When the Phillies claimed Juan Nicasio on waivers from Pittsburgh last week, it looked like a strange transaction. The Pirates surrendered their second-best reliever for nothing. The Phillies did not have a need for a late-inning reliever who was soon to be a free agent, but they were happy to have Nicasio.
He spent six days with them. The Phillies flipped Nicasio on Wednesday to St. Louis for an infield prospect named Eliezer Alvarez. There was no cash exchanged in the trade.
The second transaction validated why the Phillies claimed the 31-year-old righthander: They purchased a prospect for the $50,000 waiver-claim fee and six days of Nicasio’s salary, which was approximately $120,000. The Phillies, in essence, bought low and sold high.
Alvarez, who turns 23 in October, was ranked by Baseball America before the season as the Cardinals’ 10th-best prospect. He would have ranked lower at the time of the trade. He hit .247 this season at double A with a .321 on-base percentage in 209 plate appearances. He missed a chunk of the season with an ankle injury. His strikeout rate spiked to 30 percent at double A after the Cardinals jumped him two levels, from low-A. The lefthanded hitter has played mostly second base and will go on the Phillies’ 40-man roster.
“Alvarez is an athletic middle infielder who can hit and run,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. “Our scouts have been impressed with the way he plays the game over the last few years, and we are happy to welcome him to the Phillies.”
The trade will not be received well in Pittsburgh, where general manager Neal Huntington justified the unusual decision to expose Nicasio to outright waivers because he said a “direct competitor” had claimed the reliever on revocable trade waivers to block him from being dealt elsewhere. The Pirates did not want to do business with the unknown team that claimed Nicasio.
So they then placed Nicasio on outright waivers, hoping he would land with an American League team. The Phillies, with the first waiver priority, claimed Nicasio for $50,000 and inherited the approximate $600,000 remaining on his contract. He pitched in two games for the Phillies. Now the Cardinals, one of Pittsburgh’s division rivals, have him.
Nicasio will not be eligible for postseason play if the Cardinals, three games back of the second National League wild-card spot entering play Wednesday, make it. But he could help them in the stretch run.
Odubel Herrera did not play Wednesday night, not because of the risk to his left hamstring on a wet field, but because the Phillies’ training staff planned for him to sit. Herrera will play Thursday and Friday, then a determination will be made as to whether he can go every day for the remainder of the season. … Triple-A Lehigh Valley’s postseason opener was postponed Wednesday. Drew Anderson will start Game 1 of the best-of-five International League semifinals against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Thursday night in Allentown. … Aaron Nola, Jake Thompson, Mark Leiter Jr. and Ben Lively will pitch in the four-game series this weekend at Washington. Nola will oppose righthander Tanner Roark in the series opener.