It’s now no secret that the best weapon out of the Phillies bullpen is Pat Neshek, who has a 0.75 ERA in 24 innings pitched this season. The side-armer has allowed 15 hits and has issued just four walks, good enough for a 0.79 WHIP, almost equaling his ERA, which is quite rare.
Neshek is one of several veterans that the Phils acquired and/or resigned in the offseason that they’re willing to flip for more young prospects. With the Phils occupying the basement in major league baseball with a 21-42 record, there’s no sense in keeping a 36-year-old reliever past the July 31 deadline.
To make a long story short, there’s always a market for relief pitching and, in the playoffs, the bullpen has been specialized more than ever, as seen by Indians manager Terry Francona. A good bullpen could be the difference in a potential World Series matchup.
Last year’s World Series that featured the Cubs and Indians included the eighth- and fourth-place finishers in the league in bullpen ERA, respectively. The 2015 champion Royals had the second-best bullpen in the game. The Giants, who won it all in 2014, had the fifth-best ‘pen in the league. The 2008 Phillies bullpen ranked second in all of baseball.
If you can’t guess by now, there’s a common theme with winning teams: outstanding bullpens.
Value and possible returns for Neshek
That means it’s almost certain Neshek gets dealt to a contender. It would make the most sense if the Phils traded their best arm to either Houston or Washington, which could use the help. The best team in baseball, Houston is 14th in the league with a 3.97 bullpen ERA. Meanwhile, the Nationals have the 28th ranked bullpen in the league with a 5.11 ERA.
Teams that are willing to win now with that specific need are more likely to give a better package of players than a team that already has a good bullpen. But even a team with an adequate bullpen can always use another pitcher to bolster the staff. The package may not be as friendly.
For past reference, in July 2015 the Phils were able to trade Jonathan Papelbon, on his way out the door, to Washington for Nick Pivetta and cash.
Papelbon’s contract at the time was about to expire, but the Nationals picked up his option for 2016, so they received a little over a full season of value. Neshek’s contract ends after 2017, so the Phils wouldn’t get a ton back as a potential return. But they should be able to net something close to a Pivetta-level prospect, especially since Neshek isn’t getting paid like Papelbon.
Either way, a decent prospect can be had for a light’s out reliever.