Rosenthal: Yankees not in on Ricky Nolasco

Via Ken Rosenthal: The Yankees are not in on right-hander Ricky Nolasco — or any other pitcher, for that matter — at the moment. We heard the team “already had interest” in the right-hander earlier this month. Their focus has shifting to finding offense for obvious reasons.

Nolasco, 30, has pitched to a 3.93 ERA and 3.54 FIP in 17 starts for the Marlins this year. Rumor has it he could be moved very soon, as in before his next start, and a bunch of NL West clubs are showing the most interest. The Dodgers have been considered the front-runner recently. New York’s starters have posted a solid but not great 4.06 ERA and 3.55 FIP over the last 30 days even before David Phelps got pounded last night, but at this point pitching is not the problem. Nolasco would be an upgrade at the back of the rotation, however.

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Stark: Yankees “already have interest” in Ricky Nolasco

Via Jayson Stark: The Yankees are one of the teams that “already have interest” in Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco. “I think he’d be a great addition for somebody, as a No. 3 or 4 [starter],” said a scout to Stark. “He’s very similar to what Anibal Sanchez was last year. He’s not a 1 or a 2. But he’s a veteran guy who can go out and spin seven innings, and do it, I think, for a contending team.”

Nolasco, 30, has a 3.61 ERA (3.54 FIP) in 82.1 innings across 12 starts this year. His strikeout rate (7.32 K/9 and 19.9 K%) is his best in years while his walk (2.19 BB/9 and 6.0 BB%) and ground ball (42.1%) numbers are right in line with his career norms. Nolasco will earn $11.5M this year and become a free agent after the season. The Yankees had interest in acquiring him over the winter, before re-signing Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte. The pitching staff is fine right now, though I guess they could add Nolasco and flip Phil Hughes or David Phelps for a bat. That’s kind of a roundabout way of improving the team though.

A way, way too early look at possible trade deadline targets

(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)
(Dilip Vishwanat/Getty)

We are now less than three weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting for duty in Tampa, meaning it’s looking less and less likely that Brian Cashman & Co. will pull a major move out of their sleeve this offseason. The Yankees still need a starting catcher (not happening), a DH (will probably happen), bench help (almost certainly will happen), and various depth pieces (will happen) before the start of the season, so the shopping list isn’t small. Since it’s unlikely each of those holes will be filled before the season, let’s look ahead at some players who might be available at the trade deadline.

Now, looking ahead seven months and trying to figure which teams will be in it and who be available is very, very tricky business. At this time last year I was touting Andre Ethier as a potential deadline DH target, yet by time late-July rolled around he had signed a new extension and the Dodgers were suddenly owned by free-spending billionaires. There are surprise contenders and surprise extensions every summer, which throws a wrench into the trade market. Since we like talking about possible trades though, here are a few players in their walk years — I’m assuming the Yankees won’t want to take on any multi-year contracts given the 2014 payroll plan — on projected non/maybe-contenders who might be available at midseason.

(Ezra Shaw/Getty)
(Ezra Shaw/Getty)

Grant Balfour
The Athletics surprised everyone last season with their late surge to the AL West crown, but you don’t have to try real hard to envision a scenario in which they’re out of the race and far behind the Angels and Rangers come the deadline. Oakland had a ton of walk-off wins and nearly all of their rookie arms worked out last year, neither of which I would count on happening again. The Yankees have had some interest in Balfour before, and the 35-year-old right-hander would be an obvious target if things go wrong in the bullpen and another late-game arm is needed.

Matt Garza & Ricky Nolasco
The Yankees have plenty of pitching depth at the moment, but we know how this stuff goes. It has a way of disappearing quickly. CC Sabathia is coming off elbow surgery, Hiroki Kuroda and Andy Pettitte are up their in age, Phil Hughes seems to perpetually walk the tightrope, and no one really knows what to expect out of Ivan Nova and David Phelps. Since Adam Warren and Brett Marshall are the next-in-line guys in Triple-A, a veteran starter could easily be on the trade deadline agenda. The Cubs and Marlins aren’t going anywhere and they’ve already been shopping Garza and Nolasco, respectively, so it’s a safe bet both guys will be moved at some point before the end of July. Garza, 29, has AL East experience while the 30-year-old Nolasco is more of a break glass in case of emergency option. The Yankees have had interest in both in the not-too-distant past.

Corey Hart
Hart, 30, was supposed to have knee surgery yesterday, but he pushed the procedure back so he could get a second opinion. He was expected to miss three or four months once he had the operation. Hart is basically another Mike Morse, except he hits for a slightly lower average and makes up the on-base numbers with walks. He hits for power from the right side and can play either corner outfield spot in addition to first base. DH is always an option as well. The Brewers overhauled their league-worst bullpen from a year ago but didn’t add any starting pitching, so contending in the tough (but winnable!) NL Central will be a chore. For what it’s worth, Brewers GM Doug Melvin was non-committal when asked about signing Hart to an extension a few weeks ago.

(Doug Pensinger/Getty)
(Doug Pensinger/Getty)

Todd Helton
This one might be coming out of left field, but I think there’s potential here. Helton, 39, fits the Ichiro Suzuki/Lance Berkman mold of a former great who has been toiling on a non-contender for years and could request a trade in hopes of one last shot at a World Championship. He’s battled knee, hip, and back injuries in recent years but still provides value at the plate because he’s very disciplined (13.8 BB% in 2012, 14.4% career) and he doesn’t strike out much (15.5 K% in 2012, 12.1% career). Yes, the guy has been in the big leagues since 1997 and he still has more unintentional walks (1,111) than strikeouts (1,088) to his name. His power (.164 ISO last two years) is mostly the product of Coors Field — Yankee Stadium is a pretty good place to hit as well — and he will need a platoon partner. Helton has already hinted at retiring after the season, and if the Yankees need a left-handed hitter for their DH spot come July, and I bet his name pops up in rumors. He fits the good clubhouse presence, veteran change of scenery guy mold perfectly.

Carlos Ruiz
Ruiz, 34, has to serve a 25-game amphetamines-related suspension to open the season, but he’ll still have about three months before the deadline to prove last season’s 151 wRC+ wasn’t a fluke. I don’t expect him to ever hit like that again, but he’s been an above-average hitter over the last four seasons because he takes walks (career 10.4 BB%) and doesn’t strike out (career 11.1 K%). He’ll probably go back to hitting single-digit homers again, but that’s fine given his batting average and on-base ability. Chooch has consistently ranked in the top-six of the various catcher defense rankings (2010, 2011, 2012) and he’s thrown out base-stealers at a league average rate or better throughout his career. If the Phillies skid to the finish and make Ruiz available at the deadline, he’d be the perfect rental for New York even if he doesn’t repeat 2012 and reverts back to his 2008-2010 form.

Boland: Yankeees interested in Ricky Nolasco

Via Erik Boland: The Yankees have trade interest in Marlins right-hander Ricky Nolasco. Miami is obviously selling off any player who makes decent money these days, so Nolasco and his $11.5M salary for next season are available. He’ll be a free agent next winter.

Nolasco, 29, pitched to a 4.48 ERA (3.87 FIP) in 191 innings this season. He’s consistently underperformed his peripheral stats over the last four years, pitching to a 4.68 ERA with a 3.65 FIP in over 700 innings since 2009. That’s not a small sample and you can’t just wait for positive regression anymore. Add in the fact that his strikeout rate has been trending in the wrong direction for years now, and you’re getting a “meh” from me. Not my first, second, or even third choice for rotation help at this point of the offseason.

Trade market heating up with Jimenez, Danks, Nolasco talk

With just five days until the non-waiver trade deadline, rumors are starting to fly with reckless abandon. The Yankees, by all indications, are looking into most available starting pitchers. There are ups and downs to each, of course, so let’s take a look at the three that have gotten some play in the past day.

Ubaldo Jimenez: In terms of talent, years of control, and contract, he’s the best pitcher on the market. It’s still unclear why the Rockies would consider trading him in the first place. The only reason is to start a quick rebuilding process, since their two biggest stars are under contract for many years to come. Joel Sherman reports that the Rockies have come down in price and are asking for three of Manny Banuelos, Dellin Betances, Jesus Montero, and Ivan Nova. Perhaps if they take two and some other prospects it could work, but I cant’ see the Yanks trading three of their top five guys for him.

Ricky Nolasco: We’ve heard his name mentioned a few times in passing before, but nothing seriously. This morning SI’s Jon Heyman said that the Yanks tried for him, but that the Marlins aren’t ready to deal. Nolaso is under contract through 2013, for $9 million next year and $11.5 million in 2013. I don’t quite like this one, unless he comes super cheap. His results have never matched his potential — they’ve been pretty far off, in fact — and his strikeouts are way down this year.

John Danks: There’s nothing connecting him to the Yankees, but Ken Rosenthal reports that he’s on the market. I wrote up the case for Danks last week. He’s my favorite option on the market, all considered. He won’t cost as much as Jimenez and he’s better than Nolasco. The White Sox seem to be in wheeling and dealing mode right now; as I write this, they’re in the process of trading Edwin Jackson to the Blue Jays.

Mailbag: Plan B, Damon, Cano

Boy, lots of people are wondering what the Yankees will do if they don’t sign Cliff Lee for whatever reason. I’m curious too, but I’m also pretty optimistic about them signing the lefty. Anyway, this week’s mailbag offers a trio of Plan B questions, plus some stuff on Johnny Damon and Robbie Cano‘s career. If you ever want to send in a question, just use the Submit A Tip box in the sidebar.

Ryan asks: If the Yanks miss out on Lee and/or Pettitte retires who do the Yanks target via trade? They don’t seem high on Greinke, Liriano and Carpenter moves don’t make sense for those clubs and Garza in-division would be a hard get. Is Nolasco, Wandy, Lowe, Zambrano or Carmona good enough?

Greinke would be the best of the bunch, by quite a margin, but like you said the team doesn’t seem too enthused about landing him. I agree with you on Liriano, Carpenter, and Garza as well. Nolasco’s a really good pitcher, with 8.6 K/9 and 1.7 BB/9 (removing intentional walks) in his three full seasons. He’s never posted worse than a 3.86 FIP or 3.75 xFIP, or been worth less than 2.5 wins according to FanGraphs. He’s also pretty affordable as a Super Two, earning $3.8M in 2010 while still being under team control in 2011 and 2012. My biggest concern with Nolasco is that he’s really homer prone, about one every 7.1 innings pitched, and that’s in a big park in Florida. He won’t replace Lee, very few can, but Nolasco could certainly be a solid mid-rotation guy for the Yankees.

I really like Wandy Rodriguez, but I think the price would be a little too nuts even though he’ll be a free agent after the season. Derek Lowe‘s okay these days, he’s good for innings but not necessary good performance. If the Braves eat some of the $30M left on his contract and take some mid-level prospects in return, sure. I suspect they’ll opt to keep him under those conditions though. Zambrano’s a nutcase and isn’t as good as everyone thinks; A.J. Burnett has out fWAR’d Big Z 12.8 to 11.8 since 2006. Plus there’s a ton of money left on his deal. And he’s a nut case. Carmona’s way too risky. He’s generally good, but his consistency makes A.J. blush.

Of the guys you mentioned, Nolasco’s the best, though I’d try really really hard for Greinke or Carpenter before settling on him. Whichever way they go, the pitcher they get will not be as good as Cliff Lee, that much is a given.

Adam asks: If the Yanks lose out on Lee, do you think Josh Johnson is an obvious target? Would a package of Montero, Brackman/Betances, Noesi, plus one more lower level guy get it done? Or do you think the trade would be even more.

The Marlins have no reason to move Johnson. He signed a big contract that keeps him in Florida for the next three years at well below market rates (just $35.25M through 2013), and don’t forget that their new park opens next season. Not only will that rake in some extra cash, but the team will surely want its young, homegrown, superstar right-hander to throw the first pitch in the park’s history. The Fish don’t really have a use for Montero; they just gave John Buck that ridiculous contract and they’re set at first with Gaby Sanchez. Even if Sanchez falters, Logan Morrison will step back into his natural position. So that right there creates a problem, Montero has less value to them than most.

If I’m the Marlins, I want a monster return for Johnson, more than the Royals want for Greinke given his contract status. Montero, Gardner, and Banuelos wouldn’t get it done, not even with two other prospects (say Adam Warren and David Adams) thrown in. I would, theoretically, ask for a young pitcher with Josh Johnson upside and big league success to his name, a top third base prospect, a centerfielder, and then minor leaguers. I don’t know who can put that package together, maybe the Orioles with Brian Matusz, Josh Bell, and Adam Jones (plus others)? That doesn’t do it for me though, and I love Brian Matusz. Point being, it’ll be so tough to acquire JJ that I don’t think he’s a viable Plan B. He’d be great, no question, I just don’t know how the hell the Yankees would get him.

Anonymous asks: I guess I’m getting a little impatient waiting for the Yanks to make a move. Cash could look at the Braves with Jair Jurrjens a 24 yr old with a 37-27 record, maybe Swisher & Eduardo Nunez with a few pitching prospects throw-in. Or take Chris Carpenter for two yrs at 15m & Jon Jay a good young OFer a hell of a lot cheaper then Lee! And Ricky Nolasco could be had at around 6m. Look at Lee in five yrs 37 and getting paid 24-25m?

We already talked about Carpenter and Nolasco, so let’s focus on Jurrjens. He’s 24, yes, but he’s had some injury trouble in his young career, namely a shoulder issue in 2007 and a pair of leg related ailments in 2010. He’s also not a strikeout guy, posting a career best 6.65 K/9 this season. The walks aren’t much of an issue (2.98 BB/9 over the last three years, taking out intentionals) but his declining ground ball rate (51.5% grounders in 2008, 42.9% in 2009, 39.9% in 2010) and increasing homerun rate (0.53 HR/9 in 2009, 0.63 in 2009, 1.01 in 2010) are.

Jurrjens is under control for three more seasons as an arbitration eligible player, though his peripheral stats scare me a bit. Swisher for Jurrjens would be pretty fair in terms of value (the Yanks would probably have to kick in someone like Nunez, who you suggested), but I’d rather keep Swish than trade him for a guy that won’t be much more than a mid-rotation arm for the Yanks, assuming he stays healthy. With Crawford off the market (this question was sent in before Crawford signed), trading Swish (or any outfielder for that matter) opens a rather gaping hole.

Matt asks: Hey huge fan of the site read it everyday several times a day, you guys are great. I have an idea for a post. The case to bring back Damon?

I think everyone here knows we’ve moved on from Damon even though we full appreciate his service to the Yankee cause.  He followed up great 2009 season (.376 wOBA, 3.3 fWAR) with a decidedly average one in 2010 (.340 wOBA, 1.9 fWAR), and it wasn’t just Detroit’s ballpark either. His wOBA at Comerica (.350) far exceeded his wOBA on the road (.330). For argument’s sake, let’s make a case for a reunion with Johnny.

Although Damon’s offense dropped off this season, he still got on base at a .355 clip and stole double digit bases. Even though Comerica didn’t hurt him much, moving back into Yankee Stadium would probably help get him back into double digit homers as well. Given Brett Gardner‘s recent wrist surgery and the chance that it could negatively impact him at least at the outset of next season, Damon would give the team some leftfield insurance and overall depth in general. If he came back, Jorge Posada would have to be the everyday catcher because you want both in the lineup. Playing one or the other defeats the purpose. That would allow them to be a bit more patient with Montero should they need to be.

Johnny can’t be looking for much money after making $8M in 2010, so $4-5M should get it done. Basically Russell Martin money. There’s certainly a case for bringing Damon back, but given the team’s needs, I don’t see much of a fit going forward.

Kevin asks: If you had to guess right now, Robinson Cano will have how many hits when he retires?

He’s at 1,075 right now, less than two months after his 28th birthday. Derek Jeter, for comparison, was sitting on close to 1,400 hits when he was a same age. I don’t think Robbie will reach 3,000 hits simply because the odds are greatly stacked against him. He’s just too far away and middle infielders tend to breakdown rapidly and without warning in the mid-30’s.

I don’t see why Cano can’t maintain a 200 hits a year pace for the next three seasons before falling off to say, 180 for two years then 160 or so for three years. That would leave him right around 2,500, still a ridiculous total, more than Frank Thomas, Chipper Jones, and Mickey Mantle. Want an exact number? I’ll say … 2,517.