Even though the AL Central-leading Twins are well on their way to a playoff berth, the 2019 season is already in the rearview mirror for one of their top starters, Michael Pineda. Major League Baseball hit the right-hander with a 60-game suspension last weekend after he tested positive for the diuretic hydrochlorothiazide, which is on its list of banned substances. It’s a costly ban for Pineda, writes the Star Tribune’s Phil Miller, who explains that the 30-year-old will surrender a substantial amount of money. He’s out the rest of his $8MM salary this season ($984K), could lose as much as $1.5MM in bonuses and won’t collect any of his salary during the rest of his suspension in 2020 (39 games).
The question now is where Pineda, a pending free agent, will pitch next season. The former Mariner and Yankee joined the Twins on a two-year, $10MM contract in December 2017, at which point he was recovering from Tommy John surgery. Pineda didn’t pitch in the majors at all last year as a result, but he made an impressive return this season before his misdeed sent him to the shelf. He concluded his campaign with 146 innings of 4.01 ERA/4.02 FIP pitching and 8.63 K/9 against 1.73 BB/9.
If not for his ban, Pineda would have been a strong bet to land a quality payday on the open market during the upcoming winter. It’s conceivable he’ll still get one, but regardless, Pineda’s hopeful he’ll stay in Minnesota, according to Miller. While Pineda wants to re-sign with the Twins, he noted he doesn’t “have control over that. We’ll let time decide that.”
For now, Pineda – who expressed contrition over his suspension – will continue to hang around the team as it tries to win its first World Series title since 1991. It’s going to be all the more difficult to accomplish that feat without Pineda, though, and it’s possible his ill-timed suspension will turn the Twins’ hierarchy off of the concept of re-signing him. On the other hand, however, starting pitching’s going to be an obvious need for the Twins in the offseason, which could steer them toward a Pineda reunion.
The lone full-time starter on the Twins who’s set to return next year is their No. 1 option, Jose Berrios. Pineda, Kyle Gibson and Jake Odorizzi – who have each been effective over a combined 81 starts – are all slated to reach free agency. Martin Perez could join them, though the Twins will first have to decide whether to exercise his $7.5MM club option or buy him out for $500K.