The Pirates ended up losing Juan Nicasio on waivers today, with the right-handed reliever going to the Phillies in a surprising move. Pirates’ General Manager Neal Huntington issued a statement following the claim, noting that the Pirates were blocked in their attempts to trade Nicasio. At that point, they could have kept him, or let him go for a savings of about $600,000.
I’m not going to be discussing the Nicasio move here. I think it’s meaningless, and I think the outrage over the move is misplaced anger from a larger issue of the team not contending. I also think it makes sense to let him walk and give time to younger players who could play a role on the 2018 roster. The Pirates have plenty of arms who are MLB-ready and who are blocked in Indianapolis right now. They will start to make their way up tomorrow when rosters expand.
What I do want to point out is an inconsistent approach the Pirates are taking with this move. It’s not a problem to let Nicasio go and give his innings to younger players in September. But this is an approach that needs to happen with every player who isn’t in the mix for the 2018 season, and that hasn’t universally been the case.
The Pirates started Chris Stewart behind the plate last night. It was his third start in a row, and fourth in the last five games since Francisco Cervelli went back on the disabled list. Cervelli has missed 15 of the last 16 games, and Stewart has received ten starts in that time.
John Jaso started in right field on Tuesday night. It wasn’t just an occasional start for a bench player. Jaso also started on Sunday, then on Friday, and has started five of the last 12 games.
Meanwhile, Elias Diaz has five starts while playing backup to Stewart since Cervelli has gone down. In the time that Jaso has five starts, Jose Osuna has two starts. The last time Max Moroff received a start was July 20th. Jordan Luplow was called up on August 28th and has received two plate appearances.
The Pirates aren’t contenders. This isn’t just my opinion. They admitted that themselves when they let Nicasio walk for free in order to play the younger players. But that message needs to be consistent.
John Jaso is a free agent at the end of the year. We don’t know if the Pirates tried to let him go elsewhere like they did with Nicasio. What we do know is that he’s on the team for the rest of the year, and won’t be part of the 2018 roster. There is no reason he should be starting over guys like Osuna, Moroff, or Luplow. I don’t care how well Jaso hits, and how much the young players struggle.
The same goes with Stewart and Diaz. The Pirates do have an option on Stewart for $1.5 M in 2018, which really isn’t much for a backup catcher. But they know what they have in Stewart. Even if they want to keep him around for 2018 as the backup, they don’t need to evaluate him in September 2017. This is the time to evaluate Diaz, and see what he can do. The Pirates have held off trading Diaz for years, placing a high value on him. There’s no point in doing that if you’re never going to give him a shot in the majors, and if they’re not giving him a starter role in September 2017, then I don’t see a time when he would get a chance.
I leave Sean Rodriguez separate from Stewart and Jaso. Rodriguez was acquired mostly for the 2018 season, and will be a key bench player for the Pirates next year. It makes sense to give him the proper playing time, just like it makes sense to keep starting the regular starters and keep playing other bench players like Adam Frazier.
But it makes no sense to give any playing time to John Jaso, and it makes no sense to have Chris Stewart as the starter over Elias Diaz. The Nicasio move showed that they are going with the younger players in 2017, giving up on the season, and preparing for 2018. That needs to be consistent, and if Jaso and Stewart are getting starts, the Pirates are not being consistent.
It’s a good thing that the Pirates are admitting they’re not contenders this year, and giving the young players the chance. It’s now time to rip off the bandage and go with the younger players over the final months at all positions.
Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.