The details of the contract that Ricky Nolasco signed Tuesday have been reported incorrectly, the Twins’ newest player insists. Sure, he is guaranteed $49 million over four years, but “the way I look at it is, it’s a five-year contract.”
There’s a clause that says if the righthander pitches 400 innings during the 2016 and 2017 seasons, he will earn another $13 million for 2018 season, too. And the 30-year-old Californian sounds absolutely certain that he will achieve it.
“I have no issues with the body [or] arm. I feel great,” said Nolasco, who has pitched 185 innings in five of the past six seasons. “I believe 100 percent in myself, and that I will fulfill all five years.”
Of all the attributes that Nolasco brings, that might be the most attractive to his new club. He has pitched at least 190 innings in three consecutive years, a streak no Twins pitcher has equaled since Johan Santana departed six years ago. He did it in the National League, despite being pulled for pinch hitters before he was tired, a factor that Nolasco figures will only add to his workload here.
And while the Twins are wary of long-term deals for pitchers, General Manager Terry Ryan said the fifth-year vesting provision wasn’t particularly worrisome. “It’s a sizable vesting option, but if he does what the [contract] indicates, it won’t be difficult” to live with, Ryan said. “He’s going to have to pitch [to earn it]. It’s no gimme.”
And neither is hitting him.
“He throws plenty hard. He’s got a nice, power-type curveball, he’s got a slider with some depth, and he’s got a good changeup. He’s got deception, too. He can strike people out, and not just with any one pitch, which is good,” Ryan said of Nolasco, who had a 3.70 ERA last season in 33 starts. “He’s athletic, he’s strong — what can you ask for more than that? I’m not going to pretend he’s [Tigers ace Justin] Verlander, but he’s pretty good.”
Which is why the Twins made Nolasco a priority from the day he filed for free agency.
“Them making me feel so wanted here was the big factor. They reached out on Day 1 and they never stopped,” said Nolasco, who spent seven seasons with the Marlins and three months last summer with the Dodgers after a trade. “That’s a good feeling, to have someone come after you like that and make you feel wanted.”
Not to mention, fulfill your contract requirements.
“There were a lot of teams that offered three years. We made it clear that the only way this was going to be done fast was if there was a fourth guaranteed year,” said Matt Sosnick, agent for both Nolasco and Twins outfielder Josh Willingham. “The Twins understood that, and made this work.”
Nolasco enjoyed pitching for his hometown Dodgers, he said, even though it was only for three months. But the ending wasn’t so great. Los Angeles was unwilling to offer him a long-term deal. After two poor starts to close the season, he was skipped for a start in the NLDS against Atlanta. And the Dodgers pinch hit for him in his final regular-season appearance, leaving him at 199⅓ innings — or two outs short of a bonus worth a reported $250,000.
“We knew [the Dodgers] weren’t going to be an option anymore, and that’s OK. I got to play there a half a year, I can say I got to pitch for the Dodgers,” said Nolasco, who then showed he might still have a bit to learn about the Twin Cities. “But that’s in the past. I’m concentrating now on what we can do here in the city of Minnesota to turn this team around and help this team win.”
The Twins’ search for a catcher suffered a couple of setbacks. One day after Boston signed A.J. Pierzynski, their primary target to succeed Joe Mauer until Josmil Pinto is ready to take over full-time, another possibility disappeared when Jarrod Saltalamacchia reportedly agreed to a three-year, $21 million deal with Miami.
Dioner Navarro also signed with Toronto, but the pool of free-agent catchers still includes veterans J.P. Arencibia, John Buck, Will Nieves, Kurt Suzuki and Kelly Shoppach.