TribLIVE – By giving away veteran reliever Juan Nicasio on Thursday, Pirates management conceded the NL Central race with four weeks left in the season and turned its focus toward 2018.
Nicasio was claimed by the Philadelphia Phillies, who are responsible for the roughly $600,000 remaining of his salary. The Pirates, who earlier this week put Nicasio on irrevocable waivers, got nothing in return for losing their second-best relief pitcher.
Nicasio, 31, leads the National League with 65 appearances and ranks third with 22 holds. Among NL relievers with at least 40 innings pitched, Nicasio ranks 23rd in ERA (2.85) and 16th in WHIP (1.12).
In a prepared statement released via email, general manager Neal Huntington admitted Nicasio’s departure was an “unusual step.” Huntington said the Pirates will begin using “pitchers that may or will impact our 2018 club” in high-leverage situations,” which made Nicasio expendable.
I honestly don’t even know what to say here. Look, we all know the Pirates are out of contention being 10-games back in the NL Central with only a month left to go (hell, I even wrote them off back on August 2nd for chrissakes). It makes perfect sense for teams like the Pirates to get rid of impending free agents when they know they aren’t making the playoffs. This is a completely normal, and often necessary, part of the business in professional sports. Whether a player’s due an unaffordable pay raise or simply doesn’t fit in with the team’s future outlook, this type of stuff happens all the time.
But here’s the thing – if you’re going to lose a guy for good, why not salvage assets in return? Juan Nicasio’s a guy I’m sure many teams would love to have on their postseason roster. He’s a consistent, durable relief pitcher having the best season of his professional career. So why does it matter if the team willing to trade for him is a “direct competitor” in contention? At least they’re offering something in return instead of nothing. Besides, is letting Nicasio get picked up by the Phillies, who have an MLB-worst .376 winning percentage, really an “attempt to move Juan to a better situation?” Fuck. No. Get outta here with that bullshit, Neal.
There are only two logical explanations for this move: A. The Pirates don’t want to trade Nicasio to either the Cubs or Brewers because they’re petty son of a bitches full of spite, or B. they’d rather save $600,000. Now, if you’re someone like me who’s witnessed this team lose 22 out of the last 25 seasons, the answer to this is pretty easy. They don’t want to pay the man. Sad, but true. And here’s the unfortunate part – this type of stuff is going to continue to happen until the Pirates get an owner who’s committed to winning versus lining his pockets with cash.