With the time crunch I’m currently under, I would still like to briefly discuss the Marlins’ intelligent move to extend Ricky Nolasco over the weekend. The deal was reported as a three-year, $26.5M deal, which is just around what I predicted a few weeks back in my revised offseason checklist. The deal is not likely to be all that different from this breakdown:
This deal means a few things for the Marlins. Beyond locking up a decently young pitcher through his first free agent year, the Marlins are showing a commitment both to Nolasco and the team as a whole going into the new stadium. Right now, the Marlins have identified the core players they think are going to carry the team to its next postseason appearance in the (hopefully) near future. The extensions of Nolasco, Hanley Ramirez, and Josh Johnson tag these players as an integral part of the team’s future. Along with the young, cost-controlled core of Mike Stanton, Logan Morrison, and possibly Gaby Sanchez, the team has a set of players committed through the next three years that will serve as the foundation for a competitive team. This core has been given three seasons to help deliver a winning postseason team; if the Marlins cannot compete with this set of players, they will likely let at least two of the extended players walk in their final contract years.
This extension also makes me feel more confident in the analytical aspect of the Marlins’ front office. In the past, I have bashed the Fish for maintaining an approach that seemed to ignore the advantages of statistical analysis. I saw a potential Nolasco extension as something of a litmus test for the Fish; if they remained confident in Nolasco’s capabilities after two seasons of underwhelming performances despite impressive peripherals, then they may be using enough statistical analysis to make discerning moves. Sure, the team’s scouts could have noticed that Nolasco was underperforming based on his motions and pitching approach, but looking at the statistics would serve to at least reinforce that notion. Maybe the Marlins noticed the perenially low walk rates and good strikeout numbers and saw a pitcher that should remain efficient through the next three seasons despite the setbacks of 2009-2010.
It also makes me confident that the Marlins have found some possible fixes for Nolasco in terms of his issue with runners on. I have a feeling that Nolasco’s approach or mechanics when pitching out of the stretch are causing his sub-par performance with runners on base, and I am hoping that the Marlins have noticed this as well. With this extension, the Marlins have expressed confidence in Nolasco’s future performance, and that may mean not only expecting regression but a possible fix to this problem. This remains to be seen, but I feel much more confident about this than I did before.