The Marlins generally are aggressive and decisive in trade discussions. But with right-hander Ricky Nolasco, they may have waited too long.
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Many in the industry expected Nolasco to be the first starting pitcher traded. Instead, the Cubs jumped the market Tuesday, sending righty Scott Feldman to the Orioles.
Granted, the Marlins didn’t want necessarily want righties Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop, the pitchers whom the Orioles sent to the Cubs, along with about $380,000 in international slot money, for Feldman and catcher Steve Clevenger.
Sources say the Marlins are looking for prospects, not players such as Arrieta and Strop, who have struggled in the majors but possess upside.
Sources also say the Marlins want their trading partner to absorb most or all of the approximately $5.7 million remaining on Nolasco’s contract.
Well, now the Fish are stuck.
They want to trade Nolasco before his next scheduled start on Wednesday to clear a spot for righty Henderson Alvarez, who has completed his rehabilitation assignment. But the price is only going down.
Here’s my question: Why are the Marlins so hung up on saving money?
Their $36.3 million Opening Day payroll was the second-lowest in the majors. They easily will exceed that amount, and perhaps more than double it, in revenue sharing and national TV money.
If they’re so intent on getting high-end prospects for Nolasco, who is a No. 3 starter at best, they should offer to pay a portion of his salary in exchange for better talent.
The Rockies, sources say, agreed to send the Marlins two quality prospects if the Marlins included cash in the trade. The Marlins wouldn’t budge, and the Rockies lost interest as outfielder Dexter Fowler followed shortstop Troy Tulowitzki to the disabled list and Nolasco produced a 5.09 ERA in his last four starts.
The Dodgers, sources say, are willing to absorb the entirety of Nolasco’s contract, but only at a minimal cost in talent. Keep in mind: Nolasco would cost the Dodgers nearly $1 million in luxury tax on top of his remaining salary. Why should L.A. budge?
The Rangers and Giants also are involved in the Nolasco sweepstakes to varying degrees, while the Padres’ last contact with the Marlins was about five days ago, sources say.
If the Marlins played this right, they could dangle cash to manipulate the best offer out of the clubs who still have interest. But again, that doesn’t seem to be their plan.
Obviously, no trade can be evaluated until it actually is completed, and even then it’s dangerous to judge a deal when prospects are involved. The Marlins, though, should have realized that Nolasco is more of an innings-eater than a difference-maker, more like Feldman than Cliff Lee.
Instead, they face a triple whammy.
Nolasco is owed a good amount of money. His recent performance has been mediocre. And, under the latest collective-bargaining agreement, a team that acquires him cannot receive draft-pick compensation if he departs as a free agent.
If the Marlins want financial relief, they should expect little in return. And if they want prospects, they should effectively buy them by including cash in a deal.
Instead, the Marlins are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
They will look foolish if Nolasco starts on Wednesday – and even more foolish if they rush into a bad trade.