November 28, 2013

Twins sign Ricky Nolasco to four-year, $49 million contract

ricky nolasco marlins

In a move that more than doubles their previous largest investment in an outside free agent the Twins signed former Marlins and Dodgers right-hander Ricky Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million contract that includes a $13 million team option for 2018. In breaking down this offseason's free agent class I ranked Nolasco atop the middle-of-the-rotation starter category, concluding that his performance has been too inconsistent to consider him a sure-fire top-of-the-rotation starter.

His contract fits that description pretty well, comparing similarly to Edwin Jackson's four-year, $52 million deal with the Cubs last offseason and Mark Buehrle's four-year, $58 million deal with the Marlins two winters ago. Nolasco immediately becomes the Twins' best starter, but obviously that isn't saying much and in terms of MLB-wide salaries his contract pays him like a good but not great veteran starter.

Nolasco has been very durable through age 30, starting at least 30 games and logging at least 185 innings in five of the past six seasons, including 33 starts and 199 innings this year. His ability to prevent runs unfortunately hasn't been as impressive, with ERAs of 5.06, 4.51, 4.67, and 4.48 from 2009-2012 before a 3.70 mark this year. However, his secondary numbers have consistently been much better than his lackluster ERAs.

Expected Fielding Independent Pitching (xFIP) attempts to remove randomness and luck from a pitcher's performance, isolating what he can control (strikeouts, walks, ground balls) as opposed to what he can't control (batting average on balls in play, bullpen strand rate, homers per fly ball). For his career Nolasco has a 3.75 xFIP versus a 4.37 ERA and his xFIP has been better than his ERA in each of the past five seasons, including three seasons of at least a full run better.

All of which suggests that if you give Nolasco a solid defense behind him and some decent luck he'll perform better than his 4.37 career ERA, although moving to the AL after spending his entire career in the NL calling pitcher-friendly ballparks home could complicate things. Among all MLB starters with 150-plus innings Nolasco ranked 33rd, 65th, and 27th in xFIP during the past three seasons and earlier in his career he cracked the top-20 in back-to-back seasons.

Nolasco doesn't throw particularly hard, averaging 90.3 miles per hour with his fastball this year, but he also relies on his fastball less than half the time and features a very effective low-80s slider and decent mid-70s curveball. He misses an above-average number of bats, with a strikeout rate of 7.4 per nine innings this year and for his career, although that number has varied significantly from year to year and dipped as low as 5.9 per nine innings in 2012.

Among the 79 pitchers to log at least 400 innings as starters from 2011-2013 he ranked 37th in strikeout rate, 13th in walk rate, 47th in ground-ball rate, and 32nd in swinging strike rate. Not spectacular, but Nolasco has better raw stuff than a typical strike-throwing pitcher in the Twins' mold. Based on ERA he's a fourth or fifth starter, based on secondary numbers he's a second or third starter, and the Twins are paying him to perform somewhere in between.

Nolasco is hardly a franchise-altering addition, but he's a massive step up from any recent Twins starter and gives them some semblance of an MLB-caliber rotation that will hopefully also include Alex Meyer at the top and Kyle Gibson in the middle at some point soon. And while $49 million is a ton of money within the context of the Twins' previous lack of free agent spending it's more or less the going rate for a pitcher of Nolasco's caliber and they still have plenty of money to spend.


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November 25, 2013

Gleeman and The Geek #121: Taxicab Confessions

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included what the early free agent pitching signings mean for the Twins, protecting prospects from the Rule 5 draft, puking in cabs, weird Duke Welker moves, finding the Jewish guy anywhere, the Tigers trading away Prince Fielder, getting married for $100,000, bachelor parties, Kris Johnson's upside, and beauty of constructive criticism, and f-bomb aftermath.

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 121

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

Here's a behind-the-scenes look at the podcast being recorded:

podcast2


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November 22, 2013

Link-O-Rama

• It never disappoints when a local Minnesota media member makes it on Deadspin.

• Let's pool our money and hire Frank Stallone to play a New Year's Eve blogger meet-up.

• This makes me want to find my doppelganger and just be like "sorry man, I know it's rough."

• Me and this baby from Indonesia have officially swapped bad habits.

• I set my alarm each night, yet wake up a few minutes before it goes off 99 out of 100 mornings, which makes a lot more sense after reading about the science of it on Mental Floss.

• Gophers football coach Jerry Kill on Minneapolis Star Tribune columnist Jim Souhan: "Kiss my ass. I'm going to show you. I'm a Division I coach, OK? I've got epilepsy. I've been doing this shit and winning for a long time. I'll show you."

• Don't pay attention to this troubling report. Cuddling season has officially started in Minnesota. Lower those standards, send out some desperate texts, and get cuddling!

• I've always said that relationships and baseball don't mix.

Ricky Rubio got super dressed up to meet Selena Gomez.

This week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode features the first f-bomb in the podcast's history, along with lots of talk about Joe Mauer changing positions and me getting married. It's also the first brunch episode we've done, so you can hear what I sound like hungover and on zero sleep.

• On a related note, here's an important message about the future of "Gleeman and The Geek."

• Before he became a great big-league catcher Mauer was a great high school quarterback and this KARE-11 feature on him from 2000 is worth watching just for his glasses:

And no sideburns!

Dave Chappelle capped his epic week in Minnesota with a midnight basketball game/pancake breakfast at Target Center. Prince even sent a $25,000 donation for charity.

• During the show I was at Monday night Chappelle talked to an audience member about a local rapper named Tall Paul. They met later in the week and now Tall Paul is getting some press.

• Lorde's song "Royals" was inspired by ... George Brett?

• And here's an interesting cover version of "Royals."

• Even the people who sell boner pills aren't making their employees use BlackBerry any more.

• Living legend Carson Cistulli of Fan Graphs chatted with my former Hardball Times partner Dave Studeman and approximately six minutes in they discussed my social habits, with Cistulli concluding: "Aaron actually is very sweet despite what I've said about him."

• Proud to say that Randball's Stu used the best bathroom in America on our date last month.

• In fairness, television is great and men are gross.

• For those of you with massive crushes on baseball bloggers, Jamie Shupak of How About We explains how to transition an online relationship offline, including: "The first time my fiance ever contacted me was through a direct message on Twitter."

• Meanwhile, hooking up via direct messages just got a little more difficult.

Facebook data shows that people are weirdly racist when it comes to online dating and also that Minneapolis is one of the pickiest cities "based on the lowest number of responses from women."

• Honestly, without this some of us bring nothing to the table (literally and figuratively).

• As if burritos weren't sexy enough already on their own, toss in some D'Angelo and boom:

Just a good all-around use of the internet, really.

• Shoutout to all the Jewish boys who suddenly have big dreams after seeing the Adam Levine news this week. Now go do some situps.

• Can the Twins get anything out of Jason Bartlett and why did they send Duke Welker back to the Pirates two months after acquiring him in the Justin Morneau trade? I'm glad you asked.

• MLB teams hired away two more Baseball Prospectus writers.

• My future wife is getting more obscure with her cover song choices, but her hair remains great.

• I found this "how did we end up married" video equal parts sappy and delightful.

• "The American" just got added to Netflix instant. One of my dozen or so favorite movies, with a great slow burn and George Clooney being George Clooney.

• Beards have now reached Minneapolis Star Tribune trend piece status.

• You could say the Marlins want Juan Uribe to prove it all night, prove it all night.

• This is how I make new fans on Twitter.

• This is the website of the man who coached me through my Bar Mitzvah. No further comment.

• Never forget: Life is amazing.

• As part of a Saturday bachelor party I'm tailgating at the Gophers-Badgers football game to kick off an all-day party bus bender, so my Twitter account should be pretty annoying/amusing.

• Some of this week's weird and random search engine queries that brought people here:

- "Aaron Gleeman married"
- "Aaron Glee"
- "How can an unhealthy teen boy lose 100 pounds?"
- "Boys face stuffing"
- "Top travesties"
- "Doing the truffle shuffle"
- "Twins nerd on KFAN"
- "Effects of the drug known as Kubel"
- "Cory Cove pornstar"

• Finally, this week's AG.com-approved music video is "Unbroken Promise" by Erick Baker:


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November 20, 2013

Twins Notes: Bartlett, Welker, Johnson, Ibarra, Rosario, and Fryer

jason bartlett twins

• After being injured and ineffective in 2012 and sitting out all of this season Jason Bartlett is making a comeback, signing a minor-league deal with the Twins. During his first stint as general manager Terry Ryan traded Brian Buchanan to the Padres in mid-2002 for Bartlett, who was a 22-year-old non-prospect at Single-A. He later became the Twins' starting shortstop, although not before being stuck at Triple-A for far too long so they could play Juan Castro instead.

Bartlett has the third-highest OPS among all shortstops in Twins history, but at age 27 he was traded to the Rays as part of the Matt Garza-for-Delmon Young disaster. Bartlett played well in Tampa Bay for three years, including an All-Star season in 2009, but hasn't been the same since being traded to San Diego. He's now 34 years old and hasn't been healthy and productive since 2010, but considering the other infield options it won't be shocking if Bartlett snags a bench job.

• Back in August the Twins traded Justin Morneau to the Pirates for outfielder Alex Presley and reliever Duke Welker, except they couldn't officially announce Welker's inclusion at the time and instead insisted that they would be choosing a player to be named later from a predetermined list. Six weeks later it became official, as the Twins acquired Welker as the PTBNL. And then yesterday, less than three months after the initial trade, the Twins sent Welker back to the Pirates.

In a move totally separate from the Morneau swap the Twins traded Welker back to Pittsburgh for left-hander Kris Johnson, a 29-year-old career minor leaguer who finally got to the big leagues in August. Welker never appeared in a game as a member of the Twins organization and the oddness of the trade extends beyond that because he's a mid-90s thrower with strong strikeout rates and Johnson has a low-90s fastball with a 4.76 ERA in 431 career innings at Triple-A.

That includes a shiny 2.39 ERA at Triple-A this year, but Johnson managed just 94 strikeouts in 136 innings and had a sub par walk rate. For his Triple-A career Johnson has 5.9 strikeouts and 3.4 walks per nine innings, which is terrible. It's possible that he'll be able to stick for a while as a fifth starter or middle reliever and odds are Welker won't have much of a career anyway, but I'd have taken my chances on the hard-throwing pitcher who hasn't been awful at Triple-A.

• Speaking of left-handers with nice-looking ERAs and poor secondary numbers, the Twins added 24-year-old reliever Edgar Ibarra to the 40-man roster. He posted a 1.93 ERA this year between Double-A and Triple-A to convince the Twins he needed protecting from the Rule 5 draft, but he's not a hard-thrower and a 54-to-29 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 61 innings was unimpressive. Ibarra also had a 4.69 ERA with poor control and just 69 strikeouts in 79 innings last season.

• There's been no confirmation from the Twins yet, but based on this Spanish-language report it sounds like second base prospect Eddie Rosario is facing a 50-game suspension. Rosario ranked seventh on my list of Twins prospects coming into the year and hit .302/.350/.460 in 122 games between high Single-A and Double-A as a 21-year-old, likely rising even higher on the 2014 list and putting himself in position to reach Minnesota in the second half.

• When the Twins called up Eric Fryer for September catching depth my assumption was that he'd be dropped from the 40-man roster as soon as the season ended, yet two months later he remains. Fryer isn't quite the new Drew Butera, but he's a 28-year-old career .208/.312/.313 hitter at Triple-A who has no real business on a 40-man roster regardless of how worried the Twins are about their catching situation with Joe Mauer moving to first base.

• In preparation for the Rule 5 draft the Twins added Max Kepler, Logan Darnell, Jorge Polanco, and Kennys Vargas to the 40-man roster and dropped B.J. Hermsen. No surprises.

Clete Thomas, who started 79 of the Twins' final 105 games this year before being removed from the 40-man roster last month, signed a minor-league contract with the Phillies.

Pedro Hernandez, the soft-tossing left-hander acquired from the White Sox in the Francisco Liriano trade, was also dropped from the 40-man roster and signed with the Rockies.

Antoan Richardson, a journeyman outfielder who never got a chance with the Twins this year despite hitting .285 with a .404 on-base percentage in the minors, signed with the Yankees.

• For a lengthy discussion of Mauer switching positions and an attempt to figure out the Twins' odds of signing a big-money pitcher, check out this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode.


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November 18, 2013

Gleeman and The Geek #120: Moving Mauer and Wedding Bells

Topics for this week's "Gleeman and The Geek" episode included Joe Mauer moving from catcher to first base, the Twins' odds of actually signing Ricky Nolasco or another big-money free agent pitcher, recapping Dave Chappelle's marathon show at First Avenue, Jason Bartlett rejoining the Twins, being sponsored by another podcast, Hebrew school reunions, Twitter beefs, brunch benefits, John Bonnes breaking his toe, and me getting married.

UPDATE: Bonnes forgot to edit it out, so this episode also features the first f-bomb in "Gleeman and The Geek" history. See if you can find it!

Gleeman and The Geek: Episode 120

In addition to the direct download link above you can also subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.


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