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Phillies surprisingly trade Juan Nicasio to the Cardinals

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The Phils turned a free player into a real prospect. Not bad.

MLB: Philadelphia Phillies at Miami Marlins Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

If you blinked at all during the last six days, chances are you missed the Juan Nicasio Era in Philadelphia.

After just two games, 1. 1 innings of work and 20 pitches, the Phillies have traded the right-handed reliever to the St. Louis Cardinals for infield prospect Eliezer Alvarez. Since he was added after the August 31 waiver trade deadline period, Nicasio will not be eligible to pitch in the postseason for St. Louis, should they get there, but they are just three games back of the second National League wild card entering play on Wednesday.

Phils general manager Matt Klentak claimed Nicasio off irrevocable waivers on August 31 from the Pirates and assumed the remaining $600,000 on his contract. Pittsburgh had tried to put Nicasio on waivers earlier in the month, but a division rival (it’s not known who) put in a claim to block Pittsburgh from trading him to a contender.

As a result, the Pirates simply gave him away for nothing. The Phillies, meanwhile, paid six days’ worth of Nicasio’s salary and a small waiver claim fee in order to get Nicasio and then flip him for a prospect, knowing he was a pending free agent.

Not bad, Matt Klentak. Not bad at all.

Alvarez came into the season as St. Louis’ No. 10 prospect, according to Baseball America. MLB.com recently put him at No. 19 in their mid-season rankings. Fangraphs’ prospect guru Eric Longenhagen says he’s a prospect in the mold of the Phillies’ current second baseman.

Alvarez played in just 61 games this season, 54 of them in AA, where he hit .247/.321/.382 with a .702 OPS, 11 doubles and 9 stolen bases as a 22-year-old. Last year in Single-A he hit .323/.404/.476 in 116 games with 36 doubles and 36 SBs.

SB Nation’s Cardinals site, Viva el Birdos, had this to say about him before the start of the season.

Simply put, Eliezer Alvarez can really hit. He can really run, too. The questions about him almost all revolve around physical projection and position.

Alvarez should help provide the Phillies’ minor league system with some much needed infield depth. With J.P. Crawford already called up and Scott Kingery likely to join the Phils next season (and potentially Jesmuel Valentein, too), there is a need for some middle infielders down in the minors. He’s also been added to the 40-man roster.

Unfortunately for the Pirates, their plan to release Nicasio in order to prevent a division rival from getting him, backfired.

While not a splashy trade, it is evidence once again how the Phillies can use their financial heft to their advantage. By willing to take on the rest of Nicasio’s 2016 salary, they ended up trading him to a contender and getting a decent prospect back in return.