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  • Minnesota Twins Agree To Deal With Ricky Nolasco

    According to Chris Cotillo of MLBDailyDish.com, the Minnesota Twins have reached an agreement with free agent starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco. However, the Twins have not confirmed the deal. If true, the deal is likely to be the largest contract the Twins have ever given to a free agent.

    UPDATE - According to Yahoo's Jeff Passan, it is a four year, $49 million contract, with an option for the fifth year at $13 million (with a $1 million buyout).



    Nolasco will turn 31 years old in the next two weeks and has spend most of his career with the Marlins. He has posted peripheral numbers (such as a 7.4K/9 strikeout rate and a 2.1 BB/9 walk rate) that suggest he should be better than his 4.37 career ERA. In 2013, while pitching with the Marlins and the Dodgers, he recorded a 3.70 ERA over 199.1 innings between the two teams.

    His durability makes him one of the top names on the free agent starting pitching market, a step below Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ervin Santana, but still in line for a average salary in excess of $10 million. The TwinsCentric Offseason Handbook estimated he would receive a 4-year deal of $52 million. That total would more than double the largest deal the Twins have ever made with a free agent, which was Josh Willinghamís 3-year, $21 million deal two years ago. Indeed, Nolasco represents a significant investment for any MLB team. His contract will likely be one of the top five given to any free agent starting pitcher this year.

    For those looking for someone that defies the highly publicized "pitch to contact" philosophy the Twins have embraced, Nolasco would be a step in the right direction. His strikeout rate, while being average for major league baseball, will be at the top of the Twins rotation. And among this group of free agent starters, he was third in overall strikeouts last year, only behind AJ Burnett and Ubaldo Jimenez.

    Finally, the likely length of the contract will mean Nolasco is a Twin until at least 2016 and possibly as long as 2018. He represents a financial commitment to anchor the next wave of Twins prospects to their next competitive team. It's not dissimilar to the 4-year, $36 million contract the Twins gave Brad Radke prior to the 2001 season. In fact, I'll be a little surprised if they don't reference that in relation to this signing when they're ready to talk about it.
    Comments 105 Comments
    1. PseudoSABR's Avatar
      PseudoSABR -
      Quote Originally Posted by Oxtung View Post
      I'm showing that to even make the playoffs the Twins need three pitchers that are better than Ricky Nolasco.
      That's only true this past season. I'm not sure that your slotting analysis bears out over history, nor does it necessarily serve as leading prognosticator. That the playoff teams are so pitching rich may not be the norm in the near future with new TV revenue and the many markets with which teams can accrue talent. Where Nolasco slots hardly matters when compared with the material worth he gives the Twins over the length of his contract.

      If you're suggesting, that the Twins need a lot of things to break right in order to regain competitiveness, I can hardly argue. But the Twins need to start some where. Having 180 above average innings from any starter is real boon to our current situation. That kind of benefit cost what Nolasco costs. These are the kind of steps that need to be taken if the Twins hope to sniff at the playoffs.

      There is no guaranteed formula to make a championship run before 2017, beyond signing the best of every free agent class until then, which is just silly. Should the Twins have spent their 75 million on Tanaka or Garza and rolled the dice with the rest or the rotation? Should they have gone Yankees and signed both? Again, I don't see a viable alternative recipe on how the Twins regain that playoff form.

      As an exercise where would Nolasco rank on the former Twin playoff teams? I imagine he'd be right behind Santana and Radke as the most reliable pitchers the Twins offered in a playoff series, unless you're discluding health.
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      That's only true this past season. I'm not sure that your slotting analysis bears out over history, nor does it necessarily serve as leading prognosticator. That the playoff teams are so pitching rich may not be the norm in the near future with new TV revenue and the many markets with which teams can accrue talent. Where Nolasco slots hardly matters when compared with the material worth he gives the Twins over the length of his contract.

      If you're suggesting, that the Twins need a lot of things to break right in order to regain competitiveness, I can hardly argue. But the Twins need to start some where. Having 180 above average innings from any starter is real boon to our current situation. That kind of benefit cost what Nolasco costs. These are the kind of steps that need to be taken if the Twins hope to sniff at the playoffs.

      There is no guaranteed formula to make a championship run before 2017, beyond signing the best of every free agent class until then, which is just silly. Should the Twins have spent their 75 million on Tanaka or Garza and rolled the dice with the rest or the rotation? Should they have gone Yankees and signed both? Again, I don't see a viable alternative recipe on how the Twins regain that playoff form.

      As an exercise where would Nolasco rank on the former Twin playoff teams? I imagine he'd be right behind Santana and Radke as the most reliable pitchers the Twins offered in a playoff series, unless you're discluding health.
      Even if you make the assumption that Nolasco is a #3 starter on a good team (which the only evidence provided so far does not bear out) the Twins will still need to find 2 front of the rotation pitchers. Meyer and Gibson have potential but to count on them both seems foolhardy.

      There is no good way to statistically compare Nolasco to former Twins playoff teams because the pitching environment has changed drastically. The best that could be done is to compare ERA- or xFIP-. It would not be a direct comparison but rather a look at how each pitcher ranked in relation to the other pitchers in their league and season. As an aside, reliable isn't synonymous with good. Just because a pitcher can throw 200 innings doesn't mean he's a great pitcher. There are many pitchers that don't throw 200 innings and yet are more valuable than Nolasco.
    1. Oxtung's Avatar
      Oxtung -
      Quote Originally Posted by PseudoSABR View Post
      That's only true this past season. I'm not sure that your slotting analysis bears out over history, nor does it necessarily serve as leading prognosticator. That the playoff teams are so pitching rich may not be the norm in the near future with new TV revenue and the many markets with which teams can accrue talent
      Since I had already done some previous research into this I'll post what I've found. Looking strictly at ERA- (which adjusts ERA for league and ballpark and then compares to major league average) this is how many players were below average pitchers and pitched (or would have pitched if their team hadn't flopped) in the playoffs.

      Below Average Pitchers
      '03 '04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12
      Made ALDS 3 7 3 3 4 3 2 4 4 1*
      Made ALCS 1 3 0 1 2 1 1 1 3 1
      *2 more made the one game playoff and would have pitched had the Rangers advanced.

      So 34 below average pitchers have started games in the last decade. That is 21%. That number drops to 14 and 18% in the ALCS.

      Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes are both below average for their career and over the last 3+ years. Using Nolasco's 2013 and Hughes 2012 ERA-(which, at 101, were their best seasons recently) they would have been a #3 starter in three games or 8% of the time. They would have been a number 4 starter on twelve occasions or 30% of the time. They wouldn't have pitched 63% of the time.

      This is just one statistic but combined with my previous research it doesn't paint Nolasco and Hughes in a favorable light. It does however highlight the need for the Twins to obtain a pitcher with front of the rotation stuff.
    1. diehardtwinsfan's Avatar
      diehardtwinsfan -
      I can't like this enough. Nolasco and Hughes are both guys that have not pitched as well as their peripherals have indicated, and while I tend to think this might be where advanced stats break down, history indicates that these types of guys are the ones that can suddenly put it together. I don't expect either to be the typical definition of an ace, but both could turn into a guy who exceeds the value of his contract by a decent margin. I'd have preferred Tanaka, but they went out and spent money on REAL upgrades to supplement the next wave when they arrive. I think these signings are going to make 2014/15 in particular much much much more exciting.
    1. Shane Wahl's Avatar
      Shane Wahl -
      This is a good, brief analysis:

      http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/12/breaking-down-the-twins-ricky-nolasco-signing.html

      "The important questions for the Twins are why Nolasco's ERA has been consistently higher than his strikeout, walk, and home run rates suggest, and if that will remain the case over most of the next four years. From 2009-13, the typical NL starter has stranded around 72% of his baserunners. Nolasco's strand rate in that time is a bit shy of 68%, worst in MLB among those with at least 700 innings. Perhaps that's unfair, as it's roping in some really low strand rates from 2009 and '11. If we look at just 2012-13, Nolasco is at 70.1%, 16th worst in MLB among those with 300 innings. Nolasco has a 4.08 ERA in that time, versus a 3.60 FIP. A metric that treats Nolasco as a 3.60 ERA pitcher is overstating his value.
      Nolasco's strand rate problems stem from his performance with men on base. His strikeout rate falls below six per nine innings and his walks jump up to around three, even in his successful 2013 campaign. If the Twins don't find a way to address this, they might have a 4.50 ERA pitcher on their hands from the start. FanGraphs has another version of WAR called RA9-WAR, which essentially uses a pitcher's actual runs allowed instead of his FIP. That metric suggests Nolasco was a two-win pitcher in 2013, his best season in years. If Nolasco begins at two wins, this contract is not good value even if a win on the 2013-14 free agent market costs $6.2MM. I'm not comfortable valuing a pitcher based on ERA or FIP, however. The valuation changes drastically if we split the difference and project Nolasco as a 2.5 win pitcher in 2014. In that case, I think this can be an even money deal, though I don't have a lot of confidence in predicting the annual inflation of the free agent market."
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