Should The Mariners Extend Michael Pineda Now?

Dave · December 11, 2011 at 1:27 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Last week, the Tampa Bay Rays continued their strategy of aggressively locking up their young talents even before they’ve established themselves in the big leagues, signing Matt Moore to a five year, $14 million contract (followed by three team options) despite the fact that he’s pitched a total of 19 1/3 innings in the Major Leagues. This deal follows in the footsteps of contracts the team has previous given Wade Davis, James Shields, and Evan Longoria, all of whom were locked up extremely early in their careers. By signing these deals with players who have a year or less of service time, the team has avoided paying some huge raises through the arbitration process, creating significant cost savings for the franchise overall.

Other teams have also begun to look to lock up their best young talents early as well. The A’s gave early career extensions to both Brett Anderson and Trevor Cahill, while the Blue Jays locked up Ricky Romero in the middle of his second big league season. Anderson is a pretty good example of why the players are willing to take these types of deals – he blew out his elbow last year, but was already set for life and doesn’t have to worry about the injury limiting his future paychecks. Essentially, the team absorbs the injury risk that is usually carried by the player, but if the player stays healthy, the team is likely to come out way ahead.

Based on the other pitchers who have signed deals in this general service time range, it would likely cost the Mariners something in the range of $20-$25 million guaranteed to buy out the next remaining five years of Pineda’s team control, and they’d probably be able to get team options on his first few years of free agency in exchange for guaranteeing him decent paydays this early.

If he stays healthy and develops into a quality starting pitcher, Pineda will make a lot more than that through arbitration, so the team could certainly put themselves in a position to keep his long term costs down. However, pitchers are notoriously risky, and Pineda does have a history of arm problems. You could make an argument that the team should want to see him endure a legitimately full Major League season before they hand him a long term deal, but that comes with the caveat that he’ll be a lot more expensive to lock up next winter if he has a strong second season in the big leagues.

There’s also the trade value aspect of cost certainty – Pineda may very well be a more valuable asset in potential trade talks if the M’s are able to get him signed to one of these extensions that buys out a few free agent years, even if he doesn’t develop into the pitcher the team is hoping for. For instance, Wade Davis has gotten worse each year since arriving in the big leagues, but because the Rays were able to sign him to a deal that pays him peanuts, he still has some trade value despite mediocre performances. If the M’s do decide that they need to move Pineda in order to improve the offense, he could be a more marketable piece if teams knew exactly how long they’d be able to control his rights.

It’s possible that Pineda and his agent may not be interested in signing some free agent years away at this point, but I’d hope the M’s have at least explored the option. As Tampa Bay has shown, being aggressive with signing premium talents early in their careers can create massive long term cost savings and is often worth taking on an additional bit of risk.


26 Responses to “Should The Mariners Extend Michael Pineda Now?”

  1. dogkahuna on December 11th, 2011 1:40 pm

    I’d like to see the M’s offer an extension to Pineda. I think his huge upside makes it worth the risk even though he’s a pitcher, plus the trade value aspect might be the best reason to do it.

  2. spankystout on December 11th, 2011 1:42 pm

    I’d wait at least another season before exploring an extension. I think Pineda needs to show he can sustain his stuff for 180-200 innings, and develop his change-up before getting 5-7 years guaranteed… But that is just me.

  3. Mariners35 on December 11th, 2011 2:20 pm

    If starting next season the M’s are just finishing getting out from under a bazillion contracts, and have only Felix as the most significant portion of payroll, might they be gunshy about committing to Pineda? Or do the potential longer term cost savings that you mentioned in the article outweigh this?

    I can just imagine the minor distraction this offseason if it happened now, though. “The M’s are so deficient in offense, and there’s so many questions about their payroll flexibility and commitment to winning and blah blah blah insert talk radio talking points here, and yet they go spend money on a pitcher?!?? wharrgarrbl

  4. Westside guy on December 11th, 2011 2:41 pm

    I can just imagine the minor distraction this offseason if it happened now, though. “The M’s are so deficient in offense, and there’s so many questions about their payroll flexibility and commitment to winning and blah blah blah insert talk radio talking points here, and yet they go spend money on a pitcher?!?? wharrgarrbl“

    I’d be surprised if this happened. It’s not like we’d be paying Pineda megabucks for such a deal.

    I’m not arguing in favor of such an offer – I don’t really know that I have a strong opinion either way. But if the team decides to do this, I just don’t believe it’ll significantly impact their overall plan with regard to acquiring offense.

  5. just a fan on December 11th, 2011 2:51 pm

    If you sign Pineda to a deal like this, then you have to do it with anybody in a similar situation. The more guys you sign to these long-term deals, the odds will eventually work in your favor.

    Since the Rays did it with Davis, Moore and Longoria (and others?), they have spread the team-friendly contracts around to the point that they can absorb an injury or regression.

    Sign Pineda to a team-friendly deal, then do it with Paxton, Walker, Smoak, Catricala, Nick Franklin, or whichever young player performs.

  6. justinh on December 11th, 2011 5:14 pm

    I don’t post comments often, however this is a spectacular idea. When Moore was signed by the Rays, I immediately thought of locking up Pineda right now. Just think the M’s would have an extra 5-10 million or so if Felix was locked up 4 or 5 years ago.

    With the lack of quality starting pitching in baseball, the fact the Mariners have been in a tailspin the past decade, and the amount of money garnered by pitchers these days, it is definitely worth the risk.

    I also believe locking up some of the Mariners younger guys would also be a huge benefit. As Dave correctly pointed out, teams have not been hurt by locking up their talent over the past few years. Wade Davis is a perfect example of a guy who has regressed since signing his contract a few years ago, nevertheless he would still bring value back if the Rays were to deal him tomorrow.

    If Pineda were to only develops into a good number 3 starter in the next couple years, a deal in the 20-25 million dollar range would still be a good move for the M’s in the long run. The beauty in this is teams are always looking for quality pitchers with a friendly contract. Furthermore, if Pineda turns out to be a quality 1 or 2 pitcher, the deal ends up becoming a coup for the M’s.

    Great idea and a nice read Dave! Get er done!

  7. Bill_Haen on December 11th, 2011 5:30 pm

    They should extend him, and trade him for even more hitters then they could get now.

  8. G-Man on December 11th, 2011 5:52 pm

    In general, I think this kind of offer makes a lot of sense for both sides. For Pineda, I am a little concerned, though. Maybe waiting another year is better, or at least don’t make it too great an offer right now.

    I thought it was great to offer Gutierrez a 4-year, $20 million deal two years ago, but I never dreamed he’d have the problem he had this past season. Right now, I have my fingers crossed that he will bounce back.

  9. spankystout on December 11th, 2011 6:03 pm

    Wouldn’t extending Ackley be a better move?

  10. gwangung on December 11th, 2011 6:03 pm

    I thought it was great to offer Gutierrez a 4-year, $20 million deal two years ago, but I never dreamed he’d have the problem he had this past season.

    I think that this doesn’t disprove the strength of the argument, though, as Guti’s problems are definitely not the predictable or expected ones you encounter in baseball.

  11. jordan on December 11th, 2011 7:18 pm

    I would try and lock up both Ackley and Pineda ASAP

  12. Dave on December 11th, 2011 7:23 pm

    The problem with trying this with Ackley is a lack of leverage. For one, he’s represented by Scott Boras, who has been vocally outspoken against these types of contracts, and would almost certainly advise Ackley to wait until he’s in a better position to negotiate a larger deal.

    But more importantly, Ackley got $7.5 million guaranteed when he signed with the Mariners, so he doesn’t have the same incentive as others who have taken these early career extensions. He’s already set for life, and so he’s not carrying the same risk as a guy who hasn’t already made a small fortune. If Ackley gets hurt or goes bust, it won’t effect his ability to live comfortably like it would with Pineda.

    So, the incentive to give up significant long term rewards just isn’t there with him. With Pineda, you have something of a carrot to get that kind of deal done, but not with Ackley.

  13. wabbles on December 11th, 2011 7:33 pm

    Wait a minute! Wait a minute! ‘shaking head furiously, waving arms’ You’re saying we should lock up our young talent long term? Whatever happened to trading it away in exchange for “proven veterans” who are about five strides away from plunging over a cliff? But seriously folks, I like the idea. I’m old enough to remember Ryan Anderson but Pineda has made it to the big leagues. And providing cost certainty for a potential trade partner hadn’t occurred to me. Get it done, Jack!

  14. wabbles on December 11th, 2011 7:50 pm

    Yeah, but Guti’s situation was unusual and unforeseen. Think about it though. If he is indeed healthy this year (and not just declared healthy or however Wedge put it in that media chat session a few days ago), we still clean up on that contract. Death To Flying Things at $5 million a year? That’s highway robbery. Given that pitchers have an even more uncertain future (See: Anderson, Ryan), I think Pineda could be persuaded to sign.

  15. jld on December 11th, 2011 10:37 pm

    Even if Pineda blows his arm up and never pitches again, having him on the payroll for 5 or 6 years at $5M/year won’t ruin any other plans we might have.

    If he’s heathy and performing, it’s a huge boon to the team.

    Right now Pineda’s injury risk is much higher to himself than it is to anyone else. Taking advantage of that would be wise.

  16. diderot on December 11th, 2011 11:28 pm

    I agree that if the M’s are satisfied with his health right now, they should try to do a deal.
    In the near term, dominant starting pitching seems to be our best bet to contend in the division (not that this is an ‘undervalued’ asset by any of our rivals). If Hultzen comes in an pitches effectively…if Paxson and Walker continue to make progress…they don’t necessarily have to be trade chips…they could be the core of our team. And being surrounded by other quality starters could convince Felix to stay when the time comes.
    Coupled with Z’s ability to piece together bullpens and the ballpark we play in, maybe we’re the modern day ’65 Dodgers (granted, without Koufax). Those LA teams beat incredibly powerful Braves and Giants lineups even though they trotted out offenses that were about as pathetic as the M’s have been the last couple years.

  17. Swungonandbelted on December 12th, 2011 7:51 am

    I wouldn’t be surprised to see this happen at some point during the coming season (or shortly thereafter), but I’d imagine that they want to see his sophomore effort too. I suppose that if he has a spectacular season (say he’s in Cy Young conversation) that it could cost quite a bit more than signing him now, but if he ends up having a solid but not lights out season, how much does the cost change from today?

  18. Mariners35 on December 12th, 2011 8:46 am

    Diderot – I think if Hultzen, Paxton and Walker all miraculously work out, there’s no way they all stay Mariners. There has to be trade fodder from somewhere in the organization to solve ongoing problems like lf, 3b, c, possibly rf also after this year. There’s only league average talent coming up for 3b, c is a hot mess and the outfield won’t be completely solved by the pile. I don’t think free agency and in-house 0-2 WAR guys will do it there. Some sort of trade is likely needed.

  19. jwise224 on December 12th, 2011 8:48 am

    They should definitely be having that conversation right now. This is what sets teams like the Rays and the Mariners apart. We should be talking about locking up players that are part of our homegrown, long-term future, not overpaying overweight sluggers who would require the franchise to spend all of its funds in one place. Think how successful we could be if we drafted and managed players (including their contracts) as well as the Rays do. We have a much larger payroll ceiling and a fantastic ballpark. How are we not jumping on that model?

  20. spankystout on December 12th, 2011 9:06 am

    Darn that Boras!

  21. xsacred24x on December 12th, 2011 9:30 am

    You might have a good chance of convincing Pineda to do it he did have elbow problems in the Minors.

  22. jock on December 12th, 2011 9:30 am

    The arguement I’m seeing a lot is that we may need to trade later, or that there is enough (position) talent coming up through the organization.

    The biggest thing for the future of the Mariners is to stop letting good talent walk away. I still think one of the best moves made by Jack Z was trading Cliff Lee. It was amazing first off that he pulled the deal to get him here and give us a shot, but if he didn’t deal Cliff Lee, we would have watched him walk away with little compensation.

    Having said that, these long term type contracts save organizations money if the player works out, ups their trade value, and gives you the ability to lock them in. If we can get some of the emerging players from last year and this year (Pineda, Ackley, Hultzon, Smoak, etc) locked down, we’ll have more money and better trade situations, even if we end up eating 1-2 contracts (which we’re already doing with Figgins, Gutierrez, etc) we’ll still come out winners.

  23. amnizu on December 12th, 2011 9:35 am

    I really don’t think it hurts the team all to wait. According to Cotts he is arbitration eligible in 2014.

    I think we put the cash we would spend on a raise for Pineda in 2012 and 2013 to work other places and build to win in 2013 or 2014. If we compete then we are in a good cash position to try and keep Felix (low long term commitments to other players). If are out of it then we trade Felix mid season 2014 and use the cash freed there to buy out Pineda’s arbitration years (provided he is still performing). Either way, if we have a good team or a bad team, in my opinion its more prudent to wait.

  24. MKT on December 12th, 2011 10:02 am

    Guti’s problems are definitely not the predictable or expected ones you encounter in baseball.

    Guti’s situation was unusual and unforeseen.

    And that’s precisely why extending Pineda is risky for the Ms. It’s always the unforeseen problems that bite you, because you’ve already accounted for the foreseen ones. And unforeseen problems are not a once-in-a-lifetime Guti thing, they happen frequently: Carlos Guillen getting … what was it, tuberculosis?; Wells and vertigo; Sasaki getting attacked by luggage; Cirillo/Figgins/Spiezio deciding to lay an egg they arrived in Seattle.

    And unlike most of those players, Pineda has two reasons why a negative “surprise” would not be so surprising: he’s a pitcher, and he’s had arm troubles.

    To which I add one more foreseeable unforeseen problem: if the M’s lock in Pineda now and he becomes Cy Young material and the M’s make out like bandits, that’s when Pineda demands either an expensive contract extension or a contract renegotiation. The bigger the M’s jackpot, the more likely it is that Pineda becomes discontented with his measly contract.

    That’s why I agree with spankystout that waiting until after the 2012 season is a better idea. The M’s get much more information. If Pineda does well, the resulting contract will be more expensive, but in this case that’s a good thing: it’ll be more expensive because it will have become more clear that Pineda’s worth it, and because of that higher salary Pineda is less likely to fume at a salary that he perceives to be unfair.

  25. philosofool on December 12th, 2011 3:12 pm

    For $20m, lock him up until free agency (or longer, if you can.)

    For $25m, lock him up with $15m options on his first two FA years. (Remember, in five years at usual market inflation, that’s more like $12m today dollars)

    For $30m, the risk is probably greater than the reward.

  26. bookbook on December 13th, 2011 4:21 am

    While it’s difficult to understand the financial insecurities of those who have much more than we do, Ackley probably isn’t actually set for life based off his $7.5 million payday before taxes and the lifestyle he would like to maintain (private schools for the kids, house in a nice neighborhood, the occasional dinner at Alki Point etc.)

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