Yesterday at Twins Daily I posed a question for readers about Trevor May, noting his spectacular numbers as a reliever and pondering whether the Twins should view him as a solution to their bullpen needs going forward.
The comments section featured a lively discussion and there wasn't much consensus on the best course of action. One thing did appear to to be unanimous, however, and has for some time: No one seems to want Ricky Nolasco in the 2016 rotation, blocking May or any other talented youngster.
The distaste for Nolasco amongst Twins fans is certainly understandable. As we all know, his contract has been an unmitigated disaster up to this point. In his first season with the club after becoming the highest-paid free agent in franchise history, he went 6-12 with a 5.38 ERA and 1.52 WHIP, both career-worst marks.
This year, his numbers didn't look any better on the surface before he went down with an ankle injury that ended his season after just two months. In seven starts, he had a 5.53 ERA and 1.65 WHIP.
However, there were some positive signs hidden within those bloated numbers, and I'm not talking about his irrelevant 5-1 win/loss record. In 32 2/3 innings, Nolasco had a solid 28-to-10 K/BB ratio, and he was showing slightly improved velocity on his fastball. His FIP checked in at a shiny 2.82.
His main problem was that he was giving up a ton of hits, but the .394 BABIP looks awfully flukish when you consider that he gave up only one home run and 13 total extra-base hits in those seven starts. Nolasco wasn't getting pounded, he was giving up singles in bunches, with an unsustainably low 59.7 percent strand rate. That kind of misfortune tends to even out over extended time, but the righty never had the chance for normalization to set in because he has been on the disabled list since the end of May.
His ankle issues have been frustrating, undoubtedly for him as much as anyone. It was apparently an old injury that resurfaced, and Nolasco took a cortisone shot before ultimately going under the knife in July to try and correct it.
While he's unlikely to throw another pitch this season, Nolasco will have a full offseason to heal up and return next year. At that point, his quality peripherals, along with his track record and his not-all-that-advanced age (he'll turn 33 in December), offer plenty of reason to believe that he can rebound and return to being the useful starter that the Twins thought they were signing in the first place.
That's why all the talk I keep seeing about Nolasco being a "sunk cost," and the suggestions that he should simply be cut outright this winter, strike me as a little ridiculous. He is owed $25 million after this season. I know it's not our money, but does it really seem wise to just flush it down the drain when we've barely had a chance to see what Nolasco can do when he's right physically?
It's not, and it's not realistic. Nolasco will be here at the start of the 2016 season. If things get off to a similarly brutal start, then at that time I could perhaps see the Twins taking the rather drastic step of cutting ties and eating many millions of dollars. But they won't do so before then, nor should they.
However, it is not unthinkable that another club could take interest in the veteran starter during the offseason and flip another bulky contract for his, or take on a share of what he's owed with the Twins picking up the rest. There were some rumblings of the Twins and Padres working on something with Nolasco and James Shields leading up to the deadline, though nothing materialized.
If you're looking to see a Twins rotation next April that doesn't include Nolasco – and who could blame you, since there figure to be several more trustworthy options available – that might be your best bet.