Free Agent Rumors: Toronto Blue Jays Circling Ricky Nolasco


October 15, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco (47) pitches the first inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in game four of the National League Championship Series baseball game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

It looks like the rumor engine is finally starting to churn for the Toronto Blue Jays, and in a good way. On Saturday we saw reports that the Blue Jays were putting together a package to acquire right-hander Jeff Samardzija from the Chicago Cubs, and that sent fans into a tizzy, wondering what kind of return package could be heading back, and hoping that it wouldn’t include either Aaron Sanchez or Marcus Stroman.

Today’s news is a bit more tame, at least in the fact that it will cost the Toronto Blue Jays a bit less in terms of prospects. Money, on the other hand, may be another story.

As reported by Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe, the Toronto Blue Jays have joined the Minnesota Twins on the Ricky Nolasco front.

That is the sort of news that we were expecting to see this winter, as the exploits of last winter were thought to push Toronto to using the free agent market this winter more so than the farm system. However, as Cafardo points out, the free agent market for starting pitching has been slow to develop. However, the signings of both Tim Hudson (two-year, $23 million) and Jason Vargas (four-year, $32 million) are likely to impact the bigger fish left on the market, as we discussed earlier this week.

Nolasco is certainly one of the bigger fish, but he’s still a mid-level talent when compared to Ervin Santana, Matt Garza, and Ubaldo Jimenez. MLB Trade Rumors pegged him as earning a three-year, $36 million deal, with Edwin Jackson‘s four-year, $52 million deal being a ceiling. Given the fact that Vargas secured a four-year deal from the Royals of all teams, Nolasco’s people will likely be looking for the fourth year for their 30-year-old client, which certainly puts Jackson’s deal into play a bit more.

Is that a lot to pay out for a number three or four starter or is Nolasco simply a product of this market? Let’s take a look at his stats a bit.

As you can see from his stats above, he’s been a fairly consistent arm, limiting his walks. But his ERA and ERA+ are fairly mediocre considering he has never pitched in a good hitters’ environment, which we obviously know that Rogers Centre is.

However, he’s also played on some fairly poor teams, which has to be taken into consideration as well.

Upon a closer look, courtesy of FanGraphs, Nolasco does have some traits that could paint a better picture. While his lifetime ERA is 4.37, Nolasco has put up a lifetime xFIP of 3.75 and a SIERA of 3.80, which means that he’s actually been slightly better than the defenses behind him. That’s particularly important for a pitcher than has a groundball rate of 41.7% over his career.

Toronto looks to put a strong infield behind their pitchers next season, and the return of Colby Rasmus in center field will certainly make them strong up the middle with Jose Reyes and Ryan Goins as well.

Whether that adds up to a pitcher who could be looking at a four-year deal with an AAV of between $12 million and $14 million, that will need to be Toronto’s decision. However, the Blue Jays are paying Mark Buehrle an AAV of $18.5 million over the next two seasons for similar qualities.

It’s just that kind of market.