MLB Rumors: Minnesota Twins Trade Target-Ricky Nolasco

By Brad Berreman

The Miami Marlins may be in full sell-mode coming off a disappointing season in 2012, and many notable veterans may follow manager Ozzie Guillen out the door. In particular some veterans with high salaries may be gone over the course of the winter, and relief pitcher Heath Bell has already been traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks.

The Minnesota Twins may be one of the teams to call the Marlins in search of a starting pitcher, and general manager Terry Ryan should be making similar calls to a lot of teams. Mark Buehrle, who the Twins are familiar with from his days with the Chicago White Sox, has already been mentioned elsewhere as a possible trade target despite the fact he is due to make $48 million over the next three seasons of the four-year deal he signed with the Marlins last offseason. Josh Johnson may also be made available by Miami, but his injury history and salary for 2013 ($13.75 million) may limit Minnesota’s interest in him.

But another starter that may fall under the radar for other teams is Ricky Nolasco, who went 12-13 with a 4.48 ERA over 31 starts (191 innings) for Miami in 2012 as he allowed over 200 hits for the second straight season. But he also set a career-high with three complete games, including two shutouts, and had a 1.46 ERA over a five start span in late August and September that included both shutouts.

Nolasco’s K/9 rate declined to a career-low 5.9 this past season after being as high as 9.5 in 2009, but his HR/flyball rate is trending downward (9.1 percent in 2012) and his groundball rate was a career-best 46.6 percent in 2012. Even with fewer strikeouts Nolasco’s overall results have remained much the same during the course of his career, with double-digit wins and at least eight losses in five straight seasons and 2012’s 4.48 ERA represents his best mark in that category in the past four seasons.

Nolasco has spent his entire big league career with the Marlins’ franchise, compiling a 76-64 record and a 4.49 ERA over 195 total appearances (179 starts). Over the past five seasons, he has made at least 31 starts four times with the only exception coming in 2010 when missed around a month with a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Nolasco is certainly not the ace Twins’ fans are clamoring for, and since he will turn 30 in December a sudden change is unlikely to say the least. But since he is entering the final year of his contract in 2013 and is due to make $11.5 million, the Marlins may be willing to deal him if they are serious about unloading salaries.

The Diamondbacks only had to give up a low-level minor league prospect to acquire Bell, and the asking price for Nolasco stands to be similar if he is made available. The bigger concern for the Twins would be the money he is due next season, but if the Bell trade is any indicator, Miami may be willing to cover some of that salary in order to facilitate a trade.

Nolasco may fit in the back end of the starting rotation for Minnesota, though a move to the American League would surely elevate his already pedestrian numbers and reverse any positive trends in his peripheral numbers. But his overall durability may draw the Twins’ interest with the issues they’ve had in that area over the last couple years, and if the financial numbers can come together it would not be a surprise to see him in a Twins’ uniform next season.

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