Pineda, 33, is a veteran who made his MLB debut with the Mariners back in 2011 and has since pitched for the Yankees and Twins. He joined the Tigers for this season on a one-year deal that came with a $5.5MM guarantee as well as incentives based on innings pitched.
At the time, it was surely hoped that Pineda could be a reliable veteran presence in a rotation that featured a lot of talented but inexperienced youngsters. In the end, just about every pitcher who started a game for the Tigers spent some time on the injured list this year, with Pineda being no exception. He went to the IL in May due to a right middle finger fracture, costing him about six weeks. In late July, he returned to the IL due to right triceps tightness, which kept him away for another five weeks.
Between those IL stints, he’s only been able to make 11 starts and throw 46 2/3 innings. He also hasn’t been able to be very effective, with his 5.79 ERA almost a full run above his previous career high of 4.82. His 13% strikeout rate is easily the worst of his career, though his control is still present, with his 4% walk rate about half of the league average for starters.
The Tigers are well out of contention and will use the final weeks of the season to audition youngsters for roles on future teams. “I hate it for Michael,” manager A.J. Hinch tells Stavenhagen. “Nothing worse than telling a veteran of his magnitude and his career that we’re moving on from him. But for us, it’s time to take a look at the guys who have a better chance of being here.”
There might also be a financial reason for the move, as Pineda was about to start hitting the incentives in his contract. He would have received $375K for hitting each of the 50, 75, 100, and 125 inning benchmarks, and he would receive an additional $500K for tossing 150 and 175 innings. Since he’s currently at 46 2/3 frames on the year, he likely would have earned himself an extra $375K in his next start. Instead, he will be put on waivers in the coming days, likely clearing waivers given the approximately $800K remaining on his deal. Assuming he does clear, he would be able to reject an outright assignment in favor of electing free agency, by virtue of having more than five years of MLB service time.