The Cardinals acquire Juan Nicasio from the Phillies

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A week ago the Pirates waived reliever Juan Nicasio. It was a strange move, as he has been pretty dang effective this year. Pirates GM Neal Huntington explained the move at the time as a strategic one, aimed at both moving on from Nicasio, who is not in the Pirates’ 2018 plans due to his impending free agency while keeping him away from a “direct competitor,” if he was simply released or dealt after being claimed on revocable waivers. On outright waivers teams with bad records can claim him for nothing, so it was less likely that he’d go to a good team.  He ended up being claimed by the Phillies.

So much for that plan, because now the Phillies have traded Nicasio to one of the Pirates’ “direct competitors”

Nicasio is still a free agent after this season, so he can go anywhere. But it’s hard to see how this is not the outcome Neal Huntington claimed he was trying to avoid when he let Nicasio go.

In any event, the Phillies get send infield prospect Eliezer Alvarez back from the Cardinals. Nicasio can’t pitch for the Cardinals in the playoffs if they make it, but he can certainly help them get there. I’m sure Pirates fans are pleased that he’ll help them along.

Shohei Ohtani agrees to $30 million deal for 2023 with Angels

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
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ANAHEIM, Calif. — Shohei Ohtani agreed to a $30 million deal with the Los Angeles Angels for the 2023 season in the two-way superstar’s final year of arbitration eligibility before free agency.

The Angels announced the deal, avoiding a potentially complicated arbitration case with the 2021 AL MVP.

Ohtani’s deal is fully guaranteed, with no other provisions. The contract is the largest ever given to an arbitration-eligible player, surpassing the $27 million given to Mookie Betts by the Boston Red Sox in January 2020, a month before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Ohtani is having another incredible season at the plate and on the mound for the Angels, regularly accomplishing feats that haven’t occurred in the major leagues since Babe Ruth’s heyday. He is a strong contender for the AL MVP award again alongside the Yankees’ Aaron Judge, who has tied the AL home run record and is closing in on the batting Triple Crown.

Ohtani is batting .276 with 34 homers, 94 RBIs and a .888 OPS as the Halos’ designated hitter. He is 15-8 with a 2.35 ERA and 213 strikeouts as their ace on the mound, and opponents are batting only .207 against him.

The 28-year-old Ohtani still will be a free agent after the 2023 season, and his future could be tied to the immediate fortunes of the Angels, who will complete their seventh consecutive losing season next week. The Angels didn’t trade Ohtani at the deadline despite being out of the playoff race again, and Ohtani is wildly popular among the club’s fans.

Ohtani repeatedly has said winning will be an important factor in choosing his home beyond 2023, and Angels owner Arte Moreno is currently exploring a sale of the team.

Moreno’s leadership has been widely criticized during the Angels’ mostly miserable run of play since 2009, and a fresh start with deep-pocketed new owners could be the best chance to persuade Ohtani to stay with the franchise he joined in 2018 from Japan. Ohtani immediately won the AL Rookie of the Year award, and he rounded into unique form last season after recovering fully from Tommy John surgery.