Neither Nathan Eovaldi nor Michael Pineda have been able to completely covert their natural talents into consistently positive performances for the New York Yankees since being traded to the club. Each pitcher has potential - no one denies that - but has their time ended in New York?
With the Yankees considering a sell-off at the non-waiver trade deadline, Eovaldi and Pineda's names have come up in the rumor mill. Both pitchers have one more year of control, becoming free agents before the 2018 season, and if there is a team out there that believes they can aid either pitcher to maximize their potential, they might take a chance.
If the Yankees were to want to trade just one, which one makes the most sense? Alternatively, should the Yankees see what the rest of the summer brings to either allow the players to regain some value, which might have been lost due to their lackluster production this season, or in order to utilize the production for their own purposes?
Financial and roster implications
Eovaldi and Pineda are earning $5.6 million and $4.3 million respectively, so the incoming cost to the receiving club is going to be quite reasonable for the remainder of this season, and while the pitchers will likely receive bumps in their final arbitration years the costs are not prohibitive, even for teams with tighter budgets. Of course, this also plays into the Yankees' reasoning for keeping the players.
The Yankees will likely let Ivan Nova walk at season's end (if he is not traded himself) which leaves the Masahiro Tanaka and CC Sabathia under contract for 2017. The Yankees hope Luis Severino will be ready for a full season in the big leagues by 2017, but beyond him the rest of Triple-A contains "what-if" type pitchers.
So, if the Yankees decide to part with both Eovaldi and Pineda, they will have to fill the void by testing a pitcher long term like Chad Green, trading for someone else now or in the offseason or by signing a free agent this winter. They might not be able to find better performance for the price they would be paying the pitchers they already know.
Upside disrupted by inconsistency
The Yankees have hung their hats on "upside" at the beginning of each season in which Eovaldi and Pineda has been a part of the club. There is enough history from each player to make one believe that they can put it all together for one season and beyond. This also makes them marketable assets.
Despite the immense talent, both Eovaldi and Pineda suffer from the same syndrome - enjoying lengthy stretches of high performance matched with long periods of poor production. There does not seem to be much middle ground with them. Either they are completely on top of their game, or they look as if they just learned how to pitch.
Last season, Eovaldi looked like he had finally figured things out and was on his way to establishing himself as a front-line starter of the future. During a 12-game stretch Eovaldi went 8-0 with a 2.96 ERA (2.93 FIP) in 73 2/3 innings. At 25 years old at the time, the Yankees felt pleased knowing they controlled Eovaldi for two more seasons.
However, Eovaldi was injured in early September, abruptly ending his season and he has not shown the same lockdown ability all that often in 2016 - he had a five-game stretch in which he owned a 5-0 record with a 2.03 ERA, after opening the season with a five-game stretch in which he went 1-2 with a 5.46 ERA. At that time, I opined that the Yankees should not part with Eovaldi.
The positive vibes abruptly dissipated during a six-start period that encompassed all of June and one turn in July. Eovaldi was shelled for a 9.40 ERA in 30 1/3 innings and found himself in the Yankees bullpen for his subsequent three appearances. Eovaldi made his first start since July 1, Tuesday night and pitched well, allowing one run in 5 1/3 innings of work.
Like Eovaldi, Pineda enjoyed one lengthy stretch of success, but his opened the 2015 season. In 11 starts (70 1/3 innings), Pineda went 7-2 with a 3.33 ERA (2.42 FIP), 9.7 K/9 rate and 0.90 BB/9 rate. It looked as if Pineda was healthy and ready to take the step back to the top of a rotation. It wasn't to be the case as Pineda turned in a poor June (5.72 ERA in 28 1/3 innings), followed by a decent July (3.55 ERA in 25 1/3 innings) and he ended the season with an eight-start swoon in which he owned a 5.48 ERA.
This season, Pineda has shown much of the same back and forth in his performance. Pineda has seven starts in which he has allowed at least five earned runs and eight turns in which he allowed two earned runs or less. Pineda has turned in one solid month this season, generating a 2.75 ERA in 36 innings. The rest of the season has been ugly for the 27-year-old right-hander.
Pineda differs somewhat from Eovaldi in that he can completely dominate a lineup as he did against the Baltimore Orioles on May 10, 2015 when he struck out 16 batters. Pineda's strikeout rate has jumped considerably this season to what would be a career-high 10.7 K/9. That goes along with a 2.4 BB/9 rate (which is high for him), but the point here is that Pineda gets swings and misses without walking a lot of batters.
Another difference between the two is that Pineda has been hurt early in games and then gets stronger, while Eovaldi tends to be at his best early on and falters once the opposing lineup gets to the plate for the third time. Eovaldi's issue is one that many starters share, but one that is difficult to overcome. Pineda's rough beginnings to some of his starts seem easier to fix, in my opinion.
Stay or go?
I believe Eovaldi and Pineda's trade value is at low now. While the Yankees could tout the player's "upside," they cannot hide behind the fact that neither pitcher has been able to translate talent to results.
If the Yankees had a slew of pitchers ready to make the transition to the majors (they have Severino and maybe Green to consider), I find it hard to believe that the Yankees would trade both. I also feel that if the Yankees were willing to trade one or the other, it would simply be because they have given up on the player and feel they should get at least a bit something in return now.
Further, keeping both players allows the Yankees the rest of this season to evaluate the pitchers. If they falter, they can sell at virtually the same level they are at now, but if either or both of the pitchers excel the rest of the way, their value climbs as well. At that point, the Yankees can decide if Eovaldi and/or Pineda contain more value as trade assets or as members of the 2017 rotation.
Again, future performance dictates their trade value at next season's deadline. The Yankees could be in the same situation as they are today, and if one or both of the pitchers are throwing well, a club needing a starting pitcher for the stretch run might covet them. If the pitchers continue to perform as they have this season, they can simply move on to younger pitchers without a huge loss of money.
At this point, I cannot see the Yankees retrieving much for Eovaldi or Pineda. However, if a deal presents itself, coupled with the notion that the Yanks no longer have the patience for the pitcher(s) to produce consistently positive results, they could be part of a massive sell-off. If the returns on prospective deals were equal, I would keep Pineda, simply because I adhere to the premise that his ability to generate strikeouts and not allow walks makes him a better bet to have success.
In the end, I'm not certain the options within are much better, so I would take a chance that Yankees pitching coach Larry Rothschild can figure things out with at least one of the hurlers over the remainder of the season. The hope being that even moderate improvement keeps the team in the postseason picture or increases the pitchers' trade value in the offseason or next July.