When the Phillies did not use Pat Neshek but called Wednesday night, July 26, for their other late-inning relievers, Joaquin Benoit and Hector Neris, the veteran righthander began to think.
“It might happen,” Neshek said in the bullpen.
As the players and coaches shook hands to celebrate a 9-0 win, Pete Mackanin told Neshek to follow him to his office. General manager Matt Klentak was there waiting. And Neshek discovered he was the newest member of the Colorado Rockies.
The Phillies flipped Neshek for three low-level minor leaguers. They are lottery tickets, but that is more than the Phillies could have expected when they purchased Neshek’s $6.5 million contract from Houston last November. They turned the 36-year-old reliever into a shortstop, a righthanded starter and a righthanded reliever.
Neshek was the Phillies’ most sought-after trade piece.
“I really enjoyed getting to know him,” Klentak said. “It was a cool moment to talk to him there and tell him about the trade. He was excited.”
The Phillies paid an undisclosed portion of Neshek’s remaining salary to gain a better prospect package in return.
Jose Gomez, the 20-year-old shortstop, hit .324 with an .811 OPS at low-A Asheville. Alejandro Requena, the 20-year-old righthanded starter, posted a 2.85 ERA in 19 starts with 97 strikeouts and 25 walks in 117 innings at Asheville. And J.D. Hammer, the 23-year-old righty reliever, had a 2.36 ERA with 65 strikeouts and 14 walks in 42 innings across two levels. The hard-throwing bullpen arm was promoted to high-A Lancaster in June and has struggled there.
None of them were considered among Colorado’s top prospects. Neshek, who pitched to a sparkling 1.12 ERA with the Phillies, is a seventh-inning pitcher. He was not going to fetch a touted player from another team’s system.
Teams are more willing to deal players further from the majors. The Phillies were fine with that, and they had contact with a handful of teams regarding Neshek. The Rockies were a fit.
“We were willing to explore the acquisition of young players,” Klentak said. “Different teams evaluate players different ways, but in this case two of these players are 20 years old and playing full season for the first time. They obviously have more ground to cover before they reach the big leagues but we like all three of these guys for a variety of reasons. I think it’s a very balanced trade.”
Gomez is the only one among the three new players who must be added to the 40-man roster this winter or be exposed to the Rule 5 draft.
Klentak said he could not handicap the odds of the Phillies striking another trade. Howie Kendrick left Wednesday’s game with a bruised left hand. Daniel Nava was placed on the disabled list Wednesday with a left hamstring injury. Benoit pitched a scoreless inning on his 40th birthday and could land somewhere. The Phillies continue to push Tommy Joseph, too.
“We’ll be working as hard as we can to see what’s out there,” Klentak said. “But this is definitely the one we thought was most likely.”
For now, Neshek will head to Denver and pitch in a contender’s bullpen, while the Phillies opened a spot in their relief corps for a younger pitcher who will join them Friday.
“It’s bittersweet because I love the guys in here,” Neshek said. “It’s probably one of my favorite places that I’ve been and I would love to come back. It might sound weird with our record, but I see a lot of good things happening here. My family loved it and I felt comfortable.”