Deal for Nolasco is right type of move for Dodgers
LA improves rotation while keeping steady starter out of reach from rivals
SAN FRANCISCO -- The addition of Ricky Nolasco will not transform the rotation of the Los Angeles Dodgers. But that doesn't mean this acquisition is a mistake.
The Dodgers on Saturday announced that they had acquired Nolasco in a deal in which they traded three Minor League pitchers to the Miami Marlins. The Dodgers will assume the remainder of the $11.5 million salary that Nolasco is owed for this season.
So the Marlins continue to pare payroll and, theoretically at least, build for the future while the Dodgers bolster both their rotation and their postseason chances. This becomes a something-for-everyone swap, although for the short-term future, the immediate help the Dodgers get commands our attention.
"He's somebody who can help us out," Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti said of Nolasco. "Obviously, he's an accomplished big league starter. We felt that we needed to add a starter at this point in the season."
Colletti also liked the fact that the Marlins made Nolasco available well before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline.
"I think it's a benefit to acquire somebody before you get to the 31st," Colletti said. "You get an extra three weeks. So that was part of it, as well. They were willing to make him available before we got to the end of the month."
Nolasco is primarily a two-seamer/slider pitcher, who is having a good season in the midst of a decent career. He is 5-8 with a 3.85 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP this season. He has been healthy, making 31 or more starts in four of the last five years. He is 30 years old, and although he will be a free agent after this season, he is originally from Southern California, so the Dodgers would appear to be logical contenders for his continued services if they continue to require his services.
As a particular attraction in this case, Nolasco has a cumulative 23-12 record with a 3.32 ERA in his career against the other four teams in the National League West. As a further bonus, Nolasco is 5-3 with a 2.09 ERA in nine career starts against the Dodgers' primary rivals, the San Francisco Giants.
If this trade accomplished nothing else for the Dodgers, it would keep Nolasco out of the hands of rival teams. The Giants were mentioned as players in the Nolasco derby, and more recently the Rockies were seen as serious suitors.
To say that the NL West is up for grabs is an understatement. Only one team, Arizona, is north of .500. You don't have to add an Adam Wainwright or a Max Scherzer to your rotation to make a difference here. A Ricky Nolasco might be enough.
With the Dodgers, Nolasco could be comfortably slotted into the fourth spot in their rotation, behind Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, and Hyun-Jin Ryu. When you say that Nolasco is a middle-of-the-rotation starter, that is nothing like an insult, especially here, with two Cy Young Award winners ahead of him in this rotation.
This would allow the Dodgers to move either veteran lefty Chris Capuano or rookie Stephen Fife into the bullpen, where either one could theoretically handle long-relief duties and give the Dodgers many useful innings.
It is important to note Colletti's comments that the Dodgers may not be done making 2013 pitching upgrades.
"This may not be the only deal we do," Colletti said. "Starting pitching is not the only priority. We think if we're healthy, our offense should be fine. When you get to this time of the year, pitching is always a priority. We felt we could use it either in the starting rotation or in the bullpen. Just because we made this one deal doesn't mean that our pitching can't still be improved if we have the chance. If not, we're fine with who we have."
The Nolasco deal is not going to be viewed as the most exciting transaction in recent Dodgers history. But that's not the point. What is needed is a useful transaction. This could be it.
Between the expanded Wild Card field and the widespread prosperity in contemporary baseball, more teams believe that they have a chance to compete for a postseason berth and more teams can afford to lock up their own frontline pitchers with long-term deals. The result is that the available stock of pitchers leading up to the non-waiver Trade Deadline is neither as glamorous nor as diverse as it was in the relatively recent past.
So when the Dodgers needed to fortify their starting rotation, a trade for Nolasco becomes part of the answer, part of the solution. This move doesn't need to be epic, dramatic or sensational. All it needs to be is an improvement. This deal meets that standard.
Mike Bauman is a national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.