On the last day to make waiver claims for player eligible for the postseason, the far out of the playoff picture Phillies made a move. The team picked up right handed relief pitcher Juan Nicasio after the Pirates placed him on revocable waivers. The Phillies will be on the hook for the remainder of Nicasio’s salary this season, which comes out to be about $600,000. Being a team not strapped for cash by any means, the money is certainly manageable for the remainder of the season.
Nicasio will join a bullpen that has been devoid of success over the last few months. Earlier in the year, I talked about how Luis Garcia had skyrocketed himself into trade consideration with his improved pitching and a scoreless streak. Since that streak has come to an end, Garcia has fallen back to Earth, allowing 13.1 innings pitched. While his season ERA of 2.76 is still remarkable, that rough patch forced it up from 2.03. Outside of Garcia, and recently, and perhaps most shockingly, Adam Morgan, the bullpen has been a major question mark. After trading away Pat Neshek and Joaquin Benoit, the Phillies have pieced together a bullpen that’s cycled through arms at an alarming rate. Jessen Therrien and Yacksel Rios both made their Major League debuts this season and have had limited success. Ricardo Pinto has been up and down, and Hector Neris has been at the mercy of his splitter this season. In total, the team has posted the sixth worst bullpen ERA in the league, at 4.57, this year.
The Phillies hope to solidify said bullpen with this move.
Nicasio pitched 60 innings over 65 appearances for the Pirates this season with great success. He struckout 60 batters and held down a 2.85 ERA over that stretch. He also picked up 21 holds for Pittsburgh, the sixth most in the Major Leagues this season. He’s been especially tough on left handed hitters this season, as they’ve hit just .198 against him. Righties have had similarly poor success, as they’ve managed just a .238 batting average.
One would imagine that Nicasio will slide into the eighth inning role as the setup man for the Phillies for the remainder of the year. Manager Pete Mackanin said that Hector Neris will stay the closer, so the setup role would be perfect for Nicasio, especially since that’s what he was used to pitching in Pittsburgh, where he bridged the gap from starter to Tony Watson at first and now to flame thrower Felipe Rivero.
Nicasio will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, and it’s hard to imagine that the Phillies, a team still in rebuilding mode, would be on his short list of teams to play for next year. The Phillies, however, may want to persuade him to stick around one more season in order to bridge the gap to the future bullpen arms that await in the Minor Leagues. He’s making a reasonable $3.65 million this season, and would likely require a substantial increase in investment in order to stick around. The Phillies were willing to give Pat Neshek $6.5 million this past offseason, so a similar offer isn’t entirely out of the question for a team that has money to spend and bullpen that desperately needs help.
In order to make room for the waiver claim, and adding Nicasio to the 40-man roster, the Phillies had to make a move of their own. The team designated for assignment Brock Stassi. Stassi was expected to contribute far more than he has to this point in his career. He made the Opening Day roster, and Phillies fans immediately took a liking to him when an emotional video surfaced on the internet of Stassi breaking down with tears of joy when he made the roster. Stassi hit just .167 in his time with the Phillies, and was sent down to Lehigh Valley on July 21. If not claimed, Stassi will have a chance to rejoin the Phillies in AAA off the 40-man roster.
Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports