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.