Marlins will have no shortage of suitors for Nolasco
Sturdy right-hander the best available pitcher for contenders in need
In the contemporary pitching market, where demand unfailingly exceeds supply, Ricky Nolasco becomes a big name.
The Miami Marlins are reportedly eager to deal Nolasco. In the final year of a three-year deal, being paid $11.5 million this season, Nolasco clearly is outside the Marlins' salary profile.
Nolasco, 30, is having a solid season with a 3.68 ERA. He is primarily a two-seamer/slider pitcher, reliable enough that he could fit nicely into the middle of the rotation for a contender.
This is why contenders are expressing considerable interest in acquiring him. The fact that NL West divisional rivals the Giants and the Dodgers are both reportedly in the Nolasco derby will serve to bolster the Marlins' bargaining position.
The fact that the Giants are in the market for a starting pitcher might indicate that our home planet is spinning off its axis. The Giants, after all, won two of the last three World Series, and those championship teams were built around pitching quality and quantity, beginning with the starters.
Now, through a combination of ineffectiveness and injury, the Giants have become mere mortals in the pitching category. After 76 games they were 11th in the NL in team ERA. Last year, they were fifth. In 2010, they were first.
In Spring Training this year, the Dodgers appeared to have eight legitimate starting pitchers. Injuries to veteran starters removed the surplus. And now, they could use Nolasco.
There are other starters who are frequently mentioned as being both available and useful. Prominent in this category is Matt Garza of the Cubs. He is in the process of re-establishing his value after losing the last two-plus months of 2012 to a fracture in his pitching elbow, then suffering a lat strain that kept him out for nearly the first two months of this season.
Garza has made seven starts since his return. The fact that in his past two starts he has given up just one earned run over 15 innings should be beneficial to both his status and the Cubs' trading position. Those two starts were against the Mets and the Astros, which might be a mitigating factor, but does not undercut the notion that Garza is back in good health.
Overall, these are not the glory days of midseason trading. With the increase in baseball's competitive balance, the general level of prosperity within the game and the expansion of the Wild Card, more teams than ever have reasons to see themselves as something other than sellers.
With the season nearly at the halfway point, there are no fewer than 22 teams that could harbor reasonable hopes of qualifying for the postseason. Perhaps some of them are being overly optimistic, but the game is now structured around the concept of competitive inclusion.
Perhaps this situation will change dramatically between now and the non-waiver Trade Deadline at the end of July. But it is not likely that the market is going to be flooded with highly talented pitchers. They're too hard to find, too hard to develop and basically too hard to part with in many cases.
The comments of Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr., when asked about the possibility of trading Cliff Lee, were typical and instructive in this regard.
"I hope to win with him," Amaro said, "and I think we have a much better chance to win with him than to win without him, frankly, and as I said, having [Cole] Hamels and Lee at the top of the rotation gives us a much better chance than [without]."
So at the moment the head of the class among pitchers available at midseason is Ricky Nolasco. The question is not whether Nolasco is going to win a Cy Young Award. The question is whether Nolasco will be better than what some contending team currently has, and thus will give that team a better chance to reach the postseason.
There will be more than one club answering that question with a convinced, confirmed, resounding "yes."