Not that Ricky Nolasco is a bad pitcher per se, but I think even the most optimistic of Minnesota Twins fans know that he’s far from a solution to the team’s woes.
Just leave it up to the worst pitching team in the bigs in 2013 to make one of the notable splashes in free agency when it comes to starters, I suppose. Given the depth of the crop of SPs in this year’s FA class, you could probably say that it’s a good of a step as any, and the deal ultimately didn’t turn out to be the mind-boggling $80 million that the righty asked for.
Then again, at a reported $49 million of guaranteed money over four years with a vesting option that could bump it up to $62, it’s not exactly chump change either, especially for a money-conscious team like Minnesota.
And as good as the intentions may be, it’s also a deal that doesn’t seem to leave a whole lot of room for a follow-up, making its timing a little questionable in the big picture of the team’s rebuild. Obviously, the additional Wild Card spot gives Minnesota more hope that they can get back to the postseason sooner rather than later, but there’s still much work to be done here.
As far as division itself goes, the team currently doesn’t have a team to match up with the perennial favorite Detroit Tigers in just about every area except the bullpen, and with the emergence of the Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals, the Twins will have their work cut out for them to make up those 20 or so wins that separated them from competing for a spot in the basement and competing for a postseason berth.
Fortunately, given that they had a 29th-ranked 4.6 fWAR group of starters 2013, they’re looking at the right place.
If Nolasco ends up being the stead 3.0-ish fWAR performer that he’s been through the last few seasons, he’ll definitely help the team get better; however, better might not be worth a whole lot for the team in 2014. In fact, should they not make any more upgrades in that department and if the season started tomorrow, it wouldn’t be out of the realm of the possibility for the Twins to remain a bottom-five team in the SP department.
Yes, that’s how bad the situation is, and while the team has reasons for hope in folks like Samuel Deduno and Kyle Gibson, they rest on fairly fragile grounds.
But what can the team do? Even if uber-prospect Bryon Buxton arrives in late 2014 and Miguel Sano follows in 2015, the on-field group is still at least a couple of years away from making noise in the division. On the other hand, they’ve got a guy who’s in his prime now, but could be exiting it by the time the rest of the pieces are there for them to make a run.
The Twins could try to do what they can to acquire more pieces and set themselves up to do something in 2014, but considering that Nolasco was already a major expenditure, it’s difficult to see them being players for any of the usual suspects available in the FA pool that would make a major difference. Trading isn’t necessarily the best plan either, as the farm is obviously going to play a huge part in this team’s turnaround.
So in short, what they’ve got is a good complimentary piece with no core compliment (unless you count Kevin Correia … so no), and there’s not a whole lot of venues to acquire one either.
Should they have waited to splurge on a FA arm? Well, there’s always the argument that teams should go after the right players whenever they’re available, and the Twins couldn’t have done much about Nolasco being there for the taking. On the other hand, even if the righty performs as expected through the next couple of years, it’s hard to see how he fits into Minnesota’s big picture as they don’t currently have an ace, and none appear to be knocking on the door.
Perhaps the Twins are hoping to be able to use Nolasco as a trade chip should the Buxton/Sano era progress a little slower than expected? It’s certainly possible, but considering that his performance could also go sour, it seems like an unnecessary and untimely risk to take, no?