Monday, December 2, 2013

Free Agent Feast: Nolasco, Hughes Stuffed Into Rotation

The Twins were doing their own shopping over the busy Thanksgiving weekend.

According to multiple reports, starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco will sign a four-year, $49 million contract. When this deal is finalized, it will be the largest free agent contract in the organization's history. Minnesota had been rumored to be pushing hard for Nolasco and they were able to land their man.

The Twins didn't stop there as reports surfaced on Sunday night of the Twins agreeing to terms with Phil Hughes. Reports have Hughes signing a three-year, $24 million contract. Starting pitching was the Twins biggest offseason need and adding Hughes and Nolasco was a fast paced start.

As the old Twins campaign slogan stated, "Get to Know 'Em"
Ricky Nolasco- RHP
Last Season: 3.70 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 165 SO, 46 BB, 199.1 IP
Last 3 Seasons: 4.29 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 438 SO, 137 BB, 596.1 IP

His Story: Nolasco pitched his entire big league career in Marlins organization until a trade in the middle of last season sent him to the Dodgers. According to Baseball Reference's version of WAR, Nolasco was good for a 1.8 WAR in 2013, the second highest mark of his career. His best season by this metric was in 2008 when he pitched 212.1 innings with a 3.52 ERA. Since that season, he's averaged 192 innings a year with 161 strikeouts and 43 walks. 

The Contract: In a market with pitchers like Ervin Santana and Matt Garza, Nolasco's signing was a big step for the Twins. This is a deal unlike any other in the history of the club because of the value and the fact the Twins haven't signed a free agent starter like this before. He can be in the middle of their rotation for the life of the deal as the club waits for younger organizational talent to mature. He won't be a Johan Santana but his career numbers are similar to Brad Radke and that's an improvement to next year's starting rotation.

Phil Hughes- RHP
Last Season: 5.19 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 121 SO, 42 BB, 145.1 IP
Last 3 Seasons: 4.85 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 333 SO, 115 BB, 411.2 IP

His Story: Hughes was supposed to be a budding prospect in the Yankees organization but things didn't work out that way. His fastball doesn't have a ton of movement and he keeps it high in the zone. At home run prone Yankee Stadium, this can be a recipe for disaster. According to Baseball Reference's WAR, he was worth a -0.7 WAR last year. His best season in relation to WAR was 2009 when he was worth 2.6 WAR and he pitched 86.0 innings with a 3.03 ERA. New York can be a tough pitching environment and a move to the Midwest could be good for Hughes.

The Contract: In my offseason blueprint, I had the Twins signing Hughes for two-years and $16 million. His actual contract will be for one more year and $24 million so around the same amount per year. It's tough to know where the Twins and Hughes will be at the end of this deal. Minnesota hopes to be contenders by 2015 or 2016 and Hughes might not be able to be in the rotation of a contending team. That being said, there can be some value in switching organizations and he is only 27-years old so fingers are crossed that he will be able to figure it out with the Twins.

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