Thursday, December 11, 2014

Antonio Bastardo

After Pat Neshek passed on the Bucs, taking a quite substantial last-minute offer from the Astros, the Bucs got serious about a back-end arm for the pen, sending minor league prospect Joely Rodriguez to the Phils for southpaw Antonio Bastardo. (EDIT: The Phils also took lefty reliever Andy Oliver from the Bucs in the Rule 5 draft, so they got two LHP from Pittsburgh for the price of one.)

Rodriguez wasn't an insignificant price to pay, as the Bucs put him on the 40-man roster last year and he made the Arizona Fall League All-Prospect team this season. He's a lefty with a little bit of heat, and was likely to start the year at Altoona. But the Bucs are deep in starting pitching and Rodriguez's down-the-road potential (his ceiling is as a mid-rotation guy, but inconsistency from game-to-game leaves his floor in the pen as a pro) is worth the risk for a fairly proven commodity in Bastardo.

This is especially true considering the Pirate need for a dependable mid-inning lefty; there were even rumors floating around about a Travis Snider-for-Brian Matusz deal. Giving up a AA pitcher for a rental shows how far the Pirates have come in building organizational depth. The FO finally has enough weapons to counter other clubs' interest in guys Pittsburgh wants like Bastardo (the Boston Red Sox were said to have discussed sending IF Sean Coyle to the Phils in exchange).

Bastardo, 29, has spent the last six years with the Phillies. Over the last two seasons, he's put up an 8-9 record with a 3.29 ERA and 128 strikeouts in 106-2/3 IP. He's also walked 55 batters, so he's a grip-and-rip guy, featuring a fastball/slider combo with a show-me change. The lefty has been durable of late, with 115 appearances in 2013-14. He's also closed at times, with 11 saves (and 11 blown saves) in Philadelphia to go with 71 holds. He's in his final arb year and estimated to have a value of $2.75-$3M this season.

Antonio Bastardo - 2014 (Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
He's been with the Phils since 2007, when the Dominican inked a deal with Philadelphia. Mostly a starter in the minors, he got his MLB call in 2009. Bastardo ended with shoulder surgery and was converted to the pen when 2010 rolled around. In 2011, he got to close when Ryan Madison was hurt and picked up eight saves. Jonathan Papelbon's signing put a quick halt to Bastardo's closing status.

Bastardo had a fairly rough 2012, then rebounded nicely in 2013. Too nicely, in fact, as the MLB gave him a 50 game suspension as he was snagged in the Biogenesis net. He came back with a solid if unspectacular 2014, going 5-7 with a 3.94 ERA and held both right and left handed hitters to a BA under .200. That fits his lifetime slash of .211/RH and .185/LH; he's not a LOOGY.

He fits the Pirate mold as a reliever who can get a strikeout when needed. But he is not a guy who gets many balls hit into the dirt; Bastardo has a lifetime 28% grounder rate to go with a 50%+ fly ball rate. So in that category, he's a square peg squashed into the Pirates round hole. But his 7% homer rate is good, so that mitigates his fly ball tendencies a bit, especially as PNC Park is more forgiving than Citizens' Bank Park.

We don't know that there's much Ray Searage can do to change those ratios; Bastardo lives by the four seamer and slider. He's definitely an anti-Jared Hughes from the pen. One thing Ray can do is try to get more strikes from him, and keep an eagle eye on his mechanics, which sometimes get away from the southpaw.

But he is a pitcher who has worked late, and gives Clint Hurdle an option when Tony Watson and Mark the Shark need a blow. And it's possible that down the road, they may be looking at Bastardo as a back-ender if Melancon starts to cost more than the Pirates prefer to pay a short man. So he's an interesting pick-up from a couple of angles.

And for the Pirates FO, a job well done. They needed a couple of starters and landed Frankie and AJ. They needed a lefty for the pen and inked Bastardo. They needed a catcher and reeled in Francisco Cervelli. Now all they have left to do is wait out the market and see if anyone drops in their laps, fill in around the edges and maybe play around with first base, depending on their Pedro plans.  A quiet but efficient hot stove season, we'd say.

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