On Thursday, news broke that the Philadelphia Phillies claimed Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Juan Nicasio off of irrevocable waivers. After pledging to give Nicasio’s innings to younger players, the team must now stand by its word.

After three seasons of being in the good graces of the fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates, it appears that management is doing everything they can to regress to the status they had during the two decade losing streak.

Letting a top relief pitcher like Juan Nicasio depart the team on a waiver claim with no return does not help. But I’m willing to give the team the benefit of the doubt, if, and only if they follow through on the statement issued after Nicasio was claimed by Philadelphia. That being, after you parse the GM-Speak, that the club would prefer to give Nicasio’s innings to younger relievers who will be with the club in 2017.

Many, including this author, would like to see the team take that philosophy even further.  More on that below, but let’s review the Nicasio situation for a moment.

One of the best is now one of the gone

Nicasio was one of the best relievers in the Pittsburgh Pirates bullpen this year. In 60 innings he had a 2.85 ERA and a 3.00 FIP and a solid if not spectacular K/BB rate of 3.33. Outside of Felipe Rivero, Nicasio was one of the few relief pitchers that could be counted on when the bullpen phone rang and his name was called.

If the Pittsburgh Pirates are waving the white flag on the 2017 season, I have no problem with that.

The team’s statement sheds some light on what the plan is for the remainder of the season and offers some bizarre explanations as to why Nicasio was put on irrevocable waivers in the first place. Huntington states “…we chose to take the chance to see if by placing Juan on outright waivers he would end up with a different playoff contender, preferably one in the American League”. Not only was he not claimed by a playoff contender, he was claimed by a National League club. This after reports that an NL rival did make a claim on Nicasio earlier in the month.

Huntington went on to say that, “Given our recent record and regression in the standings, we intend to give the higher leverage innings to other pitchers that may or will impact our 2018 club.”

Now, this is where fans need to hold management’s fee to the fire.

In some sense I’m glad that the team has a general manager that is not delusional enough to think that 2017 is the year for this team to compete. Too many things went wrong, from Jung Ho Kang’s season long alcohol induced absence, Starling Marte’s suspension and Jameson Taillon’s medical emergency in May. The deck was stacked against this team almost from the get go.

But who gets the time?

So who should see the innings that are now available? Dovydas Neverauskas certainly falls into the category of pitchers who can help the 2018 team. The same goes for George Kontos and Tyler Glasnow.  Even though they have struggled during their appearances with the Pittsburgh Pirates this season, I would like to see Steven Brault and Edgar Santana get more experience. Nick Kingham and Clay Holmes are two pitchers who have yet to make it to Pittsburgh that should be considered for a call up now that rosters can expand and the team has some available innings that need to be filled.

If the Pittsburgh Pirates are waving the white flag on the 2017 season, I have no problem with that.

Let’s be realistic here, even if this team went on some miraculous run in the next few weeks, does anyone honestly believe that they have the firepower to take down a team like the Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Cubs or Washington Nationals in a five game series? That answer is an unequivocal no. So if the Pirates are going to use the new freed up innings to let younger pitchers who can help the team next year get experience, I’m fine with that.

However, if the team does not stick with the message they issued and continues to pitch Joaquin Benoit and Wade LeBlanc, who probably should not even be rostered at this point, then fans have every right to grumble and complain. The whole situation with Benoit should have ended almost as soon as it started, and management should have had a big piece of humble pie and admitted that the trade did not work out.

Not off to a great start

I’ll take things one step further here. If the team is being truthful and wants to use the high leverage remaining innings on young pitchers who can help next season, why stop there? I have been a vocal opponent of the amount of playing time John Jaso has seen all year. At this point, there is absolutely no reason that Jaso sees any more time in the outfield. Like Nicasio, he will not be back next season. So use those innings in right field on someone like Jose Osuna, who has value to the team next year. The same goes for Chris Stewart. If the team needs someone to fill in when Francisco Cervelli needs a rest or is injured, allow Elias Diaz see more time behind the plate to gain more experience. The loyalty to some of the veterans on the roster most likely cost the team some wins given their misadventures in the field.

Having said that, here is your Pittsburgh Pirates lineup for today:

I’m by no means an apologist for the team or of management, but I will at least give them a opportunity to follow through with what they said in the statement regarding Nicasio, today’s lineup not withstanding.

Fans have every right to be skeptical given experiences in the past. But I just don’t see the fact that the PIttsburgh Pirates let a pending free agent relief pitcher leave the team via irrevocable waivers in order to save $600,000 at the tail end of a season when they have essentially no hope to make the playoffs as that big of a deal. However, if Benoit or LeBlanc are called up late in a close game when the opposition have men in scoring position, that will be a completely different story.

Ethan Obstarczyk

Ethan is a lifelong Pirates fan who resides in the east end of Pittsburgh. When not talking about, writing about or watching baseball, he also enjoys watching football and hockey along with movies and listening to some of his favorite bands. He can also be found on Instagram (ethanobstarczyk) and Untappd (Ethan_O).