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Spend Hal's Money: Ricky Nolasco

10/17/2013
Ricky Nolasco ERAs from 2009-12 -- 5.06, 4.51, 4.67 and 4.48 -- don't translate well to the AL East. Mark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY Sports

We all know Hal Steinbrenner has set a goal of cutting the Yankees' payroll to $189 million for 2014. Your duty as a Yankees fan is to make sure he doesn't achieve that goal, and our job at ESPNNewYork.com is to provide you with reasons to make sure he doesn't. Hey, it's Hal's money, not yours. With that in mind, we are going to examine potential free-agent and trade candidates in a new feature we call, appropriately, "Spend Hal's Money."

Today's candidate: Ricky Nolasco

Position: Starting Pitcher

Age: Turns 31 on Dec. 13

Height: 6-2

Weight: 223

2013 numbers: 13-11, 3.70 ERA in 33 starts for Marlins, Dodgers

Expected going rate: Nolasco earned $11.5 million in 2013, pitched a full season without injury and had the second best ERA of his career. That’s going to merit a raise, though just how much will depend on how many teams are interested in his services.

Edwin Jackson rates as a reasonable comparison to Nolasco. Jackson’s career ERA heading into free agency last offseason was 4.40, a hair higher than Nolasco’s current 4.37 in a similar number of starts. The Cubs gave Jackson four years and $52 million. That would seem to be a logical starting point for any team that wants Nolasco.

The pros: Nolasco has averaged 32 starts and 199 innings over the past three seasons. He is coming off the second best season of his career and is highly regarded among those who study advanced stats because of his 3.5-to-1 strikeout-to-walk rate and reasonable home run rate.

Nolasco’s career Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) -- a stat that estimates what a pitcher’s ERA should be based on his strikeouts, walks and homers allowed -- is 3.76, so some feel his 4.37 career ERA was inflated by factors such as poor defense and bad luck.

Like Matt Garza, whom we reviewed last week, Nolasco shows flashes of brilliance from time to time. He had a six-start stretch in August and September in which he had a 1.32 ERA, including one start in which he pitched eight two-hit innings against the Red Sox. Every so often he revs up a start with a double-digit strikeout total. He has 14 career 10-plus strikeout games, with a high of 16 against the Braves in 2009.

The cons: In between his 3.52 ERA in 2008 and 3.70 in 2013, Nolasco had a four-season stretch in which his ERA ranged from 4.48 to 5.06, and that was in the National League, not the American League East.

Nolasco can be inconsistent. He gave up 19 runs in 12 innings in his three starts following that hot stretch in August and September.

Nolasco doesn’t allow a lot of home runs, but does allow a lot of solid hits. His line-drive rate over the past two seasons rates highest among starting pitchers (21.4 percent).

While he makes every turn, Nolasco doesn’t necessarily qualify as an innings eater. He ranks 48th in innings per start among the 80 pitchers who made at least 50 starts over the past two seasons.

THE VERDICT: If you didn’t want Garza (and you voted 2-to-1 against him), you’re probably not going to want Nolasco either. But he’s likely to be pursued hard by teams that buy into his advanced stats. This will probably push up his price and make him too rich a proposition for the Yankees. Pass.

What do you think? Vote and share your thoughts in the comments.