Twins finish $49M, 4-year deal with Ricky Nolasco
The Minnesota Twins, and general manager Terry Ryan, have always
been hesitant to dive too deeply into the free agent pool in search
of answers to the team’s problems.
Ryan would much prefer to draft and develop players, grooming
them as they rise through the farm system and reach the majors at
affordable price points. But after watching the worst starting
pitching staff in the majors get bludgeoned for two straight years,
Ryan realized it was time to spend.
The first major step came on Tuesday, when the Twins introduced
right-hander Ricky Nolasco, who finalized a $49 million, four-year
contract that is the richest the team has given a free agent. The
club also is finishing a $24 million, three-year deal with
right-hander Phil Hughes that is expected to be announced later
this week, marking a drastic turn from the pragmatic approach to
free agency that has been the Twins’ calling card.
After three straight seasons of at least 96 losses, the Twins
simply couldn’t afford to spend another winter shopping in the
”This isn’t a change in philosophy,” Ryan said. ”We’ve always
said if we need to do something now we have the resources to do it.
… If we were still in the Metrodome, this probably wouldn’t
happen. But we’re in Target Field. We’ve got more revenue and
resources, certainly. This is a nice opportunity. We need pitching.
We went out and got it.”
Nolasco made 33 starts last season for the Miami Marlins and Los
Angeles Dodgers, going 13-11 with a 3.70 ERA over 199 1-3 innings
with 165 strikeouts and 46 walks. He’ll move to the front of
Minnesota’s starting staff, which had a majors-worst 5.26 ERA this
”I’m not putting any pressure on where I am in the order of the
staff,” Nolasco said. ”I’m just taking the same mindset I have my
whole career and taking the ball every fifth day and getting ready
Nolasco will make $12 million in each of the next four seasons.
If he pitches 400 total innings over 2016 and 2017, a fifth season
at $13 million would become guaranteed. He gets a limited no-trade
provision, allowing him to select each year three teams he can’t be
dealt to without his consent.
Nolasco, 31 next week, has pitched at least 185 innings in six
of the last seven seasons and went 8-3 with a 3.52 ERA for the
Dodgers after being acquired from Florida during the season. That
durability is one of the biggest reasons the Twins decided to sign
him to such a big contract. Kevin Correia led the Twins starters
with 185 1-3 innings this year, with Mike Pelfrey a distant second
at 152 2-3.
”It’s sizable, so you’re looking for a guy that’s going to be
out there,” Ryan said. ”You certainly don’t want injury concerns
on any big signing for that matter. But it’s obvious that he logs
innings. He’s been very durable, very dependable. And he’s
mechanically sound. There’s a lot of good things about him as far
as staying on the mound.”
The move to Minnesota will allow him to finally step out of the
considerable shadows he’s been pitching in for most of his
Nolasco was drafted by the Cubs in 2001 but went largely
unnoticed while young stars Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano
developed. In Florida, Josh Beckett, Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez
and, for a brief time, Dontrelle Willis got most of the attention
while the workmanlike Nolasco just kept making starts on the back
end of the rotation.
In Los Angeles, he was stuck behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack
Greinke and Hyun-Jin Ryu. Nevertheless, his steady, reliable
performances coupled with his durability made Nolasco one of the
top pitching targets on the free agent market.
”As a kid, you just think about playing in the big leagues. You
don’t think about the money,” Nolasco said. ”Then things like
this start to kick in and it is all kind of surreal with the career
I’ve had so far. I have a big family that I support and I can’t be
more thankful to have this opportunity.”
That normally would be enough to remove the Twins from the
competition for his services, but with youngsters like Alex Meyer
and Trevor May not expected to be ready to start next season with
the team, Ryan and assistant GM Rob Antony swallowed hard and went
”I don’t think it’s the greatest path because it is risky, we
all know that,” Ryan said. ”Free agency is not the answer. It’s a
help and a supplement to the roster. But if you relied on free
agency year in and year out it’s not going to work. We’re in a
situation where we need help. We need immediate help and this is
the reason that Ricky’s sitting here.”