Wednesday Rockpile: Rockies "in heavy pursuit" of Ricky Nolasco

Jason Arnold

The Rockies began today at 41-43...which somehow places them 2nd in the NL West just 1.5 games behind Arizona. Thanks NL West! In other words, with the playoffs squarely in their sights, Rockies management has decided to go for it...and Ricky Nolasco looks like he's their target. This might not be a good idea.

The Rockies began today at 41-43...which somehow places them 2nd in the NL West just 1.5 games behind Arizona. Thanks NL West! The Rockies are the only team in the division with a positive run differential (+18) and are under-performing their 3rd order winning % by 3.2 games - all of which gives the Rockies a 21% playoff chance per Baseball Prospectus.

In other words, with the playoffs squarely in their sights, Rockies management has decided to go for it...and Ricky Nolasco looks like he's their target. Per ESPN's Jayson Stark, Colorado (along with Los Angeles and Texas) is in "heavy pursuit" of acquiring the 30 year-old RHP from Miami, who might be moved as soon as today. Troy Renck echoes the sentiment that the Rockies are interested in adding Nolasco.

Fox's Ken Rosenthal reports that the Rockies offered "two quality prospects" for Nolasco but were unwilling to take on the remainder of his salary for this year (about $5.7 million) as the Marlins wanted. As Rosenthal points out, this is a pretty unreasonable request by the team with the 2nd lowest payroll in MLB this year.

I'm not sure what two quality prospects means for Colorado, but the fact that the team is willing to trade its prospects this year is a great indicator that management really is serious about being a buyer, given their reticence to do so in years past.

Jeff Sullivan of Fangraphs wrote about trading for Nolasco last week in pretty good depth last week, detailing the kind of impact he will have on the acquiring team. It's got a lot of great information on Nolasco, so I recommend reading it if you are interested in the possibility of acquiring him.

Basically, Nolasco has shown himself to be a league average starter who has a tendency to get worse results than his peripherals (FIP, K/9, etc.) would suggest. For his career, Nolasco has a 3.81 FIP (and 3.78 xFIP, suggesting a very good pitcher) with a 4.45 ERA (suggesting a mediocre one).

That's why the Fangraphs version of WAR, which is based on FIP, rates Nolasco much higher over the last five years than Baseball-Reference's rWAR, which is based more on runs allowed:

Year fWAR rWAR Delta
2009 4.1 0.7 3.4
2010 2.3 1.5 0.8
2011 3.1 0.7 2.4
2012 2.5 1.8 0.7
2013 1.5 1.2 0.3

Nolasco has been one of the pitchers that the two WARs disagree on the most over the last five years - so your opinion of Nolasco as a trade target will largely depend on whether you believe his good peripherals will be a predictor of future success or if his mediocre results with those shiny peripherals to this point indicate that he will continue to post mediocre results. When examining Nolasco, I find myself more and more on the second side of that statement.

Is the marginal benefit of Nolasco of this over Roy Oswalt or Drew Pomeranz worth a package of, say, Tyler Anderson and Will Swanner (plus whatever the Rockies need to pay of Nolasco's salary)? I'd lean towards no, but I'm more bullish on Colorado's starting pitching right now than most. I'd much rather be on the market for a reliever or a utility bat than a rental starting pitcher. Still, it's great to see that management is ready to go for the team's first division title.

Los Links!

In the latest update to NL All-Star Voting, Carlos Gonzalez has moved his way into second among NL outfielders with just two days of voting remaining. Bully for CarGo, well deserved! He joins Troy Tulowitzki as a projected All-Star game starter, but 4th place Bryce Harper is just 26,000 votes behind. If you haven't voted yet, please do so - CarGo wants to be (and deserves to be) in that starting line-up.

Roy Oswalt believes in his ability to help the Rockies win the NL West - if he is to do so, he'll need to pitch better than he did last night (though it's hard to win when you don't score any runs).

Chris St. John at Beyond the Boxscore has a breakdown of hitters that were not among the top 190 coming into this season - and Corey Dickerson laps the pack in the Pacific Coast League, while Rosell Herrera tops the South Atlantic League and Ryan Casteel ranks 2nd in the California League.

OFF-TOPIC.

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