The Blue Jays have a lot of decisions to make in the upcoming off-season, from a new team president to a likely new general manager and even deciding whether or not to keep the team’s greatest player of all time in Roy Halladay. I am going to be doing a series of posts in the new few weeks and months as the looming off-season is nearly upon us, with players (realistically – sorry Pujols is just not an option) I feel the Blue Jays would be smart to acquire.
The first player on my off-season wish list is SP Ricky Nolasco. I know what you are thinking, the first player the Blue Jays should be attempting to land is a pitcher coming off a 13-9, 5.06 ERA season – I must be crazy, or stupid. Well, you just helped my case if you felt it would be just plain insanity to even consider a guy like Nolasco – maybe this is the perfect time to strike for a guy who appears to have had a rough year but whose peripheral stats were nearly as good as any pitcher in the majors and a man who suffered from some extremely tough luck in 2009.
Ricky Nolasco, who will be 27 years old on opening day in 2010 just had one of the strangest seasons a pitcher has had in a long time. Nolasco had the highest ERA (5.06) for any pitcher in history with a 1.25 WHIP and one of the biggest discrepancies between his ERA (a relatively useless stat) and his FIP (fielding independent pitching). Nolasco led all qualified starting pitchers in the major leagues with a 1.71 difference between his ERA (5.06) and his FIP (3.35) as he suffered from absolutely miserable luck this season – namely a .336 BABIP and very low 61% LOB.
As you can see that 5.06 ERA sticks out like a sore thumb when you look at all of the other stats listed on the above table, as does the .336 BABIP and 61% LOB rate. All things considered Nolasco was actually a better pitcher in 2009 as he took his strikeout game to an entirely new level with a 9.5 K/9 with the help of his wicked slider (which was worth 12.2 runs per 100 pitches) and an improved split finger offering (worth 5.6 runs per 100 pitches thrown). Nolasco recently struck out 9 batters in a row (one strikeout away from the record) and has been fairly dominant since his return to the major leagues after a quick demotion.
The Florida Marlins are reportedly already looking to shed salary and Nolasco will be entering his lucrative contract years in the near future and the Blue Jays have what any cost sensitive teams want, cheap young talent. I am not sure what it would take to get the deal done, but if the Jays offered Brett Cecil and a young bat it might be enough – but that is strictly hearsay. Likely the Marlins know what they have in Nolasco and the young stud righty is anything but available in their eyes, but it has to be worth a phone call –or two.
If the Blue Jays are serious about adding payroll in 2010 and want to keep Roy Halladay, adding a legit #2 starter to backup Roy Halladay ala the much missed A.J. Burnett would be the first move I would make before looking at adding a veteran bat to take pressure off Aaron Hill and Adam Lind in the heart of the Toronto order. If the perceived value of Ricky Nolasco is low this would seem like the ideal time to try and pull off a steal.