Sweeping the first-place Milwaukee Brewers in a four-game series has firmly placed the Pittsburgh Pirates into the buyers category as the 2017 trade deadline draws near.
The Pittsburgh Pirates are re-energized after sweeping the Milwaukee Brewers in four games to get right back in the thick of things in the NL Central.
Though he did not come right out and say it, general manager Neal Huntington strongly hinted that the club would fully commit to becoming buyers as the 2017 MLB trade deadline drew near should the team see a favorable result after the pivotal series.
That is exactly what happened, and accordingly PBD will continue our annual tradition of highlighting potential trade targets that make sense for the club to pursue. We start today with right-handed reliever Pat Neshek.
Profile and performance
The 36 year old Neshek is an 11 year veteran who has followed the typical career path of a longtime major league reliever — that is to say, he has played for a whole mess of teams. He broke in with the Twins, then spent time with the Padres, A’s, Cardinals, Astros and now Phillies. Those 11 campaigns saw two All Star seasons, including the current one, in which he has posted a 2.07 FIP in 38.1 innings. Through 41 total appearances, he has also enjoyed a 9.6 SO/9 against just a 1.2 BB/9.
At this stage in his career, Neshek is a two-pitch reliever, with a seldom-used changeup giving way to a sinking fastball and a slider. Both are used equally at right around 49 percent, though the slider is a slight favorite as a put-away pitch in two strike counts.
And why not, as Neshek’s slider gains a great deal of deception from his side-arm delivery.
That pitch had what some would call a “normal” amount of movement for a slider, but again the delivery adds to the deception.
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Table courtesy of Baseball Reference
The case for Neshek
- The knock on Neshek coming into this season was that he did not handle left-handers very well, who were able to post a .646 slugging percentage against him prior to this year. Simply put, he has solved that issue in 2017, as lefties are slashing just .176/.218/.294 against him. This would be very attractive to the Pittsburgh Pirates, as their bullpen carries a 4.0 FIP vs southpaw hitters.
- If inserted into the Pittsburgh Pirates’ bullpen today, Neshek’s 9.6 K/9 would be the second highest to Felipe Rivero. No shame in that, of course.
- Neshek’s heavy sinking fastball would be a nice counterpart to the Pirates’ other later-inning right handers’ pitch selections. With Juan Nicasio featuring a four-seam and slider and Daniel Hudson‘s four-seam heavy mix.
The case against Neshek
- Neshek’s velocity, while remaining stable over the past several seasons, leaves a lot to be desired. His sinker averages 90.41 mph, with the slider clocking in at 83.55. In an era of hard-throwing, flamethrowing relievers, Neshek has gotten by purely on his feel and delivery. While a pitcher of his longevity likely won’t lose his feel for pitching any time soon, if hitters key in on his delivery, it could spell trouble. So far so good in that regard, but it is fair to wonder how long that will be there for him.
- Neshek will make $6.5 million this year. As a team still in the thick of a rebuild, the Philadelphia Phillies might be willing to pick up a part of his remaining salary, but if not the question now becomes whether or not Neal Huntington can get similar, cheaper value elsewhere and spread his resources around a bit further.
What it might take
Again, the Phillies are a team that is at least a few years away from making any serious noise, though their roster has some talent. A quick look at their Top 30 prospects ranked by MLB Pipeline shows a dearth of first base options. Though the Pittsburgh Pirates are set with Josh Bell and would be loathe to part with Will Craig — whose move to first base seems like a foregone conclusion to some — the club would likely be willing to build a small package around Conor Joe, who has made great strides in his fourth professional season. First base is but one area where the Phillies are a bit weaker, but they truly have a ton of needs all over the field.
Still, the might be a ton to ask for a pure rental such as Neshek. If the Pirates can find a way to make the package more about quantity rather than quality, they may be able to lower the price slightly. However, with Neshek’s affordable contract and stout resume, Philadelphia might be able to drive up the price considerably. If that is the case, the Pirates will have to up the ante considerably, perhaps offering up Craig and other MLB-close talent.
If the Pittsburgh Pirates place bullpen help at the very top of their late-July shopping list, they might be hard pressed to find a better option than Neshek. He has truly turned in a remarkable year to this point, and his addition would give manager Clint Hurdle a boost of confidence in building a bridge to Rivero in the ninth. The prospect price may ultimately end up too steep, but if Huntington can move quickly to get in on Neshek before his market develops, he may be able to steal him away.
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