The Minnesota Twins front office likely watched with interest yesterday as one of the bigger chips on the trade market was moved. The Marlins traded starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco to the Dodgers for three third-tier prospects and $200 grand in international signing money, and the Dodgers agreed to pay the $5+ million remaining on Nolasco's contract this year. Nolaso was perceived as one of the better pitchers on the trade market. The deal's details suggest some truths about the trade market this year:
There Are A Lot Of Teams Looking For Pitching, And It Doesn't Need To Be High-End Pitching
This is the second starting pitcher we're seen traded this week and neither of them is Matt Garza, the premier name. Often, teams will wait to trade a player like Nolasco until the bigger name has been traded, since then the remaining teams come looking for the next best pitcher. Instead, the Dodgers looked at Garza's asking price and got aggressive at the next level of pitching, just like the Orioles did earlier this week.
That probably bodes well for a trade involving Kevin Correia, though there are still plenty of other pitchers between him and the top of the list, pitchers like Cliff Lee, Bud Norris, Yovanni Gallardo and maybe Kyle Lohse.
Teams Want To Keep Their Prospects
A fair number of GMs are coming out and saying publicly they will not trade away their blue chip prospects. Yesterday we talked about how the Orioles walked away from a deal for Garza for the 50th and 100th best prospects
, neither of which would be considered blue chip. Today, that lesson is reinforced when you look at what the Dodgers gave up for the 2nd
best option on the market.
You will not find any of the three arms the Marlins received on a Top 100 list. In fact, you won't find them on the Marlins Top 10 prospect list. Or their Top 20. This past off-season all three would have been ranked by Baseball America
between 21 and 25 for the Marlins system. Two of them have already been converted to relievers, so that's likely their ceiling. Teams are clinging, with a death-like grip, to their best prospects.
International Signing Money Is A Thing
We're seeing the inclusion of international signing money in a bunch of trades this month. Considering the Twins had the fourth most of any team going into this season, they might have some extra leverage. However, it isn't clear the Twins have much they can trade away.
According to Jeremy Nygaard, The Twins had about $2M left over after their first few big signings. Then they wrapped up Ruar Verkerk from the Netherlands
, which definitely cut into that, but we don't yet know how much. Also, they're rumored to be chasing a Taiwanese pitcher, Jen-Ho Tseng
, along with some other teams. He ranks 29th overall, according to MLB.com. That will cost some money.
There are other top international prospects that are still unsigned, so these additional dollars that teams are trading for might be the difference in getting some of these kids signed. It adds a new dimension to the trade market this year, and one could see the Twins trading away extra dollars, or trading for extra dollars if they can't pry away prospects. Then they could use that money to sign some high-end, albeit 16-year-old high-end, talent.
It might also mean that teams are interested in making trades for those dollars now, since a lot of the highly ranked kids will be signed by late July, and teams won’t need the extra dollars. It may be driving the earlier trades we’re seeing this year.
Real Money Is A Thing, Too
The $5.5 million that Nolasco was owed for this year definitely decreased the prospect haul for the Marlins. That's good news for a team trying to trade Kevin Correia, who is relatively cheap. It's not very good news for a team interested in trading Justin Morneau, who has even more than that left on his deal this year. For instance, the Rockies were interested in Nolasco, but were never going to be in a position to pay that much this year
(Incidentally, Todd Helton is their regular first baseman. Yes, the same Todd Helton that was around when you were young. His OPS is 695.)
As far as I know, the Twins have never done a trade where they pick up part of the contract of the player they traded away, but if ever there was a season to do so, this is it. We know they didn't spend all of their offseason money when Joe Saunders walked away from an open offer. The amount they can spend on the amateur draft and international draft is capped. And Morneau's salary is already included in this year's budget number anyway. Their budget doesn’t need that $5M.
If swallowing the rest of that salary allows them to upgrade the prospects they get in a trade, they should be considering it. There are very few avenues for spending leftover money this year to upgrade the future. This is one of the few remaining.