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Potential A’s and Marlins Moves and the Shortstop Situation

December 3, 2012

Billy Beane and the rest of the general managers from around baseball are all gathered at the Gaylord Opryland in Nashville for the Winter Meetings. The A’s GM sat down the with firesale orchestrating brass of the Miami Marlins and it is believed to be they talked shortstop Yunel Escobar with whom the A’s were linked last summer back when he was with Toronto. Escobar, in Miami by way of the monster trade last month, isn’t an ideal fit for the A’s as he has a noted checkered clubhouse past, and last year even had issues having eye black with a gay slur on them. Not exactly the type of guy I want to have a rooting interest in. But with the Marlins all options are on the table and everyone there seems to have expressed an interest to play anywhere else, most recently starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco.

I’d really like to see the A’s go after Nolasco. Nolasco is in the last year of a three year deal and is due $11.5M for 2013, a large sum for the Miami Marlins (not that it isn’t a large sum for the A’s, as that figure would make him Oakland’s best compensated player as well). Nolasco is an interesting case, his peripherals always have outdone his actual ERA. For his career he owns a 3.83 FIP but a 4.49 ERA and that split is quite consistent, with his 2012 ERA coming in at 4.48 compared to a 3.87 FIP. Bill James at least expects that trend to continue as he has him projected for a 2013 FIP of 3.83 compared to a 2013 ERA of 4.49. Nolasco doesn’t get as many strikeouts as one would want, 5.9 K/9 in 2012, but keeps the walks to a minimum (2.2 BB/9 in 2012 exceeding his 2.1 BB/9 career mark) and is average at keeping balls in the yard (0.9 HR/9). Nolasco consistently has a high BABIP which will keep the ERA higher, a career .309 mark and in 2012 it was right there at .309 too. Furthermore with a 46.6% groundball rate, he is more likely to see balls go through the infield as opposed to a more fly ball prone pitcher. This is where I think he benefits by a move to Oakland. The A’s defense is a strength (fairly one can question with the departures of both Cliff Pennington and Brandon Inge and likely drop in playing time, and possible drop altogether of Daric Barton whether that will be the case anymore) and that coupled with the big field can help Nolasco thrive in Oakland.

The A’s still have not yet re-signed Brandon McCarthy and Beane acknowledged himself that many teams are interested in the lanky righty so Nolasco could be good protection against that happening. I feel that given the Marlins’ recent payroll slashing ways that Nolasco could be had without a super-strong package going back so long as Oakland eats salary, especially in light of the fact that his agent Matt Sosnick said to Joe Capozzi of the Palm Beach Post that Nolasco would,

“be a completely happier player playing somewhere else. He [Nolasco] just wants a fresh start. He was tired of it [the Marlins’ repeated cost cutting moves]. The bottom line: he is hoping to get to pitch for somebody else in 2013.’’

Nolasco could fit in well to the A’s rotation if the A’s re-sign McCarthy or especially if they fail to do so. Furthermore if Oakland can sign  McCarthy as well, they could potentially turn around a young arm or two to acquire Dee Gordon from the Dodgers to fill the hole at shortstop. The formerly highly regarded prospect has played to a combined -0.5 WAR in two half-seasons with the Dodgers earning a .260/.299/.315 slash line with a home run and 56 stolen bases in 73 tries across 563 plate appearances. While Gordon clearly has his deficiencies, he is young, under team control and has room to grow. Gordon to me represents a lot more upside than does Escobar who clearly can play baseball as last year he posted a career worst 1.8 WAR with a .253/.300/.344 slash line across 608 plate appearances with nine dingers. At five million a season (with two more $5M a season options for 2014 and 2015) Escobar represents great value, and I presume that he is the true target of any trade talks with the Fish but it’d be nice to see some outside of the box thinking. Maybe Beane can steal Escobar and Nolasco? Who knows.

On the news front, we do know that Beane is meeting with the Marlins. The A’s also to fill their shortstop hole are still talking with Stephen Drew and Japanese import Hiroyuki Nakajima, who is intriguing as a possibility for the A’s. I don’t think that the A’s are necessarily limited to one or the other though (a shortstop of the likes of Escobar or Drew, and Nakajima too) and that could allow Nakajima some opportunity to acclimatize to American baseball at the worst, or give the A’s a strength from which to shore up other weaknesses down the road.  to

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