Thursday, June 27, 2013
Five trades for Ricky Nolasco
By Jim Bowden
It's likely that Ricky Nolasco will be the first of the trade dominos to fall.
If you had to make a list of the players most likely to be traded before the July 31 deadline, Ricky Nolasco would be at or near the top.
The 30-year-old is in the final year of a three-year, $26.5 million deal with the Miami Marlins, and since the last-place club has no interest in re-signing him, he is going to be dealt. It's only a matter of where. Nolasco has a 3.68 ERA this year and could help out almost any club's rotation.
The fact that Nolasco is owed close to $6 million for the rest of this season will lower his trade value. The Marlins need to keep rebuilding, so the asking price might be two pitching prospects, one in the bottom of a team's top 10 prospects and another lower-tier arm. I'm hearing that the Marlins might be willing to eat a little money if the prospect being offered is significantly better than what other teams have on the table.
Several teams could use Nolasco, including the Baltimore Orioles, Cleveland Indians and Texas Rangers, but I keep hearing he’s probably headed to the National League West, most likely to the Dodgers, Giants or Rockies. Nolasco is from Southern California, so if either the Padres or Dodgers were to trade for him, it is likely that he would be willing to sign an extension and remain with that club beyond this year.
The Padres have one of the strongest farm systems in baseball but have had to deal with a lot of injuries. They will try to trade to win this year because they sense weakness around the divisions. They’re probably not going to deal top prospects such as Max Fried, Austin Hedges, Rymer Liriano or Cory Spangenberg, but they might consider the next group of Robbie Erlin, Joe Wieland, Matt Wisler and Zach Eflin.
Wisler is a real dark horse prospect. The right-hander tops out at 95 mph with heavy sink to both sides of the plate, and he has good arm speed on the changeup. He was recently promoted to Double-A San Antonio after a strong performance at high-Class A Lake Elsinore. Eflin was the No. 33 overall pick in the 2012 draft and has a lot of promise, but the righty is just 19 years old and in low Class A, so he's a long ways off. Nolasco would thrive in Petco Park.
With Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and Hyun Jin-Ryu, the Dodgers may have the best top three in the majors. If they are able to trade for Nolasco, with the run support this lineup can give him, it could end up being an historic last-to-first story at Chavez Ravine this year.
The Dodgers have had 15 key players on the disabled list this year. With most of them finally healthy, we’re starting to see the team we expected out of spring training. With Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez hitting their strides, this is potentially the best lineup in the division. If the Dodgers figure out the back of the rotation, bullpen and third base, they could be primed for a great second-half story.
The Dodgers have enough pitching depth in their system to deal right-handers Ross Stripling and Chris Withrow, two young pitchers who should develop into contributing major league arms for the Marlins.
Stripling has a 92-94 mph fastball with some sink, but his best pitch is a 12-to-6 curve. He's striking out more than a man per inning at Double-A. Withrow, 24, was a first-rounder in 2007 who never lived up to his potential, but he could still end up as a decent back-end starter or quality reliever.
It is unlikely that the Rockies would be willing to absorb the $6 million remaining on Nolasco’s contract, but they do have the pitching prospect it might take to get Nolasco in Eddie Butler. Butler throws in the mid-90s and has a solid slider. A supplemental first-round pick in 2012 out of Radford, Butler has already been promoted once this year to high-Class A Modesto. Rob Scahill is a Triple-A reliever who can miss some bats. He's not much of a prospect, but he would give the Marlins another live arm.
The Giants have won two of the past three World Series mostly because of pitching and defense. However, outside of Madison Bumgarner, who has a 3.20 ERA, the Giants don’t have a starter with an ERA below 4.40. A deal for a solid midrotation starter would enhance their chances of winning. The Giants probably are not going to deal Kyle Crick or Chris Stratton, their best pitching prospects, but they might dangle Mike Kickham, who does not appear quite ready for a pennant race, and Clayton Blackburn to get Nolasco.
Kickham has a two-seam fastball at 90-92 mph that darts both ways, his slider and change are both average, and he flashes a below-average curve. However, he has been lit up in his two big league starts (10.57 ERA). Blackburn pitches at 88-92 mph but has the makings of two solid breaking balls and is whiffing more than 10 per nine at high-Class A San Jose.
Arizona has some of the best young starters in the leagues, but it could use another veteran starter to help down the stretch. Nolasco would be a realistic target.
The Diamondbacks aren’t going to consider moving Archie Bradley or Tyler Skaggs and probably shouldn’t move David Holmberg either. However, they are a sleeper for Nolasco because if they decide to include Holmberg in an offer, it’s doubtful the Marlins would say no or could get a better offer.
Holmberg has sharp command and sits close to 90 mph with his fastball, but his best pitch is his changeup that he uses on any count. The lefty, who has a 2.66 ERA in 15 starts at Double-A Mobile, should be a No. 3 starter down the road -- a perfect return for Nolasco.
If the Marlins insist on another arm to seal the deal, Kevin Munson would be a decent target. He can throw hard and miss bats, but he doesn't always know where the ball is going (4.3 BB/9 at Mobile).