Pat Neshek became a Phillies trade candidate the moment the team acquired him from the Houston Astros in a cash deal in November. The only question was: How good of a trade chip would the right-handed reliever become? Ultimately, Neshek's performance would dictate that.
Neshek spent four months with the Phillies and pitched brilliantly. On Wednesday night, five days before the non-waiver trade deadline, the Phillies cashed him in for three young prospects in a deal with the Colorado Rockies.
"There was a lot of interest in Neshek," general manager Matt Klentak said. "Just about every team in contention lobbed a phone call to touch base about Neshek, some more seriously than others. The Rockies were interested from Day 1."
The Phillies picked up Alejandro Requena, a 20-year-old right-handed starting pitcher, J.D. Hammer, a 23-year-old right-handed reliever, and Jose Gomez, a 20-year-old shortstop. All were playing at the Single A level.
Requena, a 6-foot-2, 200-pound Venezuelan, was 8-3 this season with a 2.85 ERA in 19 starts for Low A Asheville. He had 97 strikeouts and 25 walks in 117 innings and had held opposing hitters to a .239 batting average.
Hammer, a 24th-round draft pick in 2016, started the season at Asheville before being promoted to High A Lancaster in late June. Overall in 2017, he is 4-2 with a 2.36 ERA and 13 saves in 36 games. He has an impressive 65 strikeouts and .182 opponents' batting average in 42 innings.
Gomez had a slash line of .324/.374/.437 with four homers, 33 RBIs, 54 runs and 18 stolen bases in 81 games at Low A. The 5-foot-11, 175-pounder from Venezuela was the 21st-ranked prospect in the Rockies' farm system by MLB.com. In addition to shortstop, he plays third and second base.
Time will tell if this quantity of minor-league prospects turns into big-league quality. On the surface, the Phillies appeared to make out pretty good, especially considering that Neshek, a middle reliever/setup man, is just a two-month rental for the Rockies. He can be a free agent at the end of the season,
"We’re excited about all three of the kids that we got," Klentak said. "Our scouting group really did a good job running all over the country, trying to get extra looks at these players. We’re really excited to pull this off."
Neshek, 36, was the Phillies' lone All-Star selection and worked a scoreless inning for the National League two weeks ago in Miami. With the Phillies this season, he pitched 40 1/3 innings over 43 games. He allowed just five runs and 41 of his appearances were scoreless. He did not allow a run in 21 2/3 innings at Citizens Bank Park.
"I'm actually relieved," Neshek said shortly after learning of the trade after the Phillies' 9-0 win over Houston (see game recap). "People have been talking about it since April, so it's done. I thought it was going to go until the last day. It's kind of nerve-racking.
"It's also bittersweet. I enjoyed my time here. These guys are some of the better guys I've played with."
Neshek joins a Rockies club that currently has a four-game lead for the second National League wild-card spot. The Phillies, of course, have the worst record in baseball.
"It's exciting," Neshek said. "You jump right into a playoff race. That's a great team, great offense."
The Phillies will add a reliever to replace Neshek in time for Friday's game against the Braves. It's possible that Edubray Ramos or Mark Leiter Jr. could return, but it also might be time to look at Jesen Therrien, the hard-throwing righty with the Brad Lidge slider. Either way, all three of these pitchers will be in the majors over the final two months of the season as the team makes changes and roster spots open.
Klentak said Neshek was the Phillies' most targeted player. Jeremy Hellickson will make his final start before the deadline on Friday night. He is expected to be dealt. There are enough teams looking for pitching and the Phillies are willing to pay down much of the approximately $6 million that remains on his deal.
The Phillies have two veteran bats available in Howie Kendrick and Daniel Nava, but both have health issues. Nava is on the disabled list with a sore hamstring. If he goes, it could be in an August waiver deal. Kendrick, who has been on the disabled list twice this season, took a pitch off the left wrist on Wednesday night. There was no fracture. He could still be dealt before the deadline, but the return does not figure to be significant. First baseman Tommy Joseph is another trade possibility as the Phils look to open a spot for Rhys Hoskins. Reliever Joaquin Benoit is yet another trade possibility but he won't fetch much of a return.
"I don’t want to handicap it," Klentak said of the chance of making more deals. "We’ve received calls on some of our other players, some more serious than others. Health will be a factor. As you know, Nava hit the DL today and Howie was just hit in the hand. We’ll have to see how he comes back from that. We’ll have to see. We’ll certainly be here, we’ll be on the phones, and we’ll be working as hard as we can to see what’s out there. But [the Neshek trade] is definitely the one we thought was most likely."