Free Agent Profile: Could Pat Neshek be a Bullpen Target for Blue Jays?
Pat Neshek enjoyed a career year in 2014 for the St. Louis Cardinals. The 34-year old reliever signed a Minor League deal with an invitation to Spring Training, which he quickly turned into an All Star appearance as the set up man for Trevor Rosenthal. With the Toronto Blue Jays looking to improve their bullpen this offseason, could Pat Neshek be a name that Alex Anthopoulos considers?
Originally a 6th Round pick of the Minnesota Twins in 2002, Neshek made his MLB debut in 2006 and has played for the Twins, Padres, Athletics and Cardinals over his career. Pat Neshek is a late-bloomer, and when you factor in his time missed due to a Tommy John surgery in 2009, Neshek has pitched just 281.2 innings at the Major League level.
The past three seasons have been encouraging, though, with 2014 acting as his coming out party. Pat Neshek appeared in 71 games for the Cardinals, posting a 1.87 ERA and 0.787 WHIP to go along with a very strong K:BB ratio.
Pat Neshek features an extremely unique delivery, pitching from a side-arm slot that he adopted in High School after an injury inhibited him from pitching overhand. Much of his success in 2014 can be attributed to the velocity change in his fastball, which moved from 87-89MPH in 2013 to 90-92MPH last season.
Neshek’s specialty is facing right-handed batting. Opposing right-handed hitters hold a career slash line of .180 / .246 / .297 against Neshek, and struggle to pick up the ball leaving his hand much in the same way the left-handed batters struggle against Aaron Loup.
On the other side of this situation, though, will the Toronto Blue Jays want to inherit the risk that comes along with Neshek? His short track record may cause the Jays to hesitate and seek out a more established veteran, much like they did with Darren Oliver in 2012. Neshek improved against left-handed batters in 2014 substantially, but has struggled against them in the past. With question marks in the closer’s role, however, a set up man coming off an elite season could be very valuable.
Given that this is Pat Neshek’s first opportunity to truly “cash in” on his career, I would expect him to be lured by the largest contract, which could be another issue for Alex Anthopoulos as he also looks to fill holes in LF, CF and 2B. Relief pitching is arguably the easiest position to address in Free Agency due to the volume and availability of veteran arms, but will the Blue Jays choose to spend big on one arm, or make several mid-level depth signings?
With Pat Neshek comes risk, but with risk comes reward. If Anthopoulos looks to add an impact arm to the ‘pen, Neshek will surely be a name on his list. There is a strong chance Neshek could fetch a 2-year deal worth from $7.5M – $10M, but a 1-year deal with an option could be a much more comfortable option. Is Neshek a name you are hoping to see the Toronto Blue Jays look into, or would you prefer to see Rogers spend their pennies elsewhere?