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Pittsburgh Pirates Try To Justify Giving Away Effective Reliever For Free

Photo Credit: Justin K. Aller/Getty

Reliever Juan Nicasio has been having a career-best season; in his second year with the Pirates, he’s striking out nearly 25 percent of batters with a 2.85 ERA. This week, Pittsburgh placed him on irrevocable waivers to let Philadelphia take him for absolutely nothing in return, so that, uh, they could dump his $600,000 salary?

The Pirates put him on irrevocable waivers a few days ago—meaning that whoever claimed him would get him without giving Pittsburgh a chance to keep him, so more or less equivalent to a release—and the Phillies claimed him today. Pirates general manager Neal Huntington issued a statement about the team’s thinking this afternoon:


The Pirates are out of contention; unloading a player like Nicasio, who’s having a strong year and will be a free agent come winter, makes perfect sense. Or, at least, it would make perfect sense if they had tried to get something in return for him. The excuse here—that they would rather give him away for free than give him to a “direct competitor” for a return of marginal value—is somewhat baffling, as the Pirates aren’t competing this year. They’re eight games under .500. And there is no next year in this equation, as Nicasio will be a free agent before then. Even if the “marginal value” added here was really very marginal indeed, it was undoubtedly still more than literally nothing at all, which is what they got by putting him on irrevocable waivers.

The only benefit to the Pirates here, then, is that they get to dump Nicasio’s salary. Sometimes, a move like that can be legitimately beneficial to the team—but in this case, it’s not, because in this case, Nicasio’s remaining salary is only $600,000. This is not, in any meaningful sense, the Pirates giving away a quality reliever for free because they’d rather do that than send him to a direct competitor. This is the Pirates giving away a quality reliever for free because they’d rather do that than pay him $600,000. As summed up pretty accurately by Yahoo’s Jeff Passan:

All making for a very happy birthday for Nicasio, who turned 31 today.

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