In a game against the Detroit Tigers on March 17th, Pat Neshek took the mound to start the 5th inning. On the positive side of the ledger, he struck out 2 of the batters he faced and didn’t issue a walk. On the negative side of things he gave up 3 hits and two of those were home runs.
Three days later, on March 20th, the San Diego Padres claimed him off waivers. A lot of “digital ink” was spent on the topic including this entry from our own Josh Hill. I think much of the general reaction was pretty fair but there were two specific things thrown around in a few places that I felt were way off point.First and foremost is the notion that his departure weakens the Twins 2011 bullpen. When it comes down to it, I think this stance is simply misguided. The reality is that Pat Neshek hasn’t been an asset to the team’s bullpen since the 1st half of the 2007 season.
Coming into this season I believed a bullpen slot was his to lose, but once games started up there were clearly signs that he had not returned to form. He looked more like the 2010 version of Pat Neshek than the 2006 version and that changed the status quo with regard to the bullpen mix. The Twins had little use for that version of Neshek then, and despite their current bullpen needs, they have little use for that “edition” of Pat Neshek now.
With another offseason to come back from surgery there just wasn’t enough progress made, especially regarding his velocity and break on his pitches, for Minnesota to rely on him as a viable bullpen option this season.
As a result columns like this one are way off base when it comes to the impact Neshek would have had on the Twins roster this season. In the FanGraphs article linked in the previous statement, Jack Moore states the following:
the Twins can’t afford to dump a reliever with even a small chance of contributing in 2011
There is nothing wrong with that statement on the surface. Myself and pretty much any other Twins writer/fan would have to agree with it. The problem that pops up is when you try to assert that Pat Neshek would have a chance, even a small one, of contributing at the major league level in 2011. That’s a pretty big leap to make with a guy that hasn’t shown anything of tangible value on the mound in over three and a half years.
There are a lot of reasons to be a fan of Pat Neshek as a pitcher and as a person. Aside from being on the wrong end of the bidding for a one of a kind Twins baseball card on eBay with him a few years ago, I’ve got nothing but respect and admiration for the guy. Even then I was pretty happy that I lost out on the card to Neshek of all people. He didn’t swoop in at the end and outbid me like so many people like to do, he was just willing to pay more than I was straight up on the open market. In short I am a Pat Neshek fan and I hope he recaptures the form that made him so successful on the mound in 2006.
That said his value to this organization was marginal at best when they placed him on waivers.
Which leads into the second Neshek related fallacy that “they just gave him away for nothing.”
Yes, they got nothing in return for a marginal asset with a funky delivery and a checkered track record when it comes to his health. His stuff and velocity have diminished. Is that really such a big deal? Clearly they tried to trade him but assets of his nature don’t command any sort of return on the open market. Especially given that his incredible 2006 season was far too long ago to hold much credibility with other organizations. In the end the other 13 AL teams and 11 of 16 NL teams didn’t see the need to claim Pat Neshek either, and four of those didn’t have a chance at him. The San Diego Padres did claim him but that doesn’t mean they would have given anything up to get him just to avoid sweating over the waivers process. 25 teams, if you count the Twins who could have optioned him, took a look and decided Pat Neshek was not worth a roster spot at this point in his career. That says something.
The matter of the option year is also a source of some frustration from fans. I could tackle this one too but Seth Stohs summed that aspect up perfectly when he wrote the following:
That the Twins were willing Designate Neshek for Assignment now, with a full option year left, leads to one conclusion. They do not believe that he will ever get back to what he was in 2006 and 2007. And because of that, they are not worried about that option year or losing him. That is the business side of baseball.
For the record, Seth’s March 21st column was far and away the best to be published on Neshek’s career and departure. If you are reading this site, then there is a 90-95% chance that you also read Seth’s work, but if you don’t and you care about this topic on any level, you must read this.
The Minnesota Twins did the right thing for themselves and for Pat Neshek when they placed him on waivers. The latter of those two things is clearly secondary because it is a business, but there is no doubt that San Diego is the ideal place for him to land. So whether it was intentional or simply a byproduct he does benefit from this move.
The Twins organization isn’t any better off than they were before, but I think anyone who believes the team is worse off is really overestimating the impact he could have had this season. Those facts are independent of whether or not he goes on to have success with his new team. There is something to the “change of scenery theory,” and simply moving from the AL to the NL could be to Neshek’s benefit here. Again, that does not mean the Minnesota Twins did the wrong thing.
But the story isn’t over. In case you haven’t been following the story since he went west, Pat Neshek made his Padres spring debut on March 22nd. He threw a clean inning with 2 Ks and followed that up with a 1 H, 1 K inning of work on March 24th. Given the way that he throws and the fact that he is a genuinely good guy, he will assuredly become a fan favorite wherever he pitches.