Phillies Trade Pat Neshek, Now What?
Last night the Phillies shipped their best relief pitcher out of town for a trio of prospects that won’t be helping the Phillies any time soon. I wrote about those prospects here so I don’t want to just write the same thing here. Instead the Phillies are now down their best relief pitcher right when the team was starting to shown some signs of life. Additionally, after there was a road map for what a trade like this might return, the Phillies opted to go for a completely different route in what they got back from the Rockies.
To start with the second part first. It was no secret that the Phillies were looking for players without 40 man roster implications in trades. The Phillies are going to open up some 40 man roster spots this winter, but the emergence of Jesen Therrien and Yacksel Rios, coupled with Carlos Tocci’s breakthrough have complicated an already tight Rule 5 protection list. The Phillies were never going to get a real impact player for Pat Neshek, he is almost 37 years old and an upcoming free agent. While he is having a career year, his track record over 11 major league seasons is that he is more of a 6th/7th inning reliever than the lights out guy he has been so far. It also further complciates things for a contender that he is limited to one inning stints and there was some controversy about his ability to go multiple days in a row. So that leaves the Phillies with a couple of choices in trade return. You either get a high minors player with a marginal ceiling (like the White Sox did in the Anthony Swarzak trade). The only problem is that most high minors players that aren’t elite are either on a 40 man roster or will need to be this offseason. That means the Phillies had to look more towards the low minors. They got 3 guys with ceilings about where I would have expected them to get in a high minors player, but by the nature of them being in A-ball, they are both lower ranked and much riskier. The upside is that the only player eligible for the Rule 5 draft is Jose Gomez, and as an A-ball middle infielder he is not in danger given his lack of elite tools. This allows the Phillies to get the same kind of return and protect an extra player this winter.
As for what the Phillies do now, they functionally have two bullpen holes. One is occupied by Jake Thompson, who was called up for Ricardo Pinto after Monday’s disastrous game. Thompson is still being used as a starter in AAA, so I would expect to see him go back down to the minors today or tomorrow. Ricardo Pinto can’t be called back up for another 7 days, so the Phillies will need to look in another direction. One of the spots probably goes to Edubray Ramos, who has been solid, but unspectacular, in his attempts to get his season back on track (Update: Edubray Ramos went on the DL with a blister this afternoon). The other spot is more interesting because the Phillies are out of 40 man relievers. They could turn to a starter like Mark Leiter to be a swing man, or they could call up Jesen Therrien. As was referenced earlier, Therrien is a future minor league free agent who the Phillies would have needed to add to the 40 man roster this offseason to keep. He has had a breakout year this season, showing both a bit more velocity and a slider that looks like it could be an out pitch. Even with 2 walks last night, Therrien has 9 walks to 65 strikeouts in 57.1 innings across AA and AAA. Therrien doesn’t profile as a late innings reliever, and it would be asking a lot for him to replace Neshek’s production. However, he could be a solid piece of the bullpen going forward and it will be interesting see what he can do in a major league audition.
Now we wait to see if the Phillies can move Howie Kendrick or Jeremy Hellickson in the next few days before we have to repeat all of this during August.