Except for the brief period when Trevor Rosenthal was closer, the Cardinals bullpen has struggled this season. Overall, the stat line has been average, but it has never been good. Since Rosenthal went down for the season, the team has had basically just one reliable arm in Tyler Lyons. While Sandy Alcantara could make the jump, and a few once-good relievers might rebound, the Cardinals have made an unusual move by trading for Juan Nicasio.
So why is this trade unusual? For one, Juan Nicasio will not be eligible for the Cardinals postseason roster should the team qualify. To be eligible, players need to be in the organization on September 1. Nicasio was in the Phillies organization at the time so he will not be pitching in the playoffs.
How Nicasio came to be on the Phillies is also unusual. Nicasio has been a very good bullpen arm for the Pittsburgh Pirates for much of the season and his season totals with a 2.97 ERA and 2.79 FIP are impressive. The Pirates did a soft sell at the deadline and likely didn’t find enough offers to their liking at the trade deadline, and then in August, he was claimed by some mystery team who had no intention of providing the Pirates with any sort of prospects of value.
Then things got weird:
A real doozy.— Stephen J. Nesbitt (@stephenjnesbitt) August 31, 2017
Neal Huntington issued the following statement regarding Juan Nicasio. pic.twitter.com/o8sVRrmVOE
We don’t know who the playoff caliber rival club who blocked Nicasio was. It seems likely that the team was either the Cardinals* or the Brewers (it would depend on who had the worse record at the time as far as which team could claim first) based on the characterization of the team as a rival. In any event, when the Pirates put him on waivers, the Phillies took him on, which prevented him from getting to a playoff club.
*UPDATE: Not the Cardinals
#STLCards were NOT team that claimed Nicasio from #Pirates on revocable trade waivers, sources tell The Athletic. Claiming team not known.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) September 6, 2017
That move seems to have paid off for the Phillies as they have now extracted some value out of the move by obtaining Eliezer Alvarez from the Cardinals. Alvarez broke out in 2016 hitting .323/.404/.476 season for Low-A Peoria. We had him as the Cardinals 24th best prospect before the season while Eric Longenhagen raved about his hit tool and had him eighth. The 22-year-old skipped a level this season to Double-A Springfield, but couldn’t quite get on track, striking out a bunch before a high ankle sprain derailed his season. He hit a little better over the last month of the season upon returning from his injury, holding his own with a league average line.
The Cardinals need bullpen help from somewhere and Nicasio should immediately slot in the late innings as the Cardinals continue to push towards the postseason.