The Colorado Rockies are one of baseball’s biggest surprises this season. Their 58-44 record coming into play on Wednesday is the fourth-best in the National League and gives them a 4 1⁄2 game cushion in the Wild Card standings. With every contender, however, comes certain weaknesses, and the trade deadline gives such teams an opportunity to fix those problems for the postseason run of August and September.
As the Rockies’ brass continued to watch their bullpen struggle, they knew a change had to be made — and quickly. The team has an important series with the Washington Nationals coming up this weekend, and Greg Holland will almost certainly be unavailable, as he was placed on paternity leave earlier today. Of course, that’s not the only hurdle that Rockies’ relief pitching has had to clear, but we’ll get more into that later on.
And so the Rockies made a trade for a reliever. They acquired right-hander Pat Neshek from the Philadelphia Phillies for three prospects: infielder Jose Gomez, right-handed pitcher J.D. Hammer and right-handed pitcher Alejandro Requena.
The Rockies fix some bullpen issues
As I mentioned with the half-joke about Greg Holland being gone this weekend, the Rockies bullpen has been a huge struggle for this new contender.
The team does rank 12th in the Major Leagues in overall fWAR, with 2.8. A lot of that, though, has to do with Holland, who has been worth +1.2 himself. Despite this, though, the Rockies’ relief corps have the sixth-highest ERA in the Major Leagues, with a 4.53 mark. A lot of this may have to do with Coors Field, though, thus explaining why their ERA-, which adjusts for park effects, is still 11 percent above MLB average.
And the issues that the bullpen does have became a lot more pronounced within the last 30 days. They have a 4.74 ERA in that time, which is still above MLB-average according to ERA-, but their peripherals have been a lot less kind. The team’s overall FIP in the last month has been 4.92, which falls below the MLB-average threshold. More telling, perhaps, is the group’s fWAR contribution — just 0.1 — ranking 27th in the Majors in that period.
The recent bullpen struggles explain why the Rockies went out and got Neshek, who is having an excellent season.
The 36-year-old Neshek has thrown 40 1⁄3 innings for the Phillies this year, posting a 1.12 ERA and a 45:5 strikeout-to-walk ratio in his 43 appearances. Neshek is allowing home runs at a very low clip, and if that number balloons quickly (as it very well could, especially pitching in Coors), he could look a lot less excellent. Still, it’s hard to ignore the success that he has had this season, as his 1.5 fWAR already is the second-highest mark of his career.
Neshek is on a $6.5 million salary, and he will be a free agent at the season’s end.
The Phillies get a return on their investment
The Phillies dealt their most tradable piece today. Daniel Nava was placed on the disabled list just this morning, and Howie Kendrick went down with another injury during tonight’s game. Who knows where Clay Buchholz is? (Oh right, he’s hurt too.) In terms of 2017 rentals for the Phillies to trade, Neshek has been basically it.
The Phillies did well, though. They got Neshek from the Astros this offseason for a player to be named later or cash, and he has been nothing short of brilliant. In fact, he was their lone All-Star. He’s been that good, and the Phillies have been that bad.
Turning cash or a fringe prospect into a trade piece like Neshek, and Neshek into three legitimate prospects, is a job well done by any front office regime. Even if just one prospect hits their potential, they will provide value for the next Phillies winning team, something that Neshek would never do.
Gomez is the best prospect the Phillies got in this trade. He was rated as their No. 21 prospect on their updated Top 30 list from MLB Pipeline, praised mainly for his hit and run tools. The 20-year-old has spent his season with Class-A Asheville this year, slashing .324/.374/.437 with four homers and 33 RBI over 351 plate appearances. He projects as a utility player with a chance to start at second base if his bat can remain strong as he progresses.
Hammer — who has a great baseball name, by the way — is a 23-year-old pitcher currently with Class-A Advanced Lancaster. He has a 2.36 ERA, a 65:14 strikeout-to-walk ratio and 13 saves in 42 innings over two levels this season, all while pitching in relief. Requena, 20, is also at Class-A Asheville and has a 2.85 ERA and a 97:25 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 117 innings over 19 starts.
Generally speaking, the Rockies solve one of their glaring issues in the bullpen, and the Phillies prioritize future value with three upside prospects that still are years away from the Major Leagues. This trade makes sense all the way around.
Devan Fink is a Featured Writer for Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DevanFink.