Perhaps more than any other free agent this winter, Joel Pineiro should be a fascinating case to watch. You probably know the story by now – journeyman with a checkered history buys into Dave Duncan‘s two-seam fastball plan, becomes an extreme groundball strike-thrower and, at age 30, has the best year of his career.
No one thinks he’s a 3.04 FIP guy going forward (his HR/FB rate will regress, of course, driving his FIP up with it), but his ZIPS projection from here on out has him as a 3.87 FIP guy, which is a well above average starting pitcher. But it’s also a very weird version of one – the strikeout rate is low even for an extreme sinkerball guy, and teams historically have rewarded pitchers for missing bats when it comes to handing out contracts.
Pineiro is going to hit free agency coming off a season where he pitched like Derek Lowe, but teams were reluctant to throw big money at Lowe last year and he had a 10 year track record of succeeding with this skillset. So, I don’t think he should be holding his breath waiting for the $15 million per season that Lowe got from Atlanta, but that raises the question of what, realistically, he should get?
If you believe that he’s really reinvented himself into being the new Aaron Cook, then you’re looking at Pineiro as a ~3 win pitcher, and that’s probably worth around $12 to $13 million per season on a two or three year deal. But how much confidence do you have in his ability to retain a good chunk of this year’s value, considering it’s a radical change from everything he’d ever done before.
There’s certainly more risk factors with Pineiro, so that will lead to a discount of some sort. But how much?
I honestly have no idea. Last year, Milton Bradley was the free agent who had a ton of positives and negatives on both sides, and he ended up at 3 years, $30 million. And that might look like a realistic target for Pineiro, except Kyle Lohse got 4 years, $41 million for posting an inferior season for the same team. Does Pineiro really take less than what Lohse got last winter? Will anyone really give him a 4 year deal?
I have no idea, honestly. Watching Pineiro navigate free agency, and seeing how teams view him, is going to be a lot of fun to watch.
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