According to Jayson Stark of ESPN, the Yankees have interest in Miami Marlin's pitcher Ricky Nolasco. The team has been linked to Nolasco for years, and the most recent news before Friday's article came in November. It's not surprising to hear that the Yankees like the right-hander, but the current success of the rotation and depth in the organization should make the acquisition of a back end starter unnecessary. For a guy that's struggled in the past, what could the Yankees like about Nolasco?
Nolasco currently owns a career 4.44 ERA, but he's been a Sabermetric favorite for years thanks to his career 3.82 FIP. Nolasco has appeared poised for a big season ever since his strong 2008 performance (3.52 ERA, 3.77 FIP, 212.1 IP) in Miami, but since then he's run into problems with his BABIP, LOB%, and K%. So far in 2013, Nolasco has tied it all together, posting a 19.8 K%, a 6.0 BB%, a .288 BABIP, and a 73.7 LOB%. He's combined for a 3.80 ERA and a 3.65 FIP, which is right in line with what what advanced numbers expected him to do for his entire career. At the age of 30, it might finally be time for the right-hander to live up to expectations.
The move from the Marlins to the Yankees won't be easy though. Nolasco has pitched in the National League his entire career, and his K% could very easily drop without having to face a pitcher at the plate. Nolasco is also accustomed to Marlins Ballpark, a home that is big enough to contain the long ball. Last year, Nolasco held hitters to just a 0.66 HR/9 at home, but that number was 1.03 on the road. Moving to the hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, which sports a short porch for left-handed hitters, could be a big problem. To add to his home/away splits in 2012, Nolasco has career platoon splits, where righties are slugging .415 off of him with lefties slugging .451. Opposing lefties hitting for power in Yankee Stadium is not desirable.
Nolasco isn't a huge fly ball pitcher though. Over his career, he's allowed just a 37.4 FB%, and in 2012 that rate was down to 31.7%. In 2013, the numbers have been closer to his career rates, but there's still hope that he could own a relatively high ground ball rate if he incorporates a higher sinker usage.
Speaking of which, Nolasco's pitch repertoire is nearly identical to Hiroki Kuroda's. Both sport a sinker, four-seam, slider, splitter, and curveball around the same velocities. Perhaps the front office is hoping that Kuroda could help improve the starter's pitch usage, and then they could try to re-sign him cheaply this offseason.
But it's hard to figure out where the right-hander fits in this rotation. Assuming everyone stays healthy, the Yankees could arguably have 10 starters for 5 spots. When Michael Pineda returns, the Yankees' already have to make a tough decision about moving David Phelps or Phil Hughes out of the rotation. Mike Axisa at River Ave Blues suggested that the team could then trade one of them for a hitter, but with all the steps involved, this does seem impractical. I think it would be more likely that the Yankees would just deal with the Marlins, and trade for a hitter with Nolasco for a package including an excess young pitcher like Phelps or Ivan Nova. Giancarlo Stanton will be the first name that comes to mind, but Logan Morrison, Christian Yelich, and Chris Coghlan could all find a spot on this Yankees' team.