On November 4, 2016 the Houston Astros shipped veteran relief pitcher Pat Neshek to the Philadelphia Phillies.
The trade was a simple salary dump for Houston. Neshek had a $6.55 million option due on his contract for the 2017 season. The Astros didn’t want to pay that kind of money for a middle reliever.
They found a willing trade partner in the Phillies, who were desperately searching for short-term bullpen help, and who had plenty of money available to spend.
On the surface, it appeared a step back competitively for Neshek. The Astros were an up-and-coming contender in the American League. The Phillies were a rebuilding doormat in the National League. It looked as if it could be a long summer for the 36-year old veteran.
But you never know what the future will hold. The year 2017 has turned out to be one of the best of Neshek’s baseball life. And here in the month of July, it may only be getting better.
The great year began all the way back in March. While his new Phillies teammates were preparing for the season ahead at spring training in Clearwater, Neshek was representing the USA in the World Baseball Classic.
He would be a key shutdown reliever, a key to the Americans finally capturing the WBC championship. Neshek allowed no runs and four hits, striking out four and allowing just a single walk in five innings over five games.
When the WBC ended, Neshek joined those new Phillies teammates. The reality of his current Major League Baseball situation would quickly reveal itself.
ALL-STAR SEASON IN PHILLY
The Phils would prove even worse than most predicted. Headed into Sunday’s final game before the MLB All-Star break, the Phillies are the worst team in baseball. The team has dropped five straight games, and they are 17-49 since April 27.
The bullpen has been generally awful during this campaign. The Phillies are 11-23 in one-run games, and most of those were blown late by the relief corps.
But Neshek has been the one member of that bullpen to consistently do his job. He has been so good, in fact, that last week he was selected as the lone Phillies all-star representative.
Entering Sunday, Neshek is 2-2 with one Save. He has allowed just 26 hits over 34.1 innings with a 34/5 K:BB ratio. He has outstanding 1.31 ERA and 0.903 WHIP marks as well.
It will be the second All-Star Game appearance for Neshek. He was also selected to the 2014 NL squad while with the Saint Louis Cardinals.
“You don’t think of yourself as one of the best players, or at least I don’t look at myself that way,” said Neshek per Philly.com’s Matt Breen. “But if you get the opportunity, you never know if you’re on that stage. So I took that into the season. I said, ‘Hey, I got some big guys out in the World Baseball Classic. I’ve done it before. I’m going to go at this hard again.’ You never know what’s going to happen.”
Neshek and his family will make their way to Miami for the All-Star Game festivities following Sunday afternoon’s game. They will enjoy a wonderful three-day experience in south Florida before returning to the reality of the Phillies lost season at the end of the week.
TRADE RUMORS TO HEAT UP
Even then, Neshek could be getting ready to see his outstanding personal 2017 season continue. He is one of the Phillies prime pieces of trade bait as the MLB trade deadline approaches at the end of July.
As we get deeper and deeper into the month of July, especially should he continue to stay healthy and perform at a high level, Neshek’s name will be involved in constant trade rumors.
It will be a mild upset if Neshek is still with the Phillies come August. The more likely scenario is that he will have been traded away to some contending team. Maybe back to Houston, or off to Boston or Texas in the American League. Maybe to Washington in the NL, where the Nationals bullpen has been a constant source of frustration to a genuine World Series contender.
It’s a great time to be Pat Neshek. He is on quite a roll here in 2017 thus far. If his luck continues, he should find himself pitching with a contender before it’s all over. Hopefully for the Phillies, he can return a bit of longer term value as well.