Instead of getting something of value for a good reliever, Pittsburgh ended up with nothing—and saw him end up with a hated rival, to boot.
What a tangled web the Pirates have woven for themselves. Back on Aug. 31, Pittsburgh made small yet notable headlines for dumping reliever Juan Nicasio on irrevocable waivers, at which point he was quickly snatched up by the Phillies. A 30-year-old righthander and former starter, Nicasio had pitched well for Pittsburgh in his second year with the team, holding a 2.85 ERA and 60 strikeouts over 60 innings. The Pirates had faded out of the NL Central and wild-card races, but it was still a strange move to let a perfectly serviceable pitcher go for absolutely zero in return (save the $600,000 that the team saved in the process).
As it turns out, the Pirates had an earlier opportunity to get something in exchange. After releasing Nicasio, Pirates general manager Neal Huntington put out a statement indicating that the veteran pitcher had been claimed off trade waivers by a "direct competitor" simply to block Pittsburgh from moving him elsewhere, and that said team was "not willing to give us more than very marginal value in return." Instead, the Pirates put Nicasio on regular waivers, hoping (according to Huntington) that he'd land with an American League contender.
Well, that strategy backfired rather badly for the Pirates. Nicasio was claimed by the Phillies, who are decidedly not a contender, and, after a week with Philadelphia, was dealt on Wednesday to the contending Cardinals—who may or may not be the "direct competitor" the Pirates didn't want him to end up on in the first place. And, to make matters worse for Pittsburgh, Philadelphia got a decent prospect back for Nicasio: 22-year-old infielder Eliezer Alvarez, who was ranked No. 19 in St. Louis' farm system before the season.
So, to recap: The Pirates gave up a good reliever to save some cash and try to spite another team, only to watch that player ultimately land on a hated rival and get nothing out of it in the end. Huntington and company probably could've played this a little better. Kudos to the Phillies, though, for turning a waiver claim and two appearances out of Nicasio into something potentially useful.