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November 9, 2016

Transaction Analysis

Houston Slings Neshek to Philly

by Matthew Trueblood

IN THIS ISSUE

American League
National League

HOUSTON ASTROS
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Acquired a player to be named later or cash from Philadelphia Phillies in exchange for RHP Pat Neshek. [11/7]

If you’re an Astros fan, you have to hate this move. It’s an abject disaster, not only because it seems like an awfully low sell on a pitcher with real (if situational) value, but because of what it signals. The Astros just spent about $8 million by acquiring outfielder Nori Aoki last week. That was a needed outlay to shore up an OBP deficiency for the team. If that expenditure necessitated Neshek’s displacement, though, the implication is that Houston is still unwilling or unable to spend like a big-market team.

Whichever is true, it’s a serious problem. Sooner or later, a team built the way the Astros are needs to spend money to acquire high-end talent through trades or free agency. That’s how you ensure that you don’t miss the window. Right now, the Astros have George Springer, Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, and Carlos Correa, all in their prime, all owed little money for at least the next two years. To miss an opportunity to leverage that circumstance by spending money elsewhere is criminal.

The Astros’ core is almost as good as the Cubs’ core, but they haven’t shown any inclination to mimic the Cubs’ aggressive action to build around that core. This move suggests that could be true even this winter, and into next season. For the sake of Astros fans (and these great, young players they have assembled), here’s hoping things aren’t as they seem.

PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES
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Acquired RHP Pat Neshek from Houston Astros in exchange for a player to be named later or cash. [11/7]

For the Phillies, this is a coup. It’s somewhat counterintuitive (and perhaps a temporary condition) that a setup man stands to make more money in 2017 than anyone else on the Philadelphia roster, but if 2016’s trade deadline showed us anything, it’s that MLB still values relief pitchers completely irrationally.

You already know about the massive hauls the Yankees got for Aroldis Chapman and Andrew Miller, but don’t forget that the Brewers got Andrew Susac and Phil Bickford for Will Smith, and that Jeremy Jeffress’ inclusion in the Jonathan Lucroy deal got Milwaukee two elite prospects, too.

Neshek is a tricky individual case, as a pitcher and (in the likely event that the Phillies do look to deal him later) as a trade chip. He’s always going to struggle somewhat to get left-handed batters out. With his repertoire and his side-slinging delivery, though, he’s absolutely lethal on right-handed ones.

But the long and short of it is, he’s going to cost $6.5 million in 2017, and this is still a pitcher who issued four unintentional walks in 185 plate appearances last season, while striking out roughly a league-average percentage of hitters, and who can induce weak contact because of all that funk in his delivery. If the Phillies surprise people, Neshek will help their bullpen hold up all season. If they don’t, he’ll fetch something decent on the July trade market. In either case, to get such a player for practically nothing is a brilliant maneuver.

Matthew Trueblood is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Matthew's other articles. You can contact Matthew by clicking here

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<< Previous Article
Rumor Roundup: Slugger... (11/09)
<< Previous Column
Transaction Analysis: ... (11/07)
Next Column >>
Premium Article Transaction Analysis: ... (11/15)
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Flu-Like Symptoms: The... (11/09)

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