Minnesota Twins: What to do with Ricky Nolasco

Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports /

Nolasco’s ultimatum makes for a sticky situation for Minnesota Twins

Starting pitching Ricky Nolasco‘s representatives recently made it clear the veteran would not be happy if he were demoted to the bullpen during this upcoming season and would want to look into other opportunities if he were sent to the pen.

Like many cases where players drop the hammer and force the organization’s hand, this makes for an incredibly awkward situation for the Minnesota Twins.

When the Twins signed Nolasco to a 4-year, $49 million deal in 2013, the expectation was not that he would become an instant Cy Young candidate but rather a quality, consistent piece of a struggling rotation.

Unfortunately for all parties involved, Nolasco has not yet come even close to those expectations.

Injuries and control issues have plagued the righty for the first two years of his Twins career. These problems are obviously not going unnoticed by Nolasco or the Twins but to try and force the team’s hand after not living up to the expectations set out is just a bad move by Nolasco.

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Of course, nobody likes to be demoted but wouldn’t Nolasco rather be the bigger man and just accept a chance to be part of the team in 2016? Who knows if he pitches well enough and someone in the rotation struggles, it may be Nolasco who is the first to get the call.

So what should the Twins do with Nolasco? The contract he has makes him practically untradeable as it would be difficult to imagine any team wanting to take on that kind of contract for a player who has been mostly ineffective for two seasons.

There’s the option of starting him in Triple-A as a starter so he can get some work in but that would probably make the situation worse.

The general consensus is the rotation will be made up of Phil Hughes, Kyle Gibson, Ervin Santana and Tyler Duffey with the fifth starter yet to be named. It seems Tommy Milone was retained with the idea of making him the fifth starter and so far he looks to have the early upper hand in that competition.

Nolasco hasn’t been spectacular this spring, showing the same signs of inconsistency. Most recently, he allowed three first-inning runs to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday but was able to rebound, throwing two more scoreless innings.

Prior to that, Nolasco allowed three runs over 1.1 innings against the Boston Red Sox but followed that up with three scoreless innings against the St. Louis Cardinals.

It is still too early to know for certain who the fifth starter is but lets just say Milone and Nolasco end up with similar numbers in Spring Training. Then I say the Twins give the fifth spot to Nolasco with a very short leash.

This would give Nolasco some added motivation to improve and also potentially feed him a piece of humble pie if he struggles. If he continues to post ERA numbers in the high fives and would be looking at potentially being designated for assignment, he may be more willing to accept a smaller role as a reliever.

So that’s what I believe the Twins should do with Nolasco for 2016. It is very likely that if he struggles again, this may be his final season with the club. It also may work better to continue the race for the fifth starter into the early parts of 2016.

Next: Miguel Sano

But right now, this race just seems to be a placeholder until prospect Jose Berrios arrives at Target Field.