Sunday, September 20, 2009

Free Agent at the End of the Season: Joel Pineiro

It's a good time to be Joel Pineiro. After muddling around in the land of mediocrity for the past five years, Pineiro's 2009 season has been a revelation. Seemingly out of nowhere, Pineiro has catapulted himself from an average starting pitcher to the productive and sometimes dominant starter that so many envisioned him becoming when he began his career in Seattle.

And Pineiro's timing could not have been better. He will be a free agent after the season and has put himself in a prime position for the big money that comes with free agency.

How will Pineiro's fantastic 2009 season help him on the open market? Let's take a look:

The Case for Pineiro

-The New Joel Pineiro

Pineiro's stellar 2009 season is not by accident or merely some mistake. Pineiro's success this season has been based on a number of factors:

1. Throwing more fastballs (71.1% fastballs)
2. Lower BB rate (1.06)
3. Higher BB/K rate (4.17)
4. Lots and lots of ground balls (2.66 GB/FB, 61.2% GB)

5. No home runs (only 7 allowed this year)

Pineiro will never be mistaken as a high strikeout pitcher, but the blueprint for his success is there: lots of ground balls, impeccable control, no walks, and keeping the ball in yard.


Pineiro is only turning 31 in September, which means that in theory, his prime years should be ahead of him.

The Case against Pineiro


Was Pineiro's 2009 season a fluke? Only time will tell for sure, but this question has to be asked. We've seen pitchers have big years right before they hit free agency, get the big money, and then revert back to the form that made them just average. Joel Pineiro has not pitched this well since 2003 so the doubts and questions are going to be present.


Pineiro is not in the class of John Lackey, which means that he will be competing with the other second tier starting pitchers: Jason Marquis, Doug Davis, Brett Myers, Rich Harden, Jon Garland, Jarrod Washburn, etc. Is Joel Pineiro a better option that any of those guys? Given his age and tremendous performance...probably (even with the risk involved in signing him). But I wouldn't expect him to get a whole lot more than any of them, but I expect his contract to exceed every other starting pitcher on the market outside of Lackey.

Elias Ranking: Type B

-I'm sure the Cardinals are hoping that Pineiro becomes a type A by the end of the season, but even if he does not, I'd expect the Cardinals to offer him arbitration (if it makes sense to them financially). Pineiro only made $7.5 million this season, so even if Pineiro accepts, he wouldn't be in line for an absurd raise. I could see the Cardinals refusing to offer Pineiro arbitration if they have no intention of paying him the $10+ million it will take to keep him.


(4 years/$40 million)

Here are some comparable contracts:
Kyle Lohse (4 years/$41 million)
Oliver Perez (3 years/$36 million)
Gil Meche (5 years/$55 million)
Ryan Dempster (4 years/$52 million)

I would be very, very hesitant to give Pineiro 4 years+, but I fully expect some team do so. Teams have shown the willingness over the years to overpay for quality starting pitchers, especially young starting pitchers coming off a big season. Pineiro fits that description perfectly.


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