With a starting rotation and bullpen being held together by scotch tape and lots of prayers, the Phillies have acquired a solid bullpen arm for the final month of the season.
The Phils claimed 31-year-old right-hander Juan Nicasio off irrevocable waivers on Thursday, meaning the team did not have to give up anything to Pittsburgh other than to accept the remaining $600,000 on his contract for this year.
Nicasio has been terrific for Pittsburgh this season, with a 2.85 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP in 60 innings (65 games). He has struck out 60 batters, walked 18, and his 1.2 fWAR this season ranks 10th among qualified National League relief pitchers.
This is a good pitcher, so why would the Pirates just give him away?
Neal Huntington, in a statement: Nicasio claimed on trade waivers by playoff-caliber team to block Pirates from trading him elsewhere.— Bill Brink (@BrinkPG) August 31, 2017
"Rather than help a direct competitor & recognizing the difference in claiming order between trade & outright waivers," put him on outright.— Bill Brink (@BrinkPG) August 31, 2017
Huntington: "we intend to give the higher leverage innings to other pitchers that may or will impact our 2018 club." Acknowledges $ saved.— Bill Brink (@BrinkPG) August 31, 2017
As the team with the worst record in baseball, the Phillies had first crack at Nicasio, and they jumped at the opportunity.
Nicasio is a free agent at the end of the season, so it’s possible he’ll only be with the franchise for one month. However, the Phils would be wise to consider signing him to a free agent contract in the off-season, given his excellent work out of the bullpen in 2017. With him already in the fold, perhaps they’ll have a jump on everyone else to make it happen.
Last season, Nicasio pitched an immaculate inning, striking out the side with three pitches to each hitter, proof he has some nasty stuff.
Nicasio will join a Phils pitching staff that is battered by injuries. Jerad Eickhoff was just placed on the 10-day disabled list with tingling in his hand. Vince Velasquez’ season is over after a similar injury knocked him out of action. The young starters who have been taking their place have been knocked out of games early. As a result, the bullpen has been stretched thin over the last month or so, making a pitcher of Nicasio’s ability and durability a most welcome addition.
In order to make room on the 40-man roster, the Phillies designated the feel-good story of the spring, Brock Stassi, for assignment.
Stassi struggled to find his footing with limited playing time early in the season, hitting .167/.278/.295 in 90 PAs with the big league club. He spent another 47 games in AAA, where he hit .256/.328/.354 this season.