Twins sign Nolasco to team’s largest free-agent deal
MINNEAPOLIS — The Minnesota Twins knew they had to address
their starting pitching issues after another woeful season in 2013. To help fix
the problem, they signed right-hander Ricky Nolasco to the biggest free agent
contract in team history.
The Twins officially announced the signing Tuesday, a
four-year, $48 million deal that will pay Nolasco $12 million each season.
There’s a chance the contract could vest for a fifth year in 2018 with innings
With the addition of Nolasco, the Twins believe they have a
durable starting pitcher who can give them plenty of innings as well as
“This is a good day for the Minnesota Twins,” said
general manager Terry Ryan. “As everybody knows, we’ve had some issues on
the mound, particularly in the starting rotation. We set out this fall to
improve our ability to compete with this club. When Ricky filed for free agency
about Nov. 2 or so, I think he was one of the guys that we had pinpointed that
we wanted to bring over here and we did just that.”
The 30-year-old Nolasco spent most of his career with the
Marlins before he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers this past July. He went
8-3 with a 3.52 ERA down the stretch with the Dodgers and pitched for Los
Angeles in the playoffs.
Nolasco comes to the Twins with a career record of 89-75 and
a 4.37 ERA in 229 career games. What appealed the most to Minnesota, though,
was his durability. He topped 191 innings in each of the last three seasons,
including 199.1 innings this past year with the Marlins and Dodgers.
“First, you’ve just got to be thankful for the
opportunity you’re given and the talents you have,” Nolasco said of his
ability to stay healthy. “The big thing is routine. A starting pitcher’s
routine is huge to know when to kind of tone it down or turn it up. Your
throwing program is very important, knowing not to burn all your bullets in
spring training and be ready to go in August and September because the season
does get long.”
The veteran right-hander has had a solid strikeout-to-walk
ratio over his career. This past season he fanned 165 batters while walking 46,
a ratio of 3.59 strikeouts per walk — a number that would have been the best
among Twins starters a year ago and was 12th among National League pitchers
When Nolasco declared for free agency, the Twins
expressed interest right away with the hope that Nolasco could help bolster
Minnesota’s rotation. Their early interest helped land the right-hander, who
appreciated the Twins’ commitment to him.
“I was interested in whoever was interested in
me,” Nolasco said of his free agency process. “The level that they
showed from Day 1 was big for me. It was probably the most deciding factor in
The Twins had the worst starting rotation in baseball last
year with a combined ERA of 5.26 — nearly half a run higher than the
second-worst rotation, the Blue Jays. With Nolasco already inked, Minnesota has
also reportedly agreed to a deal with free agent Phil Hughes, who should also
help solidify the rotation.
It’s the second year in a row Minnesota has gone out and
signed a pair of veteran starting pitchers as the Twins signed Mike Pelfrey and
Kevin Correia last offseason. Ryan wouldn’t go so far as to say it’s a change
in the philosophy of the Twins’ front office, but it’s clear that Minnesota is
showing a commitment to improving its pitching via free agency.
“We need starting pitching badly, and about anybody
that was out on that market we certainly explored,” Ryan said. “He
gives (us) innings. He can strike people out. He doesn’t walk anybody. That’s
kind of what you’re looking for in a guy in the rotation.”
Nolasco, a southern California native, arrived at a snowy
Target Field for Tuesday’s press conference, tweeting on Monday that “I
like how the snow looks!!” He spent his entire eight seasons in sunnier
states — Florida and California — but is looking forward to a new environment
He also feels prepared for a transition from the National
League to the American League for the first time in his career.
“I’m not really concerned about the adjustments you
need to make. I’m just worried about what I have to do to continue to make
quality pitches,” Nolasco said. “I think as long as you do that and
you make quality pitches consistently, whether it’s the American League or
National League, you’re still going to get guys out.”
Nolasco was joined at Tuesday’s press conference by his
agent, Matt Sosnick, who also represents Twins outfielder Josh Willingham and
catcher Ryan Doumit. Sosnick said the relationship he’s built over the years
with Minnesota’s front office, especially assistant general manager Ron Antony,
helped in the latest negotiation process.
Sosnick also revealed that Nolasco is an avid car collector
and loves to drive muscle cars, including a Lamborghini Gallardo that serves as
the background image on his Twitter account. Nolasco said he currently has
eight cars back home in California.
Luckily for him, he didn’t bring any of them with him this
week to drive on the snowy Minneapolis roads.
“I’m going to have to get something else, maybe a
little SUV or something for that first month,” Nolasco said. “I
definitely enjoy cars, and once that sun comes out I’ll definitely have them
Follow Tyler Mason on Twitter