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Yankees reportedly interested in Ricky Nolasco, but why?

Uh... why?

Sure, he hasn't been good since 2009, but who's counting?
Sure, he hasn't been good since 2009, but who's counting?
Hannah Foslien

Now that we are approaching mid-June, a month and a half away from the trade deadline, it is inevitable that we would start hearing rumors about the Yankees and random players on teams already far from contention. Frequently, the best players on these poor teams only look good since they are being compared to the filth that surrounds them, but I digress. Today's lucky guest of reported Yankees scouting is Marlins starter Ricky Nolasco. From ESPN's Jayson Stark:

Here's Rumblings' nomination for the first starting pitcher traded this summer: Ricky Nolasco.

The Marlins have Nate Eovaldi and Henderson Alvarez nearing a return from the disabled list. So it's feasible that Nolasco could be dealt weeks before the trading deadline, with the Orioles and Yankees leading the parade of teams that already have interest. A throng of scouts watched Nolasco shut down the Phillies on Tuesday. Here's a review from one of them:

"I think he'd be a great addition for somebody, as a No. 3 or 4 [starter]. He's very similar to what Anibal Sanchez was last year. He's not a 1 or a 2. But he's a veteran guy who can go out and spin seven innings, and do it, I think, for a contending team."

Oh dear God.

I do hope that the Yankees' interest in Nolasco is only cursory. The righthander is 3-7 in 14 starts and 87 2/3 innings this year with a 3.80 ERA, 3.65 FIP, 7.4 K/9, 2.3 BB/9, and 1.2 fWAR. That might not seem so bad at first glance, but adjusting his ERA and FIP yields an ERA- of 99 and a FIP- of 94. Those numbers are only better than those posted by Phil Hughes among all five regulars in the Yankees' rotation (Hughes is at a 115 ERA- and 105 FIP-). If the Yankees are looking for improvements over Hughes, that's fine, but it seems questionable to have much interest in Nolasco unless they do not plan on giving up anything of much value, especially because Nolasco would be a two-month rental.

Furthermore, Nolasco's numbers might seem good this year, but even though he's only 30, 2013 has been his first decent season in four years:

Nolasco Year ERA- FIP- fWAR rWAR
2008 81 86 3.9 4.2
2009 119 78 4.1 0.7
2010 110 95 2.3 1.5
2011 121 90 3.1 0.7
2012 113 99 2.5 1.8
2013 99 94 1.2 1.0

FanGraphs WAR tends to like Nolasco more than Baseball-Reference's WAR due to the fact that he does not issue many walks, but the problem is that Nolasco gives up a ton of hits. He led the National League in hits allowed in 2011 (244), and he finished third in the category last year (214). His 83 hits surrendered so far rank seventh in the league, and his line drive percentage against since 2011 is over 22 percent. Transplanting him to a smaller ballpark while also having to face designated hitters rather than pitchers seems like a bad idea.

Oh, and that scout's Anibal Sanchez comparison? That's laughable. Compare Sanchez's numbers since 2008 to Nolasco (recall Sanchez had injury-shortened seasons in '08 and '09):

Sanchez Year ERA- FIP- fWAR rWAR
2008 129 112 0.3 -0.2
2009 91 107 0.7 1.7
2010 87 82 4.2 3.2
2011 95 86 3.6 3.8
2012 96 88 3.6 2.4
2013 64 44 3.4 2.5

Amusingly, the two former teammates have drifted in opposite directions since the start of the 2010 season. Sanchez had a strong two and a half years prior to his trade to the Tigers last summer, and Nolasco only has this one two-month stretch in his favor. He was not really a pitcher in demand over the past two years, otherwise we probably would have seen him traded last summer when Sanchez left Florida as well.

Nolasco might be an improvement over Hughes, but if the Yankees want to acquire him, the cost better not be too high. Michael Pineda is on the comeback trail as well, so it would make more sense to just try him out in the rotation once he's healthy if the Yankees are unsatisfied with Hughes. If Pineda gets reinjured, then they can always just try Vidal Nuno or Ivan Nova, too. Giving up prospects for a #5 starter simply does not seem like a sound baseball decision.

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