However, the Twins get plenty out of Pineda in 2019, as he went 11-5 with a 4.01 ERA in 26 starts. Pineda came on particularly strong during the second half of the season when the Twins made their push for the AL Central title.
Of course, Pineda’s season didn’t end the way he or the Twins wanted. He was slapped with a 60-game PED suspension in early September. Pineda likely would have started a game during the ALDS against his former team, the Yankees. Without him, Minnesota was swept in three games, meaning the franchise still hasn’t won a postseason game since 2004. Pineda will still have 39 games left on his suspension at the start of next season, meaning he won’t make his season debut until May.
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When Pineda does return from his suspension, he will immediately become an important part of Minnesota’s rotation. In the nine starts that he made after the all-star break, he went 5-1 with a 3.09 ERA. That’s a good sign that he’s fully recovered from Tommy John surgery and still capable of being a dependable mid-rotation starter. Despite the suspension, Pineda reportedly had interest from at least half a dozen teams and was quietly one of the better starters on the free-agent market this winter. In the end, he’ll stay with the Twins, who took a chance on him post-surgery.
In Minnesota, Pineda will likely slot in as the no. 3 starter behind Jose Berrios and Jake Odorizzi. The 25-year-old Berrios has blossomed into Minnesota’s ace, amassing 40 wins over the last three seasons. Odorizzi, meanwhile, will stay in Minnesota after accepting the team’s qualifying offer. He won 15 games and posted a 3.51 ERA over 30 starts in 2019. With Pineda back, the Twins should have a formidable trio leading their rotation.
However, what the Twins do with the back end of their rotation remains to be seen. Youngsters Devin Smeltzer, Randy Dobnak, and Lewis Thorpe are all likely to compete for the final two spots in Minnesota’s rotation. The Twins could also look to add another veteran starter via the free-agent market. Minnesota has been linked with Madison Bumgarner, although he would come with a much higher price tag than Pineda.
Despite the suspension that’s attached to him, re-signing Pineda was an important move by the Twins. He’s a known commodity and should be a reliable no. 3 starter once he’s eligible to return. Even if they give some of their younger pitchers a chance in the starting rotation, having three proven starters will be key to sustaining last season’s success. With Berrios, Odorizzi, and Pineda once again leading their rotation, the Twins should be in good shape to compete for another division title in 2020.