Antonio Bastardo Has A Point
Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News posted a column yesterday with a few rather revealing quotes from reliever Antonio Bastardo. The lefty was placed on revocable waivers by the team on Monday after failing to move him by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Bastardo said a trade would be good for him.
Fans bemoan athletes when they give cookie-cutter answers to the media, but in the rare moment an athlete is honest, the same fans get upset if he says something they don’t like. Bastardo’s wish to be traded was met with scoffs and snide comments. But Bastardo does have a point. First, here’s what Bastardo said:
“I don’t know – that’s a good question,” Bastardo said when asked if he was glad nothing happened at the deadline a week ago. “I don’t know. I think it could be good for me to stay here, but I think it could be better going somewhere else. We have two young lefties here, and they can do a really good job. A third lefty in the bullpen . . . I think for my career – for my career – I should be somewhere else.”[...]
“For my career, it could be way better to be somewhere else,” Bastardo said. “If there was a team interested in me, I could be a part of a team and . . . help more. Be more in the game, stuff like that. Help them, and it could help me in my career. I’m moving forward not to be a mop-up guy in the game. I just like to be in the [biggest] spot that I can get.”Antonio Bastardo, via Ryan Lawrence of the Philadelphia Daily News
The two lefties Bastardo refers to are Jake Diekman and Mario Hollands. The typical National League roster has a seven-man bullpen. Often, two of those relievers are left-handers. It’s not much of an issue for the Phillies because A) nothing matters when you’re out of contention; and B) Bastardo doesn’t have a platoon split.
But Bastardo is right: he is expendable. He’s earning $2 million this season and will be eligible for his third and final year of arbitration after the season. The Phillies have very little interest in paying $3-4 million for Bastardo’s services in 2015 when they’ll have Diekman and Hollands each making less than $1 million. If Bastardo isn’t moved by the end of August, the Phillies will certainly explore trading him early in the off-season; otherwise, he will become a non-tender candidate.
A reliever like Bastardo is quite valuable despite his history of inconsistency. Lefties with no real platoon split — Bastardo even has a reverse split in a small sample of innings this season — are hard to come by and become quite valuable in a post-season scenario where playing the match-ups becomes a big deal. Imagine Bastardo in the Tigers’ bullpen and the comfort he would provide manager Brad Ausmus in an eighth-inning scenario with the left-handed Brandon Moss at the plate and the right-handed Nate Freiman on the bench (or John Jaso and Derek Norris, if you prefer).
Since joining the Phillies’ bullpen, Bastardo’s ERA and xFIP have always been in disharmony. Either he’s pitched significantly better than his peripherals have indicated, or he was seemingly the victim of bad luck. At the present moment, both his ERA and xFIP are identical at 3.88. We have seen in 2014 the complete Bastardo: a lefty who misses bats with great frequency but struggles with control; a guy who allows a ton of fly balls, some of which go for home runs but a larger portion of which are weak pop-ups in the infield.
For all of the criticism the Phillies get about their inability to develop players, they developed a very good reliever in Bastardo. The growing pains were frustrating for Phillies fans, but there is no doubt that he is a major league-quality reliever. He has, however, outgrown his role on a diminished Phillies team, and a parting of ways — whether this month or in the off-season — seems like the best solution for all involved.