The St. Louis Cardinals just picked up a pretty fantastic reliever, Juan Nicasio, from the Philadelphia Phillies for the 19th best prospect in the Cardinals system.
There’s some weirdness to this trade, but let’s first note that it makes the Cardinals better for September.
Sure, Nicasio will become a free agent at the end of the year and is actually ineligible for the postseason (because he was traded after the September 1 deadline), but he’s good. Really good. And he’ll undoubtedly help the Cardinals down the stretch.
Nicasio, 31, has a 2.79 ERA (2.97 FIP) this season, with a solid 24.7 K% and 7.3 BB% over 61.1 innings pitched. He nets more soft contact than the average reliever and gets more ground balls than most, to boot.
So make no mistake, this move was made because the Cardinals, who are currently 4.0 games out of the NL Central and 3.0 games out of the NL Wild Card, believe they have a chance to make the postseason this fall, and think Nicasio can help them get there.
But none of that is a craziest part of this trade.
The craziest part is that the Pirates originally let Nicasio go to the Phillies for nothing near the end of August. And now the Phillies get a prospect by trading Nicasio to one of the Pirates’ division rivals.
Here’s what happened.
Having first put Nicasio on revocable trade waivers in August, Nicasio was claimed by an unknown (to us) team, forcing the Pirates to either make a trade or pull him back. Because they weren’t quite out of it yet (and/or the offer wasn’t up to snuff), the Pirates pulled Nicasio back and kept him in Pittsburgh for a little while longer. Later in the month, however, once it was clear that the Pirates were essentially out of the race, they put Nicasio on irrevocable waivers and lost him to the Phillies just to save the $600,000 they owed him the rest of the way.
The Phillies claimed him, paid him (for a bit), put him back on waivers here in September (which apparently you can do after a player is on irrevocable waivers), and he must have been claimed by the Cardinals, who then traded value for him. (In case you’re wondering, yes, the Cardinals would have had waiver priority over the Cubs.)
Now, the Cardinals will have a pretty dynamic extra arm in their bullpen, which was already one of MLB’s top ten best groups by fWAR. They still have quite a hill to climb to overcome the Brewers and Cubs, but this move certainly pushes them in the right direction. (This move stands in quite a contrast to their earlier trade to dump Mike Leake.)