The Houston Astros have agreed to a two-year contract with former St. Louis Cardinals righthanded reliever Pat Neshek that is worth $12.5 million according to Derrick Goold, ace beat reporter at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Neshek joins former Cardinals farmhand Luke Gregerson in the back of the Astros bullpen. Houston inked Gregerson as well on Wednesday, to a three-year agreement worth at least $18.5 million and perhaps as much $21 million in performance incentives.
The Cardinals signed Neshek last January, after the buzz of the Winter Meetings had given way to the dead silence of an all-but-baseball-less winter. The righthanded sidewinder had totaled 53 1/3 innings between 2010 and 2012 with the Twins, Padres, and Athletics. With Oakland in 2013, Neshek tallied 40 1/3 innings with a respectable 3.35 ERA (86 ERA-) and ugly 4.66 FIP (121 FIP-).
Neshek’s recent history allowed the Cardinals to give him a minor-league contract with an invitation to big-league camp in the spring. Neshek took full advantage of the opportunity, made the team’s opening-day bullpen, and ultimately ascended to eighth-inning setup role. In 2014, Neshek made 71 appearances and notched 67 1/3 innings (both his most since 2007). The Cardinals paid $1 million for an All-Star-worthy 1.87 ERA (52 ERA-) and 2.37 FIP (65 FIP-) over those innings.
Early in the offseason, St. Louis general manager John Mozeliak observed that Neshek’s performance had likely priced him out of the Cardinals’ plans for 2015 and beyond. For a front office that has largely avoided high-dollar and multi-year contracts for relievers, such an assessment came as no surprise. Neshek ultimately signing elsewhere as a free agent was predictable.
Neshek’s January 2014 signing and performance is Exhibit A in why the Cardinals don’t need to sign relievers like the 2014-15 Hot Stove Neshek to multi-year contracts in the multi-million-dollar range. Exhibit B might very well be righty Matt Belisle in 2015. Hopefully Neshek’s two-year deal with the Astros doesn’t become Exhibit C.
Neshek’s free agency is another example of business versus personal. You’ll recall the personal travails that Neshek and his family have endured, making his 2014 All-Star performance all the more compelling. What’s more, he does things like take out a post office box to which fans can send baseball cards that he will sign. (If you want your 2014 Neshek Topps card autographed, click here for that address.) In terms of sentimentality, no major-league ballplayer deserves a multi-year, multi-million-dollar contract more than Neshek, at least in my assessment. I'll be rooting for him as he pitches these next two seasons as a member of the Astros.