Minnesota Twins: Nolasco Trade Rumors Had No Purpose


Minnesota Twins starter Ricky Nolasco appeared in a possible trade to the San Diego Padres.

Rumors swirled for a few days, then quickly went to bed. Ricky Nolasco was getting shopped around according to Chris Cotillo. The speculation was that Nolasco would be traded to a team willing to take his contract if the Minnesota Twins were willing to receive a similar contract in return. In other words, a swap of bad contracts.

A possible trade never took off. Terry Ryan said they backed out because they did not want to sell low on Nolasco. It suggests that if he were to pitch well in 2016, he would be traded at the deadline or next offseason. That is not the headline news. It is certainly not what to take away from Ryan’s words. The focus lies in what could have been the return for Nolasco.

May 19, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher

James Shields

(33) was in Ricky Nolasco trade rumors. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Names floating around were Tyson Ross and James Shields. Ross would be too steep of an asking price. Shields, however, is more realistic. The Padres signed him to a four-year, $75 million deal with team option for 2019. Last season was his first with the Padres and it did not go well.

Shields started in 33 games in 2015, something he has done since 2008. His 13-7 record was nothing spectacular, but still respectable. Seems good so far.

Here’s where it went wrong. His walk rate, home run rate and WHIP increased in 2015. His 3.6 walk rate was a first and worst for Shields. He never had a walk rate above 2.7 in his career. A 1.5 home run rate tied his career worst. As for his 1.33 WHIP, it was the third worst of his career.

In 2015, he walked a career high 81 batters. He gave up a league leading 33 home runs, second worst of his career. The whole season was about as bad as his worst performance back in 2010.

If the reaction to these stats is to brush them aside, then consider this. Shields pitched 202.1 innings, second fewest in his career. At age 33, he already appears to show signs that he is declining.

Despite these awful numbers, Twins fans on Twitter continued to hope for a trade to exchange Shields for Nolasco. Brandon Warne summed up the fan’s feelings.

There is no question that Nolasco had a bad first year with the Twins. Last year, his second with the Twins, was tough for him with injuries and bad luck. Like any player in a professional sport, a change of scenery might be good for him.

Nolasco resides in Corona, California. It is 96 miles north of San Diego. Naturally, a trade to the Padres seems like a good fit for him. However, the return of Shields is more damaging to the Twins than Nolasco is.

As stated previously, Shields signed a big contract with the Padres. Nolasco has a big contract but for less money. The Twins owe Nolasco $12 million for the next two seasons, while the Padres owe Shields $21 million for the next three seasons. Although, Shields can opt out of his contract after 2016.

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Just take a moment to realize what the Twins would be doing to themselves. Many consider Nolasco a waste of money, but trading for a guy who makes $9 million more would hurt the Twins payroll. The money factor would turn myself away from a Nolasco – Shields trade.

Shields is the opposite of Mike Pelfrey. He is a decent starting pitcher who performs well in the regular season. Pelfrey failed to win the big games, while Shields seems to always bring his level of play up a notch. Heck, his nickname is “Big Game James”.

Sure the big games in the regular season mean a lot but the postseason is where the big games truly are. Shields has a 3-6 record and a 5.46 ERA in 59.1 innings pitched in the postseason.

As for Ryan’s remark on Nolasco’s low value, any trade involving Shields would not benefit the Twins. There is no point to making a trade for trading’s sake. There is no purpose to trading for Shields, who at this point, is a higher priced version of Nolasco.