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But as big of a deal as that news conference was Tuesday afternoon, there was a reality check less than 24 hours later. The Yankees once again opened their giant checkbook and reportedly agreed to terms with free agent outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury on a 7-year, $153 million deal. This makes Ellsbury the next Johnny Damon when it comes to Beantown Betrayal.
It also represents more than triple in total value what the Twins paid for Nolasco, and nobody really bats an eyelash when the Yankees do it.
All of this, too, while the Yankees are reportedly trying to cut payroll.
Then again, the Yankees' version of cutting down means getting just under the $189 million luxury tax threshold. Even if New York wound up at, say, $185 million for next season, they would still dwarf the Twins and many other teams.
This isn't news, just review -- and a reminder that on a day the Twins spent twice as much as they ever have on a free agent, it was learned the Yankees have committed to spending more than three times that pumped up figure. We wrote a couple months back about spending vs. winning and the correlation. Again, what it comes down to in our mind is this: If the Twins are wrong about Nolasco and he flops, that is a devastating blow to their hopes. If the Yankees miss on a guy like Nolasco, they can always buy another one.
We popped over to Target Field this afternoon for Ricky Nolasco's introductory news conference with the Twins. According to the official press release, he has a four-year contract at $12 million per season every year from 2014-17 and a club option with the potential to vest in 2018.
*It sounded like Nolasco really enjoyed pitching for the Dodgers in the pennant race last season, when he was 8-3 with a 3.52 ERA. He has a lot of family in California and that was a major boost for him, he said. That will obviously not be the case in Minnesota, where he had never been before pitching for the Marlins at Target Field last year. He was here in April, when it was brutally cold. In fact, he pitched in a double-header that was part of a makeup for a snow/cold postponement.
*Twins GM Terry Ryan did not think the contract was a departure from the Twins' philosophy, even though it more than doubled the previous largest free agent deal given out. Ryan pointed out that Joe Mauer's contract isn't exactly chump change. He also said that if the team was still in the Metrodome, this deal likely wouldn't have happened. That said, Ryan made it clear that free agency isn't his preferred method of team-building.
*Ryan also made it sound like the team cast a very wide net in free agency. They liked everything about Nolasco and clearly he was an early target, but he wasn't by any means the only target. It's unclear when the team's deal with Phil Hughes (3 years, $24 million reportedly) will be announced.
*Nolasco was flattered by how much the Twins wanted him. It was also revealed that he has an affinity for muscle cars. Hopefully he'll clock in faster on the radar gun with his pitches than his driving.
If the Twins are going to add a big-name veteran catcher to their mix now that Joe Mauer is switching to first base, it reportedly won't be old friend/foe A.J. Pierzynski. His name had been mentioned -- and progress had reportedly been made in bringing him in -- but ESPN is reporting he will sign with the Red Sox:
The Boston Red Sox have come to terms with free-agent catcher A.J. Pierzynski, according to a baseball source, which ends Jarrod Saltalamacchia's tenure with the Red Sox. The deal, which is most likely for one year, the source said, is pending a physical.
In a way, it's not a huge surprise. As much as we liked the idea of bringing back Pierzynski on the Twins, it was hard for us to imagine him going somewhere that is still in rebuilding mode (even after the addition of starting pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes).
That said, this now puts Saltalamacchia on the market ... so you never know if that's the next fit.
Also today, reports were that Joe Nathan, the former Twins closer, has reached agreement on a two-year deal with the Detroit Tigers. Here's a report from cbssports.com.
Ricky Nolasco (4 years, $49 million) and Phil Hughes (3 years, $24 million) represent the two richest free agent contracts ever given by the Twins to outside players.
Here are three thoughts on each pitcher:
1) This is no sure thing, of course. His best season in the majors was 2008. His next-best was 2013. In-between were four adequate years, but nothing that would light the world on fire. That said, his career rate of 7.4 strikeouts per 9 innings looks much nicer when placed against the context of the Twins' pitch-to-contact staffs of recent years. Basically, by being adequate or better, he will be an upgrade.
2) The best thing about Nolasco aside from his decent strikeout totals is his durability. He's made at least 26 starts every season from 2008-13, and he'll be 31 when the season starts -- meaning we could reasonably expect him to make a lot of starts over the length of his contract.
3) At his best, he should be a more strikeout-capable version of the 2010-11 Carl Pavano who gave the Twins a lot of innings and was a reasonable option to start big games. At his worst, he will be an overpaid strikeout-capable version of Kevin Correia, more of a No. 3 or No. 4 starter eating innings. Either way, he's an upgrade.
1) We're actually more excited about this signing than the Nolasco deal because we think it has more value, Hughes potentially has more upside and as the second domino to fall in the rotation it gives the starting five a very viable feel. His career splits trend very nicely on the road. Whether it's the Yankees' ballpark or the pressure of pitching in New York, a change of scenery could be what Hughes needs to put it all together. Career at home: 4.96 ERA and opponents have a .807 OPS. On the road, those numbers dip to 4.10 and .690. Pitching at Target Field should be a very good thing for him.
2) That said, if it was the bright lights of Yankee Stadium that hurt Hughes, he could be one of those pitchers that crumbles in big games. The Twins don't figure to be in a pennant race immediately, but it's something to monitor. It could be the ballpark. It could be something else.
3) The biggest risk with Hughes is durability. He's made at least 29 starts in three of the past four years -- including seasons with 16 and 18 wins -- but he's never topped 191 innings. But he's still young (27) and averages 7.6 strikeouts per nine innings. The price the Twins paid felt neither cheap nor too much.
Your thoughts, please, in the comments.
Todd Jones has more than 300 career saves, two of which he collected in a brief stint with the Twins in 2001 as the Get To Know 'Em crew came up short in their bid to win the division.
But everyone in their right mind knows Todd Jones is not a Hall of Fame caliber pitcher -- even if he did find his way onto the ballot.
Apparently that includes Jones himself. We love these tweets from Jayson Stark, and we'll send you out into the holiday (no posts tomorrow) with them:
Here's his "official Todd Jones release: "The HOF is for greatness...No one w the nickname `Roller Coaster' should ever be considered..."— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) November 27, 2013
Rest of Todd Jones' "official release" says: "The only thing the HOF will let me in for is to use the restroom." My take: Humility is cool!— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) November 27, 2013