On Thursday, the Pirates engineered one of their more head-scratching transactions in recent history. With September and expanded rosters looming, the Pirates allowed Juan Nicasio to go to the Phillies in a waiver claim. The Phillies, based on record, were selecting 1st, which tells you all you need to know about how much demand there was for Juan Nicasio.
The reason that Nicasio went for nothing, except saving his remaining $600K of 2017 salary, is that the Pirates put him on irrevocable waivers a couple of days earlier. This means that if a team, any team, claimed him, the Pirates could not pull him back. It’s the equivalent of putting a piece of your furniture out on the curb with a sign that says “Free!” Just last week, Alex ran through some scenarios on what the Pirates should do with Juan Nicasio. Suffice to say, “allow him to go for free to the worst team in MLB” wasn’t one of them.
Since the Pirates knew this was a terrible transaction, one that has been noticed not just locally but also nationally, Neal Huntington came out with a statement to try and do some spin control. Even for the perpetually tone-deaf front office of the Pirates, this statement was a mess. It had more holes in it than a moth-infested blanket.
From Stephen Nesbitt’s Twitter feed, you can read the whole thing. There’s a back-handed attempt to say they were trying to help Nicasio by getting him to a playoff contender with earlier revocable waivers, but he was claimed by a direct rival they didn’t want to help (Cubs?), so instead of getting some marginal value, they stopped the deal to spite both the team and Nicasio. Instead he gets to drive the turnpike to play for the worst club in MLB.
But the key part for me is that the Pirates “intend to give higher leverage innings to pitchers that may or will impact our club in 2018.” That’s all well and good. In fact, that’s what September is for on a losing franchise. But if that’s the case, why is the desiccated corpse of Chris Stewart still catching games over Elias Diaz?
It has been evident to me for some time that the Pirates simply don’t believe in Diaz. Rumblings have persisted that neither Huntington nor Hurdle like his game calling ability or pitch framing ability. OK, again that’s all well and good. So trot him out there for the majority of games in September and give him the chance to sink or swim once and for all. Chris Stewart is a known commodity, both positively and negatively. His bat this year is Jeff Mathis-esque. He’s old and his body is falling apart. I’m sure if he wants to, Chris Stewart could step right into coaching a lower level team for the Pirates; he could be a great MLB manager one day.
At this point, I’m questioning if Elias Diaz is even going to be on the Pirates at all next year. With the chronically injured Francisco Cervelli as the starter, the Pirates need a quality backup to turn to. If they don’t trust Diaz (and assuming they don’t pick up Stewart’s 2018 option), the Pirates may find themselves out on the free agent market (yikes) or in the trade market (hi Yankees) for a second catcher.
The Pirates wanted to save $600K in a lost season. I use coupons when I shop and look for deals online because I like to save money, too. But I don’t outright give valuable assets away to do so. That’s what the Pirates did with Juan Nicasio and then they compounded the problem by spinning a statement covered in equine fecal matter.
With the manner in which Neal Huntington has been asleep at the switch this year to improve the team and how Clint Hurdle has stubbornly played washed up vets over young players, it appears both of them are in a race to see who gets fired first this offseason. At this point, it may be a package deal.