Pittsburgh Pirates: A Look at Juan Nicasio’s Tenure

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images) /

Editorial: The Pittsburgh Pirates put reliever Juan Nicasio on outright waivers earlier this week.  Today, they saw the relief pitcher get claimed by another team.

Juan Nicasio has had a career resurgence over the last two seasons.  The Pittsburgh Pirates signed the reliever in the 2015-2016 offseason, and over the last two seasons he has developed into one of the National Leagues’ better relievers.  However, the Pittsburgh Pirates decided to place the hard throwing pitcher on outright waivers.  Today, the Philadelphia Phillies scooped him up on the waiver wire, promptly ending his tenure year in black and gold.

Nicasio was originally brought in after he was let go by the Los Angeles Dodgers after the 2015 season.  The right hander came in on a one year contract, but also brought an extra year of arbitration.  In his Pittsburgh Pirates career, he made $6.65 million over the two seasons, providing value well beyond that dollar figure.

Juan Nicasio’s Time Starting

When Nicasio was originally signed, many thought he would end up pitching out of the bullpen.  He proved that he could not start in the league with the Rockies earlier in his career.  In 2015 the Dodgers transitioned him to the bullpen where he found more success.  Nevertheless, Nicasio came into the 2016 Spring Training and quickly put himself in the rotation conversation.  Nicasio flat out dominated in during this month, and he was named to the team’s starting rotation.  He did not last long in the rotation.  By the end of June, he was moved to the bullpen.  As a starter, he gave up 41 runs in 62.1 innings pitched (12 starts), which gave him an ERA of 5.05 as a starter.

Move to the Pen

Still, this was the best possible move for Nicasio.  He moved to the bullpen and quickly established himself as a legitimate power reliever.  His ERA on the 2016 season as a reliever was 3.88 in 40 games.  However, his ERA is somewhat inflated.  On June 10th he was tagged for six earned runs in one inning of relief, an inning coming in extra innings.  At this point, Nicasio was still be used as a starter and came out of the bullpen just three days after starting.  Without that outing, Nicasio posted a 2.96 ERA as a reliever.  Furthermore, players only slugged .387 against him and he struck out 12.1 batters per nine innings pitched as a reliever.

2017 Dominance

Expectations were high for Nicasio entering the 2017 season.  He came in as the team’s setup man, a position he held all season, mainly because he had been down right dominant this year.  In his 65 games pitched, Nicasio has posted an outstanding 2.85 ERA.  Nicasio is also striking out a batter per inning pitched, with 60 strikeouts in 60 innings.  All in all, he produced a solid 1.6 WAR for the Bucs, only behind Felipe Rivero in that category.

Juan Nicasio has been flat out dominant as a Pittsburgh Pirate reliever.  Hindsight bias tells us that the Bucs should have dealt Nicasio at this year’s trade deadline.  The Bucs hung on to him in hopes that they would have an outside chance at the division.  Nicasio would have been a big part of that potential run.  However, the offense has disappeared in August and the now the Bucs are letting him walk to save the remaining money owed to him.

Next: Phillies Claim Juan Nicasio

Neal Huntington rarely makes these types of mistakes. He typically trades pending free agents and not see them leave for nothing.  Although this is not a huge one, one must say he should have moved him at the trade deadline when he could have gotten something for him. According to MLB Trade Rumors, the Bucs tried passing him through revocable waivers, but he was claimed by a team that they were not able to negotiate with.  Now, they simply cut his $600K owed and get nothing back for a guy who has been their best reliever over the last two seasons.