USA TODAY International Edition
Pineda big loss for Yanks, but it’s no time to panic
News of Michael Pineda’s partially torn ulnar collateral ligament is an across- the- board bummer — for the New York Yankees, who have been dealt a severe blow to their playoff chances, and for Pineda himself, an inconsistent but talented pitcher who was heading toward free agency after this season.
The Yankees probably would have let Pineda walk, but everyone likes the guy. He deserved better than to blow out his elbow.
The obvious question is, where does general manager Brian Cashman go to find a replacement. But the better question is, how far the Yankees are willing to deviate from their business plan just to get to the wild- card game. The temptation is enormous: The Boston Red Sox are still within reach. Except for the Houston As- tros, the rest of the American League is wide open.
But the problem is how few difference- makers are available on the trade market. With the Chicago Cubs’ acquisition of Jose Quintana, all that’s really left are the Oakland Athletics’ Sonny Gray and Pittsburgh Pirates’ Gerrit Cole. Both would cost the Yankees plenty, and although either pitcher would obviously bolster the rotation, there are other issues that could detail the Yankees by themselves.
The first is Masahiro Tanaka and whether he can avoid the periodic clunkers that have blemished his season. The maddening lack of consistency is what keeps the Yankees from feeling like the playoffs are a sure thing.
The second is Dellin Betances, who’s the Yankees’ biggest enigma. Unless he fixes the fatal flaw in his delivery, Betances will be plagued by bad counts and walks and will otherwise be unable to act as a dependable bridge to closer Aroldis Chapman.
Until the Yankees get clarity on their ace and their bullpen with its majors worst- worst 18 blown saves, pursuing another starter — especially one that would cost them a prospect like Blake Rutherford or Justus Sheffield — would be a mistake.
Remember the original horizon: 2017 was supposed to be the summer of building equity, a free audition for the kids. Any fan who knew in spring training the Yankees would be four games over .500 and 31⁄ out at the break 2 gladly would have taken that. Gambling on a better stretch run isn’t worth raiding the farm system.
It’s hard to find an executive who’d switch places with Cashman now as he sits atop a pipeline of talented minor leaguers, including Gleyber Torres, who’ll be recovered from elbow surgery by next spring. Give it two years, and Pineda will be long forgotten.
That’s not to diminish how much the Bombers will miss the right- hander’s talent, however, and his potential for masterpieces. When he was on, Pineda was as dominant as anyone in the rotation. No one threw a more lethal cut fastball. At 94.3 mph, it ranked tops in the majors in velocity.
But Pineda’s summer was full of uneven performances, and perhaps now we know why — his elbow was killing him. As manager Joe Girardi said Friday, “Michael always talked about how his elbow was sore the day after and it was something he was used to ( during his Yankees tenure).”
Although Pineda is going for a second opinion, he already has opted for Tommy John surgery. Either way, his career with the Yankees is over — a shocking setback to the organization.
Only the timing works in the Yankees’ favor. With two weeks to go before the trade deadline, the schedule allows for two to three starts for a blue- chip prospect like Chance Adams. He’s striking out more than a batter an inning at Class AAA and has limited opponents to a .167 batting average against but has issues with his control.
If Adams gets called up and fails, Cashman might indeed rethink the Yankees’ position as buyers. He might just go for it.
Our hunch, however, is that the Yankees will react cautiously and think about the long game. The real goal is 2019. That’s the smart move.