The New York Yankees just confirmed that pitcher Michael Pineda will miss the remainder of the season (and possibly the majority of next season), as he will undergo Tommy John surgery on Tuesday. The team has already lost ground to the Boston Red Sox after splitting a weekend series. The rise of the Tampa Bay Rays has also pushed them out of second place in the AL East and has them pegged in as the second wild card.
Granted, preseason expectations weren’t that high in New York. Most analysts (including myself) had the Yankees finishing, at the most, second in their division. But the hype of Aaron Judge, Aaron Hicks, Clint Frazier, and the rest of the cast was so big, that you could find many fans rooting — I know, I can’t believe it either — for the Bronx Baby Bombers.
The problem with this team, however, was the pitching staff. CC Sabathia didn’t look like himself at the start of the season. Masahiro Tanaka is far removed from the ace title that he was supposed to be. And now, Pineda, who has been a solid third starter for the Yankees, is down for the rest of the year.
This is not the first time that Pineda has missed considerable time due to an injury. He sat out the 2012 season after undergoing shoulder surgery. He then missed the following year while rehabbing said shoulder, and didn’t make an appearance until 2014, at which point he had a superb showing in limited playing time (1.89 ERA, 2.80 DRA, 1.9 WARP in 76.3 innings pitched). Over the next three years (including this one), Pineda has been solid, producing more than 3.0 WARP per season and holding a DRA- better than 33 percent of the league.
Pineda Pitching Stats
How Pineda looks once he returns to the mound between late 2018 or the start of the 2019 season is anybody’s guess. The shoulder surgery he underwent a couple of seasons ago hasn’t affected him as much as you would think, as he’s still a solid No. 3 starter. In a 2015 article for the Hardball Times, BtBS alum Jon Roegele found that almost 80 percent of pitchers who undergo Tommy John surgeries make a successful return. Given those odds, it’s a safe bet that Pineda will come back at full strength.
The Yankees seemed to have beaten their rebuild timetable by about a season, showing that they can compete against other well-established teams. Despite this, their starting rotation and their bullpen were in need of dire upgrades.
Luis Severino and Sabathia have been a great 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. Jordan Montgomery has also been a pleasant surprise this season, having a 3.78 ERA and 4.22 DRA in 95.3 IP. The only obvious weak point in the staff has been Masahiro Tanaka, who may soon bear the title of former Yankee ace.
The bullpen, on the other hand, has been a more pressing matter. Hampered by injuries and a slew of runs caused by poor sequencing, the bullpen has allowed many teams to come from behind (remember that series in Anaheim?). The Yankees rotation could be solidified by an internal move, but much like the Nationals, the Yankees may have to look outside for bullpen help.
Cashman lost out on the Jose Quintana sweepstakes but could look to other available pitchers on the market. A move for Jeff Samardzija could be on the table to help solidify the rotation, though the asking price may be a bit steep given the San Francisco Giants’ impending rebuild. Another option could be trying to get Justin Verlander — which I assume Kate Upton would love, given how well the Yankees have treated her.
However amazing it would be to see a New York team lift the Commissioner’s Trophy this season, there is still ample time to build a new dynasty in the Bronx. Pineda’s injury comes at a time where the entire American League — aside from the Astros, that is — is in flux and anybody can capture the pennant. But that doesn’t mean that the Yankees should blow everything up in an attempt to be crowned champions this season.
Losing Pineda forces Brian Cashman to mull this question over: Win now or go for it later? Usually, the payoff on the latter is handsomer than the former. Then again, even accounting for Pineda’s loss, Fangraphs has the Yankees at 75 percent chance of making the playoffs. A move for another pitcher — be it in the rotation or the bullpen — could give them the necessary edge to make a deep postseason run.
Martin Alonso writes for Beyond the Box Score and BP Bronx and is contantly geeking out over baseball and Star Wars. You can find him on Twitter at @martnar.