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No, the Phillies didn’t make a mistake trading Nick Pivetta

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And it’s time to stop acting like it was

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Boston Red Sox Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

It’s become an all too frequent topic among fans these days. After his start last Sunday, Nick Pivetta has the following line:

17 GS, 92 13 IP, 4.09 ERA (4.09 FIP), 1.3 HR/9, 10.8 BB%, 28.0 K%, .220/.309/.408 against him, 1.3 bWAR

It’s a solid season no doubt. Pivetta has been one of the bigger surprises on a Red Sox team that wasn’t picked by many to be in the playoff conversation this year, yet currently sits atop the American League East. He’s been pretty consistent all year, though his season since May hasn’t been nearly as good as his opening month had been. Had the Phillies decided to keep him and continue to try and make him an effective starter, it’s possible that they would have that elusive solid fourth starter right now, a possible difference between where they are now and where they could have been.

And it’s still true that the Phillies didn’t make a mistake in trading him.

Now, let’s consider a few things. One, yes, the Phillies have had some pitching issues this year with their rotation. Matt Moore and Chase Anderson were both brought in on the cheap in the hopes the team would be able to find lightning in a bottle with both. Moore was successful last year in Japan, so there was at least a reasonable hope he’d be able to find some kind of success here in Philadelphia. Anderson wasn’t good last year, but had a history of finding at least a modicum of success. The salaries they commanded weren’t exorbitant, so it’s not like they were so expensive they’d be busts. They’ve just turned into pumpkins all on their own. No one had any real expectation that they were going to be world-beaters, but they weren’t supposed to be this bad.

Having the two of them plus Vince Velasquez and Spencer Howard struggle has meant that two out of every five days the Phillies are at a disadvantage. Let’s also not forget that Aaron Nola hasn’t been ace-like this season, nor has Zach Eflin been consistent. The rotation has been an issue.

So naturally we look at the players that have left the team and found success elsewhere and wonder why the team got rid of the in the first place. Pivetta was one of the more polarizing players while here due to the talent and lack of results, so it felt like a wise move for all parties involved that he ply his trade elsewhere. Pivetta admitted as much when he was in Philadelphia two months ago.

“I didn’t throw very well at the end with Philly and I’ve been throwing well since. I’ve made the right adjustments that I’ve needed to make. It’s a lot more fun and it’s a lot easier when you’re going out, competing in baseball games and everything’s going right so you can focus on how to continue going right instead of fighting for your life. I didn’t pitch good (in Philly). I wasn’t comfortable. I was trying too hard. I was trying to be something I was not. I was good for a little bit, and then some things changed. I needed to pitch better. We made the adjustments here.”

It sounds like from there that Pivetta himself is admitting that getting out of Philadelphia was a good thing for him since he just was beating himself up too much. Those quotes sound great in print, but when asked about it, Pivetta said during an interview on FOX:

“The biggest difference is I learned how to be a part of a baseball club that has an understanding of how to win.”

It’s hard to disagree with him, but it also shows his relief at getting out of Philadelphia. He wasn’t happy when he was demoted to the bullpen in 2019, nor was he happy about it last year either. The team couldn’t figure out what they wanted to do with him, but their hand was forced due to the lack of results Pivetta ever gave. We saw that in his 2018 season, the peripherals all were screaming “BREAKOUT CANDIDATE IN 2019!”, but it never happened. The team had gone as far as they could go with Pivetta - even by his own accord - so something had to give. He was always going to be an attractive candidate for another team to get their hands on, so when the opportunity came for the team to improve the bullpen last year, they had to move on. It was best for everybody involved.

The lamenting being done about Pivetta being moved is kind of tired. Does it always feel bad to see former players succeed in other places? Of course. Look at Cole freakin’ Irvin for example! But that doesn’t mean the team made a mistake. Going back and looking at the social media reaction to the Pivetta trade and it was almost overwhelmingly happy that Pivetta had been traded. There might be one or two people who saw this kind of breakout coming, but if they did, someone grab their copy of Gray’s Sports Almanac and send it to me.

As the Phillies head to Boston this weekend and Pivetta make the start, no matter what happens, just remember: it was for the best. If you want to pour your anger out at someone, pour it on Heath Hembree and Brandon Workman for being horrendous during their tenure here. Be angry at the team’s player development program for never getting Pivetta right. Be angry at the need to include Connor Seabold (though not too mad - he hasn’t thrown a professional inning since September 2019)

But the actual trade? Nah. No sense getting worked up about it. It was the right thing to do.