NASHVILLE - So here's some surprising news from the Winter Meetings: Ricky Nolasco wants to be traded!
No, wait. That's not surprising. If you were Ricky Nolasco, would you want to pitch for the Marlins. Or even if you weren't (which you're probably not)?
Anyway, Nolasco doesn't want to. Here's the latest, via ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick:
Nolasco, who turns 30 later this month, is 76-64 with a 4.49 ERA in parts of seven seasons with the Marlins. He has surpassed 185 innings four times in the past five seasons. With a base salary of $11.5 million next season, Nolasco is easily the team's highest-paid player.
Just in case you've got a short memory or spent 2012 blogging about Homeland, just a year ago the Marlins were the talk of the Winter Meetings, signing three of the more heralded free agents on the market. One last-place season later, the Marlins have almost finished whittling their payroll to practically nothing; at this moment in this era of skyrocketing salaries, the Marlins currently have only two players slated to earn more than $2 million in 2013. And now one of those guys wants to be traded, and another (Yunel Escobar) the Marlins are reportedly trying to trade.
I suspect the Marlins would absolutely love to trade Nolasco. Seeing as how he i) makes a lot of money, and ii) isn't actually all that good. Which of course makes him hard to trade. Essentially, the Marlins are stuck spending a lot of money on Nolasco this season. However, they might be able to shed a bit of his salary and/or wheedle a marginal prospect away from some pitching-desperate club. But while the Marlins will effectively still be paying Nolasco, even if they trade him, that money won't be showing up on the field for them. What's most interesting, from a performance standpoint, is the money a team puts on the field over the course of six months. And if the Marlins trade Nolasco and Escobar, they'll be putting very, very, very little money on the field next season.
The least money, though? It's going to be close. At the moment, the Astros' highest-paid player is Jed Lowrie. He earned just $1.15 million in 2012, but is arbitration-eligible and due for a big raise after his fine season. Next up is Phil Humber, who recently signed with the Astros for $850,000.
So it might be close ... Except it would probably make a great deal of sense for the Astros to trade Lowrie, who at this point is their most marketable property and probably won't be a great player when they're ready to contend again. I don't want to put any words in Jeff Luhnow's mouth, but last night when I was in the Winter Meetings bathroom stall, I heard someone really smart in the next stall on his cell phone, saying, "Yeah, sure we'll trade Jed. But it'll take more than one Grade B prospect, Billy!"
Which reminds me that the Astros' move to the American League is well-timed. It might have seemed unseemly for both the Marlins and the Astros to play in the same league. But now they'll balance one another nicely, with each serving as cannon fodder in intra-league games. Otherwise we might have seen three or four 100-win teams in the National League next season. Which just wouldn't do.