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Ricky Nolasco Rumors
SUNDAY, 8:25am: Nolasco to the Padres is "not happening," tweets Corey Brock of MLB.com.
FRIDAY, 8:07pm: Add the Giants to the list of teams tabbed by an unnamed GM as possible suitors for Nolasco, Berardino tweets. Word yesterday was that San Francisco was not terribly motivated to pursue Nolasco since the club wasn't interested in giving him a fourth year.
7:34pm: The club has yet to make a formal offer to Nolasco, tweets ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick, who says that the Twins are "not as far along with Ricky Nolasco as multiple reports have indicated."
6:35pm: Minnesota is "on [Nolasco] hard," a rival GM tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Competitors for Nolasco's services include the Padres, that same GM noted.
7:55am: The Twins are making a strong push for Ricky Nolasco, tweets Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Yesterday afternoon, it was reported that Nolasco had a pair of four-year offers, although as recently as last night, reports out of the Twin Cities indicated that Minnesota had yet to make an offer.
ESPN's Buster Olney wrote yesterday that the Twins are highly active on the market for pitching this offseason and plan to add at least two solid veteran starters. They've also been one of the most aggressive teams in pursuit of Bronson Arroyo to this point.
Nolasco, 31 in December, finished the season with a 3.70 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 43 percent ground-ball rate in 199 1/3 innings. He's not an ace, but he would be a boost to a Twins rotation that posted the worst ERA (5.26), K/9 (4.9) and innings total (871) in all of Major League Baseball last season. Nolasco comes with the added benefit of having been traded midseason, meaning he was ineligible to receive a qualifying offer and therefore won't cost a draft pick. His agent, Matt Sosnick, recently explained his strong relationship with the Twins and GM Terry Ryan to Parker Hageman of Twins Daily.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
Matt Garza is open to a return to the Twins, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports. Wolfson offers more on Garza, via Twitter, stating that he hears the Twins are more interested in Garza than Ricky Nolasco, despite earlier reports that the Twins are making a "strong push" for Nolasco.
The Twins met with Garza's agent, Nez Balelo of CAA Sports, at this week's GM Meetings in Orlando, Wolfson writes. However, as of this morning, Minnesota hasn't made a formal offer to any of its free agent targets.
Garza has worn three different uniforms since last donning a Twins jersey in 2007. Minnesota selected him in the first round of the 2005 draft and ultimately traded him to the Rays along with Jason Bartlett in an ill-fated deal that netted Delmon Young and Brendan Harris. It's worth pointing out that current GM Terry Ryan was in the GM's chair when Garza was drafted, but had stepped away from the position when Garza was traded. Bill Smith was the Twins' GM at the time of the Garza trade, but he's since been fired, and Ryan has reprised his role as Twins GM.
Garza turned in his seventh straight season of a sub-4.00 ERA in 2013, hurling 155 1/3 innings of 3.82 ERA ball with 7.9 K/9 and 2.4 BB/9. He opened the season on the disabled list but made all of his starts upon returning. Like Nolasco, he was traded midseason and therefore won't require a draft pick to sign.
Clayton Kershaw told Jim Bowden and Casey Stern on MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (on Twitter) his contract negotiations with the Dodgers aren't on hold, but they've haven't resumed since the season ended. Kershaw reportedly turned down a $300MM extension offer from the Dodgers earlier this year due to concerns about the length and size of the deal. While it has been assumed that Kershaw will extend his deal with the Dodgers, the baseball world will surely be paying attention to what will likely be the largest contract ever issued to a pitcher.
Here's the latest from both Los Angeles teams…
- "I think, for us, it wouldn't surprise me if we went [through] the winter without a huge move; not that it couldn't happen," Dodgers president Stan Kasten tells MLB.com's Ken Gurnick. "We are looking more at deepening the organization, to fine-tune it and get into the season and see what we need. Having said that, I'm not ruling anything out. But those people who attach us to every free agent out there are making it up." With Kasten prioritizing the Dodgers' farm system, Gurnick finds it unlikely that the club would move what few top prospects it has in a trade for David Price.
- Also from Gurnick, the Dodgers "are kicking the tires" on such free agent pitchers as Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, Hiroki Kuroda, Ubaldo Jimenez, Bartolo Colon and Bronson Arroyo. Given the big salaries some of these pitchers are demanding, you wonder if L.A. would really make a move to sign any given Kasten's earlier comments, though Kuroda, Colon and Arroyo could be had on less expensive, shorter-term deals.
- The Angels aren't one of the teams who have made an offer to Ricky Nolasco, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reports (via Twitter). Nolasco is reportedly juggling several three- or four-year contracts offers.
- The rumored discord between Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia could have led to one or both men being fired following the Angels' disappointing season, but Dipoto tells FOX Sports' Jon Paul Morosi and he and the long-time Halos manager have improved their communication and are on the same page.
- From that same piece, Dipoto reiterated that pitching will be the central focus of the Angels' offseason: "Frankly, we’ve been focused on [pitching] for a couple years and it’s eluded us. We plan on putting our resources toward improving those areas. On the field, that’s where our biggest changes are going to come.”
- The Angels' defense took a sharp decline from 2012 to 2013, and ESPN's David Schoenfeld thinks that the club should hold onto Peter Bourjos as a way of improving their fielding. Schoenfeld also suggests signing Jhonny Peralta, trading Mark Trumbo and acquiring Felix Doubront from the Red Sox.
MLBTR's Zach Links contributed to this post
7:22pm: The Twins haven't made any offers to Nolasco, according to 1500 ESPN's Darren Wolfson (via Twitter). The Giants have talked to Sosnick "in passing" about Nolasco but are "not really interested" since they aren't willing to give him four years, Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Twitter links).
4:34pm: Ricky Nolasco has received multiple three- and four-year offers, agent Matt Sosnick tells Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports also spoke to Sosnick, who told him that Nolasco has two four-year offers (Twitter link) but has had no talks with the Dodgers yet. ESPN's Buster Olney recently reported that Nolasco had at least one offer of three years from a team that showed a willingness to go to four years if necessary.
Passan quotes Sosnick: "I believe the market for multiple-year starting pitching will start to reveal itself more clearly in the next two to three weeks." As Passan points out, that timeline lines up well with next month's Winter Meetings in Orlando. Sosnick declined to get into specifics on the offers, but one league source of Passan's indicated that Nolasco could command somewhere between Edwin Jackson money ($52MM) and Derek Lowe money ($60MM). If the bidding for Nolasco gets to that point, I'd expect Nolasco to take the deal and sign. It seems reasonable to assume that the four-year offers they have in hand have yet to escalate to that level.
Nolasco, who turns 31 in a month, finished the season with a 3.70 ERA, 7.5 K/9, 2.1 BB/9 and a 43 percent ground-ball rate in 199 1/3 innings. That strikeout rate was the highest number he's posted since 2010, and the walk rate is right in line with the excellent marks he's posted throughout his career. As Olney reported, Nolasco's preference is to return to the Dodgers, but he's also drawn interest from the Twins to this point.
Major League Baseball is in a race against the clock to change the rules and eliminate home-plate collisions, writes ESPN's Buster Olney in his latest Insider-only column. MLB GMs were "100 percent" in favor when the issue of a rule-change was raised at the GM Meetings this week, says Olney. As one team lawyer pointed out to Olney, MLB has no choice but to scramble to get something in place for next season: "Everybody has said that there needs to be a change [in the rules], and if somebody gets hurt [in 2014] they could sue and claim that Major League Baseball knew there was a problem and didn’t do anything about it." Here are just a few of the highlights from Olney's highly informative piece:
- Ricky Nolasco already has a three-year offer in hand, and that same team has indicated that it may be willing to extend the offer to four years. Nolasco's agent, Matt Sosnick, told Olney that his client's preference is still to return to the Dodgers.
- Teams are racing to make their best offers to pitchers like Tim Hudson and Bronson Arroyo, knowing that those arms might not require the potential four- and five-year deals that Nolasco, Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez are targeting.
- The Twins have made it clear that they're looking to sign two good veteran arms, and in a separate tweet Olney notes that they're being very aggressive on the free agent market. In addition to their interest in Arroyo, it's possible that they're in on Nolasco, says Olney.
- The Royals have had internal discussions about adding Joba Chamberlain on a one-year deal, and as Olney points out, Kansas City pitching coach Dave Eiland was Chamberlain's pitching coach with the Yankees earlier in his career.
- The Royals would also like to sign Josh Johnson to a one-year deal in an attempt to recreate the magic of last year's Santana acquisition.
- Jhonny Peralta is looking for "huge" money, according to Olney's sources. Olney writes that Peralta is seeking "much" more than three years and $45MM. I predicted a three-year, $36MM pact for Peralta in my recent free agent profile of the former Tiger.
- The Padres haven't had any extension talks with Chase Headley this offseason, and as it stands right now, there are no plans to begin negotiations.
Josh Willingham's three-year, $21MM contract is the largest free agent contract the Twins have ever issued, but agent Matt Sosnick told Parker Hageman of Twins Daily that Willingham actually turned down a more lucrative offer from a team that was farther west than the Twins are from his Alabama home. More from Hageman's piece and some other Twins-related items below…
- Sosnick also told Hageman he "loves the Twins" and that there's no GM in the game he respects more than Terry Ryan. His respect for the Twins' honesty and player development led him to turn down more money for German outfield prospect Max Kepler back in 2009 to sign with Minnesota. Kepler still signed for $800K, which was, at the time, the largest bonus ever signed by a European prospect.
- Within his piece, Hageman notes that he also spoke with Ryan about the upcoming offseason. Ryan "flinched" when talking about signing pitchers on the wrong side of 30 to multiyear deals, as they're more likely to break down.
- The Twins are one of several teams to reach out to Johan Santana's agent and request his medicals, writes La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Santana's agent, Ed Greenberg, told Neal that his client "still loves Minnesota" and enjoyed working with pitching coach Rick Anderson, who is still serving the same role on the Twins' coaching staff.
- Neal also reports that the Twins have checked in with the agents for Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco (who is represented by Sosnick), Dan Haren and Scott Feldman, though their specific level of interest in each is unknown. Ryan told Neal that he thinks the quick turnarounds of the Indians and Red Sox will be good for non-contending teams' chances at signing free agents, as they served as examples that a team's fortunes can change quickly. The Twins won just 66 games in 2013 — just two and three games fewer than the Indians and Red Sox won in 2012, respectively.
- Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported earlier in the week Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are done for their respective seasons in the Arizona Fall League and Dominican Winter League. Buxton has been battling a left (non-throwing) shoulder strain, and Sano has been diagnosed with a strained UCL in his throwing elbow. Sano's injury sounds more serious, but he's been examined by Dr. James Andrews, who agreed with the team's medical staff that no surgery is necessary. Paul Molitor, the newest member of the Twins' coaching staff, told Berardino that Sano's elbow troubles aren't related to his throwing mechanics.
Free agent, right-handed starters Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco are both looking for five-year deals, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The former hopes to earn a $100MM guarantee, while Nolasco is asking for $80MM, sources tell Rosenthal.
Of course, it is still early, and players' agents are probably still feeling out how baseball's revenue increases will translate to free agent dollars. The pair of durable thirty-year-olds, who were born within a day of each other, just put up respective 3.0 fWAR campaigns. For Santana, his 3.24 ERA over 211 innings for the Royals was a marked improvement on a terrible 2012. Throwing for the Marlins and Dodgers, Nolasco's 3.70 ERA across 199 1/3 innings was his best since 2008. Santana is still weighing a qualifying offer, though there is little doubt he'll reject it, while Nolasco was ineligible due to his mid-season trade.
MLBTR recently provided full profiles of both pitchers. Steve Adams predicted a five-year, $75MM pact for Santana. And after profiling Nolasco back in September, Tim Dierkes upped his estimate on Nolasco to four years and $52MM in his list of the top fifty free agents.
Let's take a look around the developing starting pitching market …
- The Blue Jays are still deciding whether or not to make Josh Johnson a qualifying offer, reports Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca. Davidi says that the hurler's health is the primary consideration, and adds that he would be "a near certainty to accept if he gets an offer." Johnson's agent, Matt Sosnick, told Davidi that he has not "talked about it much" with club GM Alex Anthopoulos, but said there were "good reasons to qualify [Johnson] or not qualify him."
- Sosnick also spoke with Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, providing a host of good information on Johnson, who he says may still receive (and could accept) a qualifying offer from Toronto. If Johnson hits the open market, his agent says he will certainly seek a one-year deal "to rebuild his value." With no interest in a multi-year deal, contract negotiations figure to be simplified somewhat, and could open the door to more teams with interest. Sosnick says Johnson is "looking for a good pitching atmosphere, a good defense behind him and a team with a good chance to win." He predicts that the big righty is "probably going to be the most approached free-agent pitcher out there" and will ultimately land a deal "somewhere around what the qualifying offer is."
- Twins VP of player personnel Mike Radcliff threw some cold water on the possibility of a move on Johnson, Berardino further reports. Radcliff said that Johnson is coming off of a "horrible" year and "if he wants $10 million, we're not going to be involved with that."
- Sosnick reps not only Johnson, but fellow free agents Ricky Nolasco and Randy Messenger. He says that the Twins seem to have interest in every member of that trio, but his "sense is they're most interested in Nolasco."
- One other possible target for Minnesota is Ubaldo Jimenez, reports Darren Wolfson of 1500ESPN.com (via Twitter). Of course, Jimenez is widely expected to come with draft compensation attached, though the Twins enjoy a protected top-ten pick (fifth overall). The team has apparently told at least one free agent's representatives that it will be aggressive on the market.
- The Dodgers could conceivably hatch a strategy to trade for David Price and add Masahiro Tanaka via the posting process, a rival GM tells Peter Gammons of GammonsDaily.com. By doing that instead of signing a top free agent starter, the club could avoid the loss of its first-round draft choice and the bonus pool allocation that comes with it. Of course, the Dodgers would need to part with more advanced talent to snag Price.
The Cardinals rolled to a 9-1 win over the Pirates in Game One of their NLDS series today, as A.J. Burnett allowed seven runs in just two innings while Adam Wainwright allowed a run on three hits over seven innings. Pittsburgh has had to deal with Wainwright as a division rival for years yet MLB.com's Jenifer Langosch (via Twitter) points out that Wainwright could've been a Pirate 13 years ago. The Bucs were preparing to take Wainwright as an outfielder in the second round (with the 59th overall pick) of the 2000 draft, but the Braves took Wainwright 29th overall and the rest is history.
Here are some more news items as we look ahead to Friday's ALDS series openers…
- Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers said his team will look for a left-handed bat this offseason, MLB.com's Steve Gilbert reports, and that next hitter will likely come in a trade. "We're going to look at free agents, but I think this is one of the weaker free-agent markets I've seen in some time, so that might lead us toward looking at trade partners more," Towers said.
- Mariners southpaw Danny Hultzen underwent left shoulder labrum and rotator-cuff surgery on Tuesday and could miss the entire 2014 season while recovering, Geoff Baker of The Seattle Times reports. MLB.com ranked Hultzen as the 18th-best prospect in the sport in the site's preseason rankings, while Baseball America (#29) and ESPN's Keith Law (#66) also thought highly of the 23-year-old lefty. Hultzen was the second overall pick of the 2011 draft and was quickly moving up the Seattle farm system, posting a 2.05 ERA, 4.86 K/BB and 10.0 K/9 in six Triple-A starts last season.
- Some of the flaws of the new collective bargaining agreement can be seen in the case of the Royals, ESPN's Keith Law (Insider subscription required) argues, as small-market teams who finish just shy of the postseason are somewhat "punished" by the system.
- Andy Martino of the New York Daily News looks at which players in the postseason could be targets for the Yankees or Mets in free agency or the trade market this winter. Some players could fit on either club, such as Ricky Nolasco. Martino says the Mets "tossed around" Nolasco's name when discussing a Giancarlo Stanton trade with the Marlins last spring.
As the team most likely to take on the $5.5MM remaining on Ricky Nolasco's contract, the Dodgers were seen as the trade market frontrunners leading up to their July 6th acquisition of the pitcher from the Marlins. The Marlins failed to receive top-tier prospects, and even threw in international pool money for the Dodgers. None of that came as a big surprise, not just because the Marlins like to save money, but because as ESPN's Keith Law put it, Nolasco was a "durable fourth starter type" who had a 3.85 ERA at the time.
Free agency has a large "what have you done for me lately" element, and it seems that Nolasco's 2.07 ERA in 74 innings with the Dodgers has changed the conversation about him from salary dump to coveted potential top ten free agent.
One of Nolasco's biggest strengths is avoiding the free pass. Since 2011, he's walked only 2.05 batters per nine innings, which ranks 14th among starting pitchers with at least 400 innings. Five free agent starters have done better, the youngest of whom is Dan Haren, who turns 33 next week. On a related note, Nolasco has authored four seasons in his career with a K/BB ratio above 3.5, including this one. Only three free agent starters have a better K/BB ratio than Nolasco this year.
Nolasco also scores points for durability, as he'll have made at least 31 regular season starts in each of the last three seasons. Only four other free agent starters will be able to make the same claim. Says agent Matt Sosnick, "It's been my experience that guys get paid for being healthy consistently every year."
You may not buy into it, but Sosnick will also make the claim that finally getting out of Miami rejuvenated his client's career. Nolasco's 2.07 ERA since July 6th ranks fifth in all of baseball, putting him in company with teammates Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw and former teammate Jose Fernandez (Jarred Cosart sneaks in there as well). Sosnick adds, "When he pitches at home in front of his family in L.A., he's basically unhittable."
One key advantage Nolasco has to a comparable free agent starter like Santana is that Nolasco is ineligible to receive a qualifying offer, having been traded midseason. In December 2012, after Nolasco became the Marlins' highest-paid player following a series of trades, Sosnick told ESPN's Jerry Crasnick, "If he had his druthers, he would pitch for somebody other than the Marlins in 2013 and beyond." Opening the season with the Marlins, however, ultimately gave Nolasco's free agent value a boost, as he doesn't have to worry about having draft pick compensation attached.
There is a good case to be made that Nolasco is simply a 3.80 ERA type who had a nice 12-start run. My ERA estimator of choice, SIERA, has him at 3.71 this year, as opposed to his actual 3.14 mark. Nolasco has allowed 8.2 hits per nine innings in 2013, after allowing 10.4 in 2011-12. Limiting hits isn't a skill if the pitcher can't do it year in and year out, despite Sosnick's "unhittable" comment.
Nolasco's strikeout rate this year is a workable 7.3 per nine innings, but it was 6.2 per nine from 2011-12. He's currently sporting what would be the best home run rate of his career (0.77 per nine innings), but it's owed more to only 8.8% of his flyballs leaving the yard, rather than to a more reliable higher groundball rate. Nolasco is a flyball pitcher, and moving forward should be expected to give up more home runs and hits perhaps with a lower strikeout rate.
As far as the "getting out of Miami" boost to Nolasco's numbers, his groundball rate is up a tick, and he's in front of a better defense. Still, the best bet is to pay for the innings and a 3.80 ERA.
Nolasco grew up rooting for the Dodgers in Rialto, California, and described the trade as a "dream come true" in a statement. Nolasco, whose full name is Carlos Enrique, is close with his brother Dave, a former Brewers minor league pitcher. During the offseason, Ricky can be found in the desert almost every weekend, camping with friends and driving sand rail dune buggies.
Nolasco's statement upon his trade to the Dodgers also included the line, "I couldn't be more excited to play in front of my family and friends in Dodger Stadium during the season, and hopefully for many more seasons to come." In other words, "I'm very interested in a contract extension, by the way." The most likely scenario has to be a contract extension with the Dodgers before Nolasco hits the open market. Nolasco has pitched well for the Dodgers and wants to stay, and he's got an extension-friendly agent in Sosnick. Nolasco's apparent eagerness to pitch for the Dodgers may reduce his leverage, but he has already banked about $34MM in his career, mostly from a 2010 extension with the Marlins totaling $27MM. He definitely came out several million ahead on that deal, as the Marlins might have eventually non-tendered him otherwise. Already having a large measure of financial security restores some of Nolasco's leverage.
If the Dodgers and Nolasco can't find common ground, perhaps he'd first turn to other California teams like the Angels and Giants. American League teams, however, could be wary of Nolasco, as he's an NL lifer. The Phillies and Mets may be on the lookout for starting pitching, as well as the Indians if the AL isn't an issue. The Giants, Rockies, Rangers, Padres, and Orioles had trade interest in Nolasco during the summer.
An agent recently told me he focuses much more on years than average annual value, because teams and agents generally know the likely AAV range before they even begin negotiating. Nolasco should have no problem finding three years; the big question is whether the Dodgers or another team will offer four. Sosnick will probably begin there, explaining why his client is on par with Edwin Jackson and Mark Buehrle, and one of the best in a weak market. Jackson, Buehrle, and Nolasco are all durable 200 inning types, but Jackson hit the market at 29 and brought the allure of a 93-94 mile per hour fastball. Buehrle was two years older than Nolasco, but also had better career numbers. Plus, Buehrle's four-year, $58MM contract was something of a fluke — the Marlins were reportedly the only team offering the fourth year, as they were in the midst of a new ballpark spending spree. Then again, it only takes one team to guarantee that fourth year, making the Jackson contract Nolasco's likely ceiling.
An innings guy these days will probably require an AAV in the $10-13MM range. Ultimately I believe Nolasco will sign a three-year, $36MM deal.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.