Mystery trades and the value of Nolasco and Nunez


Earlier today, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald had a piece up regarding the Marlins checking on the market for pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Leo Nunez. This is not surprising for a few reasons:

– Teams should be checking on the value of anyone, especially when it comes to a guy like Nolasco who still holds some value.

– The Marlins were targetting a certain payroll and may have added enough players to go over that target dollar amount.

Initially, I felt this deserved a small mention alongside what the trade value for the two players would be, but news of a potential three-team deal that was discussed between the Marlins, the Colorado Rockies, and Texas Rangers upped the interest in a potential Marlins trade. The trade seems to have involved both Nolaco and Nunez, though no other major details are known at this time.

Two important things should be mentioned with regards to something like this:

1) What is the trade value of Nolasco and Nunez?
2) Is trading either of these guys a good idea to begin with?

Let’s discuss these points.

(EDIT: Lots of rumors coming out since I started this article, including something involving Zack Greinke coming to Florida. I won’t go into it any further, but you can follow it all here. Make sure you follow me on Twitter for my instant thoughts on the situation.)

Trade Value

Projecting Ricky Nolasco is probably the most difficult thing possible. Despite the fact that, over the last three seasons, he has posted K/BB rates of 4.43, 4.43, and 4.45 (one of my favorite statistical oddities in baseball right now), his ERA has wildly fluctuated, from the good 2008 (3.52) to the bad 2009 (5.06). The 2010 season did not bring any relief, as he again posted an oddity of a season with a 4.51 ERA despite a solid 3.86 FIP and even better xFIP/SIERA numbers. At this point, anyone’s guess is as good as mine as to how many runs Nolasco will allow next season. My crude projection based on weighting of last season’s preseason projections and the actual 2010 performance yields an estimated 3.92 ERA, which isn’t all that far off of what professional projection system ZiPS has listed (3.78 ERA). At that sort of performance in 185 IP would yield about 3.0 WAR for the Marlins, with a tad more (up to 3.2) if he gets 200 IP. Giving Nolasco that sort of performance over two seasons gives him between 6 to 8 WAR over two seasons, a value of between $31 and $35M.

Nunez is a reliever, and as such relievers are so volatile it’s hard to guess where they will be in the next year or two. ZiPS estimates Nunez as a true-talent 3.66 ERA pitcher out of the pen, which is almost exactly where I placed him (3.65 ERA). At that level of performance, with a closer’s leverage index, Nunez would have been worth about 1.1 WAR. For two seasons of him, that’s a free agent value of $11M.

Spencer mentions that Nolasco is scheduled to make about $6.5M in his third season of arbitration, with a likelihood of up to $10M in 2012. Meanwhile, Nunez figures to make $4M this season and probably about $6M the following year. As a result, in total a package including both Nolasco and Nunez would be worth about $14-16M in surplus value. That is a decently valuable commodity, worth a top-notch pitching prospect or a few good names.

Would the Marlins make a trade?

The team would certainly listen to offers, but it seems as if they are not going to be “selling” these pieces off for prospects. The Marlins are likely looking to acquire names that will help immediately, not in the future. Signings such as the Javier Vazquez move show that the Fish are interested in being fringe contenders despite the difficulty of the NL East. By trading Ricky and Nunez, the Marlins would probably be acquiring a player who is at best a sideways move and at worst a prospect or set of prospects that would not help the team in 2010. With the plethora of one-year deals the Marlins currently have and the core of players for the next era already accumulating service time in the majors, the window for the Marlins to seriously compete is only for the next three seasons. I think if the team is to make a deal, they will look to maximize that time frame, with a particular eye towards 2010. As it stands, no such deal exists as far as I can see, so I just don’t see the team making a move.