Just yesterday, it was announced by Ken Rosenthal that the Astros would be shopping Pat Neshek this offseason due to the fact that they have a $6.5 million club option on his contract for next season. Neshek's name was mentioned alongside Carlos Ruiz of the Dodgers and Fernando Rodney of the Marlins, two more veteran players.
Houston Astros General Manager Jeff Luhnow should have some options, as Neshek will likely attract a few teams around the MLB. While Neshek is not the most effective reliever around, the price of set-up pitching in the bullpen is not cheap these days and Neshek may be an affordable option for a few clubs. The Astros, while definitely needing to shore up the closer role, also have some glaring issues in the starting rotation and in the outfield. So, what are the pros and cons of sending Neshek to another club?
The first pro that I could think of for the Astros to trade Neshek is to free up the $6.5 million that they would have to pay him if they decided to keep him on. It has become clearer over the past couple of seasons that Neshek's game is declining, and the Astros may want to get younger in the bullpen by trading away the 36 year-old right hander. Taking $6.5 million off of the payroll for a middle reliever could also open up other avenues for the Astros, as there are many major closers in the free agent market.
Looking closely at this year's free agent bullpen class, names such as Aroldis Chapman, Mark Melancon, Kenley Jansen, and Wade Davis certainly catch the eye at first glance. All of these pitchers are outright free agents with the exception of Davis, who has a $10 million club option attached to him. The Kansas City Royals might be interested in trading Davis, as they went 95-67 in 2015 followed by an even 81-81 in 2016. Their window may be closing, and if your team is rebuilding there isn't much of a point in keeping around a top-notch closer. If the Astros want to be serious players in this market, they're going to need to spend amounts of money that owner Jim Crane has not yet spent in his short time as owner of the club.
The second pro that I came with for trading Neshek is to allow some younger guys in the system to get experience out of the bullpen for the Astros in 2016. There are plenty of young right-handed pitchers coming up through the system. For example, guys like Chris Devenski, Brady Rodgers, David Paulino, Jandel Gustave, and Francis Martes will all be competing to pitch in Houston next season.
Every pitcher on that list, with the exception of Martes, has pitched in an Astros uniform before and will be hungry to pitch in the majors again. The Astros might also be able to gain some prospects for Neshek, replenishing a minor league system that was punched in the gut a bit with the Carlos Gomez trade and then the Ken Giles trade.
The main negative aspect of trading Neshek this offseason would be that he still is a proven commodity out of the bullpen when it comes to shutting down right-handed hitters. While Neshek has seemingly gotten much worse against left-handers, he still continues to dominate hitters that bat from the right side.
It is unclear how valuable Luhnow and the rest of the front office see Neshek right now. Also, you have to wonder if any of the aforementioned minor league pitchers could come in and pitch close to as well as Neshek does against right-handed hitters while improving against lefties. Overall, it will be interesting to see what the Astros decide to do with Neshek. One thing that is for sure is the Astros have plenty of time this offseason and plenty of options when making their decision on the status of Pat Neshek's $6.5 million club option.