LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Twins made their first significant signing of the offseason, but it's a move more geared toward 2019. They signed right-hander Michael Pineda to a two-year, $10 million contract on Wednesday at the Winter Meetings, despite the pitcher undergoing Tommy John surgery on July 18.Pineda,
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Twins made their first significant signing of the offseason, but it's a move more geared toward 2019. They signed right-hander Michael Pineda to a two-year, $10 million contract on Wednesday at the Winter Meetings, despite the pitcher undergoing Tommy John surgery on July 18.
Pineda, who will earn $2 million in 2018 and $8 million in '19, is likely to miss most -- if not all -- of next season. But Minnesota is betting on Pineda's upside in '19, as the 28-year-old has a career 4.05 ERA with one of the better sliders in baseball that's allowed him to strike out 687 batters in 680 innings.
"I'm excited," Twins manager Paul Molitor said. "You make the sacrifice of giving up the year for the most part to allow him to rehab, and you're relying fairly heavily on taking the risk of upside in '19, in his case. We all know what he can do when he's healthy."
Molitor said he spoke by phone with Pineda during the recruiting process, and the right-hander was intrigued about pitching in Minnesota. There's a chance he could return in September, but Molitor said it's too early to know when he'll be ready to pitch.
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"You're talking nine, 10 months away and how things are going to go," Molitor said. "It's kind of one of those things you might allow yourself to think about that, but the biggest thing is to try to make sure he's ready for '19."
The 6-foot-7, 260-pound Pineda posted a 4.39 ERA with 92 strikeouts in 96 1/3 innings with the Yankees last year before tearing his ulnar collateral ligament during his 17th start of the season. Injuries have been a concern with Pineda in the past, as he had a breakout rookie season with the Mariners in 2011, only to miss the next two seasons with shoulder issues, including arthroscopic surgery in May '12.
"It's an opportunity to get a guy who has had some ups and downs at certain junctures, but when he's at his best, his quality of stuff is as good as any pitcher," Twins chief baseball officer Derek Falvey said. "There's a chance to have some upside there in '19."
Pineda, dealt to the Yanks in 2012 in the trade that sent Jesus Montero to Seattle, went 31-31 with a 4.16 ERA in 89 starts across four seasons in the Bronx.
With right-hander Ervin Santana in the last year of his contract, the move gives the Twins another veteran for their rotation in 2019. He joins catcher Jason Castro and right-hander Phil Hughes as the only three Twins players under contract beyond '18.
Pineda's fastball averaged 93.9 mph last season, but he threw it only 48.8 percent of the time, throwing his slider 37.6 percent of the time and his changeup 13.6 percent of the time. He struck out 207 batters in '16, and the Twins haven't had a starter reach 200 strikeouts since Francisco Liriano in 2010.
Pineda has started to begin his throwing program in Tampa and he could head to Spring Training early to work with Twins trainers at their complex in Fort Myers, Fla. Twins general manager Thad Levine said it'll be a good way for the Twins to utilize their revamped training and rehab staff that was bolstered by the promotion of Tony Leo to head trainer, with multiple rehab coordinators expected to be hired to join him. New pitching coach Garvin Alston, who has a background in working with rehabbing pitchers, will also have plenty of say in Pineda's program.
"There has to be a real partnership between the player, the trainer, the team, the agent, the medical staff and the pitching program," Levine said. "We have a lot of faith in our throwing program and medical staff. We'll be able to have a watchful eye over his development and recovery."
Rhett Bollinger has covered the Twins for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter **@RhettBollinger** and **Facebook**.