Pittsburgh Pirates And New York Mets Swap Lefties

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports /

On Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Pirates and New York Mets made a trade exchanging left-handed pitchers Jon Niese and Antonio Bastardo for each other.

The Jon Niese nightmare is over, yay! The Pittsburgh Priates have traded Niese, who was having the worst season of his career, to the team they acquired him from in December the New York Mets. In exchange, the Pittsburgh Pirates received left-handed reliever Antonio Bastardo who pitched for the Pirates last season.

Jon Neise began the year in the Pittsburgh Pirates starting rotation, but was moved to the bullpen last month after struggling immensely. The first rumblings that the Mets might be interested in re-acquiring Jon Niese began two or three weeks ago, which was about the same time it started to be reported that the Pirates were shopping him. On Tuesday, Niese was reunited with his old team.

In the offseason Antonio Bastardo signed a two-year, twelve million dollar contract with the New York Mets. Therefore, he will be under team control through next season. So Antonio Bastardo joins Felipe Rivero as a relief pitcher the Pittsburgh Pirates acquired at the trade deadline this season that comes with team control beyond 2016.

Even though Antonio Bastardo has struggled for the Mets this season, I am optimistic about this pick up. In 43 2/3 innings pitched this season Bastardo has a 4.74 ERA, 5.06 FIP, and a 4.72 xFIP. He still has a strong strikeout rate of 9.48 K/9, but is averaging 4.33 BB/9 and 1.65 HR/9. However, Bastardo has a career high 36.9 percent ground ball rate this season.

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This season, Antonio Bastardo has had reverse splits as he has fared better against right-handed hitters than left-handed hitters. While left-handed hitters have a .392 wOBA against Bastardo, he has held right-handed hitters to a .282 wOBA. Bastardo also pitched much better away from Citi Field in New York this season with a .279 opposing wOBA on the road, as compared to a .378 wOBA at home.

As I said above, I am optimsitic about this trade and there are a few reasons why. First off, Antonio Bastardo was successful as a member of the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen last season. As a Pirate, Bastardo had a 3.33 FIP and averaged over ten strikeouts per nine innings pitched in 57 1/3 innings pitched. Some guys just work with certain pitching coaches, see A.J. Burnett, it is possible Bastardo is that way with Ray Searage.

Secondly, Antonio Bastardo’s fastball velocity has not dipped from last season. Despite this, his fastball is the pitch getting him into trouble. Opposing hitters have a 152 wRC+ off of his fastball, but just a wRC+ of 57 off his slider and 88 off of his change up. In fact, his change up has been even better this season than last. This improved change up is probably why he has done so well against right-handed hitters this season. The tools are certainly still there for Antonio Bastardo to be an effective reliever, it is up to Ray Searage to bring those tools to light as he did last season.

Next: Pirates Acquire Ivan Nova

Unlike the Ivan Nova trade earlier in the day, this is a trade I like. Jon Niese had been atrocious for the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, and now he is gone. Furthermore, Antonio Bastardo is back in a place where he had a lot of success and he is under contract for next season as well.