Pat Neshek’s comeback season with the Cardinals was one of the feel-good stories of 2014, as the side-arming reliever made the All-Star team for the first time at age 33 and bounced back from physical and off-field challenges to post a 1.87 ERA in 67 innings.
And it was great timing too, as Neshek hit the open market as a free agent this offseason. He signed a two-year, $12.5 million deal with the Astros and Neshek revealed Tuesday that he knew all along the Cardinals were never going to make an effort to re-sign him, telling Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post Dispatch:
[General manager John Mozeliak] kept saying “lottery ticket” and “we’re not going to be able to sign you back.” Which, you know, you kind of go, “What the heck? You’re the Cardinals.” They’re not a small market. I don’t care what anybody says. Every game there is packed and it’s a baseball atmosphere.
In one sense it was kind of disappointing, but he knew it. He saw better. He could do something cheaper and try to get better. I see where they’re coming from. It was a good run. It worked out for everybody. … I probably would have given a discount at the end, but there was never anything exchanged. I got that hint right away.
On one hand it’s tough to blame the Cardinals for being skeptical about committing to multiple seasons of a pitcher they were able to sign to a minor-league deal a year earlier. On the other hand, $6 million per season for two years is hardly a massive deal and Neshek indicated that, all things being close to equal, he’d have liked to stay in St. Louis.
In addition to being a consistently excellent reliever when healthy throughout his career–he’s got a 2.78 ERA in eight seasons–Neshek is also one of the nicer, most fan-friendly players in baseball. Houston will love him.
José Bautista hasn’t appeared in the majors since 2018 but the 39-year-old isn’t done playing just yet. Last month, we learned via a report from ESPN’s Jeff Passan that Bautista is hoping to come back as a two-way player. He spent the winter working out as a pitcher.
Bautista had also been working with former Blue Jays teammate Marcus Stroman. Back in January, Stroman tweeted, “My bro @JoeyBats19 is nasty on the mound. We been working working. All jokes aside, this man can pitch in a big league bullpen. I’ll put my word on it!”
In March, Passan added some details about Bautista, writing, “I’ve seen video of Jose Bautista throwing a bullpen session. Couldn’t tell the velocity, but one source said he can run his fastball up to 94. His slider had legitimate tilt — threw a short one and a bigger bender. @STR0 said in January he could pitch in a big league bullpen.” Stroman retweeted it, adding, “Facts!”
Stroman reiterated his feelings on Tuesday. He tweeted, “Since y’all thought I wasn’t being serious when I said it the first time…my bro @JoeyBats19could EASILY pitch in a big league bullpen. Easily. Sinker, slider, and changeup are MLB ready!” Stroman attached a video of Bautista throwing a slider, in which one can hear Stroman calling the pitch “nasty.”
Stroman attached another video of Bautista throwing a glove-side sinker:
Replying to a fan, Stroman said Bautista’s body “is in better shape than 90-95% of the league.”
I am not a scout and won’t pretend to be one after watching two low-resolution videos. And Stroman’s hype is likely partially one friend attempting to uplift another. That being said, I’ve seen much worse from position players attempting to pitch. It’s a long shot, especially given his age, that Bautista will ever pitch in the majors, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see him get an opportunity to pitch in front of major league scouts.