While the thought of the Giants and Ricky Nolasco coming together was entertained during the regular season, the off-season didn’t really provide a lot of reasonable banter for the Giants and the recent Dodger, but mostly former Marlin joining forces. The Giants, while definitely concerned about their pitching, let it be known they wanted to build a bridge to their prospects that they expect to be joining the club in 2015-2016, so that largely means two- to three-year deals at the longest to any free agent pitcher looking for work. Any pitchers wanting four-year deals (and even a fifth year vesting option) can get the heck out.
So it makes it easy for a club like the Minnesota Twins, whose other pitchers in the five-man rotation included such names as Kevin Correia (on a two-year deal, for some reason), Sam Deduno, the contactable Vance Worley, and Andrew Albers, to offer a free agent like Ricky Nolasco a lengthy contract of four years and $49MM with a vesting fifth year option. The Twins pitching staff is made up of people National League fans mostly say “Who?” to for all but maybe two or three guys. A bonus for the Twins is that since Ricky Nolasco was traded mid-season, the Dodgers could not make a qualifying offer to Nolasco in an attempt to get a Supplementary Round draft pick had he signed elsewhere, and the Twins don’t lose a draft pick, either. For reference, should they sign a free agent that has a qualifying offer attached to them, the Twins would lose their second round fifth overall draft pick since their first round pick is protected.
The soon-to-be 31 year old Nolasco is a solid #4 pitcher, maybe even a good #3 pitcher on most major league twenty-five man rosters. His FIP in the last six years have all been between 3.34 (2013) to 3.87 (2012), while his ERA has been higher than his FIP in all but 2008 (3.52 ERA to 3.77 FIP). Nolasco has gone more than 185 IP in five of his last six seasons while only Correia was able to reach that mark for Minnesota in 2013, so should Nolasco’s relatively clean bill of health continue, he will be saving the bullpen some work. Other categories Nolasco ranked in 2013 compared to the other names previously listed on the Twins along with Scott Diamond:
- Games started — 33 (1st)
- K% — 19.7% (1st)
- BB% — 5.5% (1st)
- ERA — 3.72 (1st)
- FIP — 3.36 (1st)
- LOB% — 70.7% (3rd)
- Fastball velocity — 90.3 (T-3rd)
- Contact outside the strike zone — 61.2% (2nd)
- Contact inside the strike zone — 86.5% (1st)
- First strike % — 59.6% (1st)
- Swinging strike percentage — 10.6% (1st)
Now, this all assumes Nolasco will be the same through his contract years, which going through the latter half of his career, he’s likely due for some regression. This could be fine for the Twins as they wait for guys like Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Jose Berrios, and Ryan Eades to develop, and hey, the Twins probably aren’t going to be competing for a little bit, so Nolasco will probably have some intangible value as the new kids get settled in.
As for my thoughts on the value of the deal, a fourth year for Nolasco certainly isn’t ideal, and a fifth year could be annoying to the club should it vest as he goes into his age 35 season, but with the money having an Average Annual Value of $12.25MM and it being the Twins, you’re going to have to pay a little extra in money and/or years to get a free agent to look your way. Being at $46MM before the Nolasco deal brings the Twins 2014 salary up to $58.25MM. The Giants certainly will be looking for a fifth pitcher that requires fewer years and a lower AAV. This was a good get for the Twins, but I think the Giants did well to sit out this one. They have been connected to Bronson Arroyo and Ryan Vogelsong, and have said they would not sacrifice a draft pick to get a player.
Announcement of the signing was first made by SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo, the terms by Yahoo! Sports’ Jeff Passan.