Ricky Nolasco Rumors
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.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports brings us his latest edition of Full Count this weekend. Let's take a look inside..
- There's still a month to go in the regular season, but the Angels are already scouting pitchers they could go after in free agency or in trades. The needs in the rotation will be less glaring if they re-sign Jason Vargas - that would give them a front four of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards, and Vargas. The Halos nearly traded Howie Kendrick for a package headlined by the Dodgers' Zach Lee in July and they could pursue something similar with teams deep in young starters this offseason, like the Nationals and Mets.
- A number of Diamondbacks players are frustrated with manager Kirk Gibson's changing lineups and they relate more with third base coach Matt Williams, but he could leave to manage the Nationals or another club once the season is through. However, the D'Backs have no plans to replace Gibson with Williams or anyone else.
- The first base free agent market will be thin this offseason with Justin Morneau, James Loney, and Mike Napoli headlining the class. The trade market doesn't look much better, but it does have a few options. Adam LaRoche of the Nationals figures to be among them as they look to move Ryan Zimmerman to first and Anthony Rendon to third. The Mets' Ike Davis will probably be another and he could benefit from a move to a more hitter-friendly park.
- The Dodgers will not lack rotation options next offseason - they'll try to re-sign Ricky Nolasco and they'll eventually get Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett back. The team also has three minor league prospects in Lee, Ross Stripling, and Matt Magill, who figure to pitch at some point in 2014. The good news is that the Dodgers should be deep enough to give them time to develop.
After dominating the trade rumor headlines for weeks, Ricky Nolasco has finally found a new team. The Southern California native will get a chance to play for his hometown Dodgers, as the club officially agreed today to acquire the longtime Marlins starter in exchange for a trio of pitching prospects. Headlining the arms coming to Miami is young righty Angel Sanchez, who is joined by right-handed relievers Steve Ames and Josh Wall.
Along with Nolasco, the Dodgers will receive the rights to international signing bonus slot number 96, which carries a $197k bonus allocation. (Click here to see how the international slot system works in practice.) Los Angeles will also take on all of the approximately $5.5MM remaining on Nolasco’s contract.
Barring an extension, Nolasco will become a free agent at the end of the season. Since he did not begin the year with the Dodgers, Nolasco's new employer will not be able to obtain draft pick compensation by making him a qualifying offer. Although Nolasco never seemed particularly likely to receive a qualifying offer even had he remained in Miami, the trade is good news for his pending free agency. As MLBTR's Tim Dierkes has explained, teams can sign a player who avoids a qualifying offer without sacrificing a draft pick, which in turn enhances the value of that player on the open market. (On the other hand, Nolasco may see a taxe hike like that experienced by some of his former Miami teammates.)
Nolasco, 30, now sports a 3.85 ERA over 112 1/3 innings in 2013 after a strong outing against the Braves on Wednesday. He has struck out hitters at a 7.1 K/9 pace while walking just 2.0 per nine and generating a 41.9 percent ground-ball rate. He has posted a 4.44 ERA in 1225 2/3 career innings, and has logged over 180 innings in four of his last five seasons. On pace to top 200 innings for the third time in his career, Nolasco promises to be a solid, reliable rotation option for his new club.
At the time of his departure from Miami, Nolasco stands atop the franchise's record books in both wins and strikeouts. Over his eight-year Marlins career, he notched 81 victories and struck out over 1,000 batters. Nolasco was also far and away the highest paid player in a rebuilding Miami dugout this year, with his $11.5MM price tag dwarfing that of Placido Polanco, who was second on the payroll at a meager $2.75MM.
The three prospects that will join the Marlins each ranked among the Dodgers' top thirty farmhands going into the season, according to Baseball America. Sanchez was the lowest among them, registering at number 25. Nevertheless, MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo pegs him as L.A.'s eight-best prospect. The 23-year-old possesseswhat BA calls an "exciting arm," though he has yet to dominate in the lower minor leagues and could be converted to a reliever. Mayo says Sanchez's live, low-to-mid-90's heater and promising-but-inconsistent slider and change make him a possible mid-rotation starter.
The other two minor leaguers have already been converted to relievers, and in that respect possess less upside than Sanchez. Ames notched the 21st slot on Baseball America's list of top Dodger prospects, with BA saying he could be ready as a 7th or 8th inning setup man in the big leagues as soon as this year. The 25-year-old reliever has pitched to a 3.67 ERA in 34 1/3 innings at Triple-A to date in his first season at that level. He has, however, seen his strikeout rate decline and walk rate go up this season, as compared to the stellar marks he put up in the lower minor league levels. Wall checked in one spot ahead of Ames among Dodgers prospects before the season, but has struggled in 2013. He was shellacked (14 earned runs in 7 innings) during a big league call-up and has a 5.60 ERA in 27 1/3 Triple-A innings. BA says that the tall righty possesses late-game stuff, but has still yet to master his command.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports first reported that the teams were in serious negotiations and that three lower-level prospects would be included, as well as international slot money. (Twitter links). MLB.com's Joe Frisaro was the first to report (on Twitter) that a deal was expected to be completed tonight and would include three pitchers going back to Miami. MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro was the first to report (tweet) that Steve Ames was one of the three players to be sent from Los Angeles, while Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com was the first to reports (via Twitter) that Josh Wall and Angel Sanchez would also be included. Frisaro first reported that the deal was completed via Twitter. ESPN.com's Jayson Stark confirmed (on Twitter) that the Dodgers would take on all of Nolasco's salary.
Photo courtesy of Daniel Shirley/USA Today Sports Images.
7:14pm: Another right-handed reliever, Josh Wall, is also likely to be included in the deal, according to another Frisaro tweet. Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com was the first to report (Twitter link) Wall's potential inclusion, and also reports that young right-handed starter Angel Sanchez could be the third piece. (Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com and Juan C. Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun Sentinel have both tweeted confirmations of that report.) For his part, Frisaro tweets that Ames and Wall are both "solidly confirmed," while the last player is a still-undetermined pitcher.
Wall checked in one spot ahead of Ames among Dodgers prospects before the season, but has struggled in 2013. He was shellacked (14 earned runs in 7 innings) during a call-up and has a 5.60 ERA in 27 1/3 Triple-A innings. The tall righty is noted by BA as possessing late-game stuff, but has still yet to master his command. Sanchez, meanwhile, is the Dodgers' 25th ranked prospect in the view of Baseball America. The 23-year-old has what BA calls an "exciting arm," though he has yet to dominate in the lower minor leagues.
6:10pm: One of the players going to Miami will be righty Steve Ames, Frisaro tweets. Ames ranked 21st among Dodger prospects according to Baseball America's preseason rankings, with BA saying he should be ready as a 7th or 8th inning setup man in the big leagues as soon as this year. The 25-year-old reliever has pitched to a 3.67 ERA in 34 1/3 innings at Triple-A this year, his first season at that level. He has, however, seen his strikeout rate decline and walk rate go up this season, as compared to the stellar marks he put up in the lower minor league levels.
6:03pm: The Dodgers could also receive some international slot funds along with Nolasco, tweets FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal.
5:25pm: MLB.com's Joe Frisaro is reporting on Twitter that a deal is expected to be completed tonight. He says the deal will likely include three pitchers, two of whom would be considered prospects. CBSSports.com's Danny Knobler tweets that his sources believe a deal is close, and says that minor-league arms will likely be the price for Nolasco. Also by way of Twitter, Frisaro explains that Nolasco's solid outing against the Braves increased the return that Miami is expected to receive from LA.
Likewise, ESPN's Jayson Stark reports that other clubs that have discussed Nolasco with Miami now see the Dodgers as the clear frontrunners, with the teams still hashing out which players will head to Miami in exchange. Stark also says that the Rockies seem to be easing out of the Nolasco sweepstakes, with the Orioles out altogether. Meanwhile, he writes, the Padres, Rangers, and Giants remain in contact with the Marlins.
4:28pm: The Dodgers are in serious talks for Marlins pitcher Ricky Nolasco, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter links). The deal would call for L.A. to send three prospects, none of them being upper echelon types, to Miami for the right-hander. The two sides are "getting close" to an agreement, according to one source.
Los Angeles would absorb the prorated portion of Nolasco's salary, which is roughly $5.5MM. The SoCal native will hit the open market after the season but could eventually sign a new deal with the Dodgers if things work out.
We learned yesterday that the Giants and Dodgers both made open offers to acquire Nolasco, but it would appear that the Dodgers have the upper hand at this stage. The Marlins have reportedly talked with more than six clubs about a Nolasco trade and they've had varying levels of interest from the Rockies, Rangers, Padres, and Orioles as well.
Jeff Todd contributed to this post.
Both the Dodgers and Giants have made open offers to acquire Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco, reports MLB.com's Joe Frisaro. The Dodgers are reportedly offering a pitching prospect and would take on the approximately $5.7MM remaining on Nolasco's deal. The Giants' offer, on the other hand, would send two pitching prospects to Miami but would also require some dollars to accompany Nolasco to San Fran.
Frisaro further reports that the Marlins have talked with more than six clubs about a Nolasco trade. He wonders whether the club is sitting on these two outstanding offers and waiting for another team to beat them. In addition to Los Angeles and San Francisco, varying levels of interest in Nolasco have reportedly been shown by the Rockies, Rangers, Padres, and Orioles.