Acquired RHP Ricky Nolasco, RHP Alex Meyer, and cash from Minnesota Twins in exchange for LHP Hector Santiago and RHP Alan Busenitz. [8/1]
Acquired RHP Jesus Castillo from Chicago Cubs in exchange for RHP Joe Smith. [8/1]
Terry Ryan's downfall as Twins general manager can be traced to many key decisions that went poorly, but chief among them is signing Ricky Nolasco to a four-year, $49 million contract as a free agent and trading starting center fielder Denard Span to the Nationals for pitching prospect Alex Meyer.
Nolasco has been hurt and horrible in Minnesota, posting a 5.44 ERA in 321 innings, and Meyer has seen his prospect stock nosedive thanks to injuries and ineffectiveness. Now interim general manager Rob Antony, who took over for Ryan two weeks ago, has shipped them both to the Angels as a package deal.
Nolasco's secondary numbers are much better than his ugly ERA, but that's been true for nearly his entire career and it's never helped much. On the surface Nolasco always looks like a quality mid-rotation starter with a solid strikeout rate, decent control, and a palatable home run rate, but in 11 seasons his ERA has been better than the league average exactly twice: 2008 and 2013.
His current DRA is 4.26 compared to a 5.44 ERA, but his career DRA is 3.75 compared to a 4.58 ERA. If you buy into the notion that Nolasco has simply been unlucky for a decade then the Angels picked up a decent 33-year-old starter signed through 2017. If you don't, then it's only a matter of time before Mike Scioscia and company tire of Nolasco's good curveball and bad everything else.
Meyer hasn't pitched since early May because of a shoulder injury that the Twins kept downplaying until finally shutting him down. He was a first-round pick in 2011 and a consensus top-100 prospect who showed lots of promise as a starter as recently as 2014, striking out 153 batters in 130 innings at Triple-A. However, the 6-foot-9 right-hander has struggled to throw strikes and stay healthy since.
Minnesota shifted him to the Triple-A bullpen and then moved him back into the rotation before the injury brought everything to a halt. His fastball reaches the mid-90s and could reside there consistently as a reliever, making for a nice fallback plan if the Angels decide the 26-year-old isn't suited for starting long term. Meyer is the key to this deal from the Angels' point of view, because it's hard to imagine them bothering with Nolasco on his own. —Aaron Gleeman
Castillo was originally signed by the Diamondbacks, and came over to the Cubs in the deal for the great Tony Campana. A 20-year-old right-hander, Castillo has started to fill out his frame, and now sits in the low 90s with the occasional bump up into the mid-90s when he reaches back for more. The breaking ball is still a work in progress and will show too much slurviness, and he doesn't have great feel for it. The changeup, on the other hand, has long been his best offering, and it now will flash plus.
He's still learning how to repeat his delivery, but he's throwing more strikes this year than his previous professional seasons, and there isn't as much effort in the delivery. There's a long way to go, but the Angels need arms with upside badly. They got one with Castillo. —Christopher Crawford
Nolasco’s arrow should ostensibly point up at a certain minor angle, for all of the opposite reasons that Santiago’s points down. The difference is that we’re hopping down a few tiers to get into Nolasco territory, and even the modest contextual bumps he’ll see with this move don’t add up to a real change in his value going forward. If you’re desperate for innings in an AL-Only league or a really, really deep mixed one, you can throw a Hail Mary with Nolasco in a good matchup. Otherwise, nope. —Wilson Karaman
Acquired LHP Hector Santiago and RHP Alan Busenitz from Los Angeles Angels in exchange for RHP Ricky Nolasco, RHP Alex Meyer, and cash. [8/1]
Twins interim general manager Rob Antony got creative in dumping the final year of Ricky Nolasco's contract. The assumption has long been that the Twins would need to eat nearly all of the remaining deal to wash their hands of Nolasco, but instead Antony paired him with former top prospect Alex Meyer to somewhat lessen the amount of cash changing hands.
The upside is that it's slightly less embarrassing than flat-out paying another team to take Nolasco, but the downside is that Meyer could come back to haunt the Twins if he gets healthy and regains his old promise. Even if that happens Antony left room for the Twins to like the deal, adding left-hander Hector Santiago as a veteran rotation replacement under team control through 2017 and Triple-A right-hander Alan Busenitz as a hard-throwing bullpen flier.
Santiago is in the midst of a career-worst year, posting a 4.25 ERA after five straight seasons under 3.75. He's gone 7-0 with a 2.52 ERA since mid-June, but that stretch has involved a ton of smoke and mirrors based on a .232 batting average on balls in play that covered up for 29 walks in 54 innings. He leads the league in walks this season and has always had poor control, but Santiago has been sort of the anti-Nolasco in that his career ERA of 3.68 is much better than his career 4.99 DRA.
Minnesota no doubt views him as a 28-year-old lefty with the 3.68 ERA rather than taking a deeper dive into his peripherals and will put Santiago into Nolasco's old rotation spot, with a bonus being that his team control for 2017 comes via arbitration rather than a guaranteed salary. If he has a decent stretch run, expect the Twins to keep Santiago around even with a big raise due from his current $5 million salary.
Busenitz was a 25th-round pick in 2013 and recently advanced to Triple-A at age 25. Any notion of him as a starter is long gone, but the combination of his strikeout numbers and mid-90s fastball velocity as a full-time reliever are promising. He's more throw-in than prospect, but the Twins are clearly trying to collect hard-throwing, upper-minors bullpen options--they got another one in Pat Light from the Red Sox in exchange for Fernando Abad--and Busenitz fits the description, with a chance to contribute at some point in 2017. If you think of Busenitz like a poor man's Meyer and Santiago as a rich man's Nolasco, the deal has a certain bit of symmetry. —Aaron Gleeman
Santiago is a really, really boring pitcher to have in any league. You never get excited when you see the little round ball or whatever next to his name that day. He’s there. Sure, he’s facing the Yankees today, he can eat some innings. Well, the punchline here is that he’s a decent, consistent-enough pitcher that he’s on somebody’s roster in almost three-quarters of Sportsline leagues. And what you see and get may be a little less impressive down the stretch, to where he’s a little bit more of a borderline starter in mid-depth leagues.
His twin bugaboos of homer uns and walks will not enjoy this transaction: Target Field is more vulnerable to the long ball than the Big A, and by a comfortable margin at that. Right-handed hitters prove especially difficult for Santiago’s fastball-change combination to navigate, and that happens to be the better side for long-ballin’ up north. And the fly balls he gives up that don’t leave the yard will be left at the mercy of one of the least-efficient outfield defenses in the majors. He’ll also see a significant downgrade from the Carlos Perez-Geovany Soto tandem that has caught the majority of his starts to date, as still-not-traded Kurt Suzuki is a poor pitch framer. —Wilson Karaman
Acquired RHP Joe Smith from Los Angeles Angels in exchange for RHP Jesus Castillo. [8/1]
The real issue, of course, isn't that Joe Smith will have to change his name again. It's that no one watches Angels baseball now, but everyone is going to watch the Cubs come October. Joe will be on the mound in a critical inning, and we'll see the slightest flinch before a wild pitch. We'll attribute it to postseason nerves or a momentary misfire of the body, but the chill runs deeper and terrifies more completely than we’ll know.
Is this the pitch? Is this the close up where the broadcast camera lingers a moment too long and suddenly, Vinny will look up at his TV, and recognize me as the accountant who got in too deep and ultimately turned state's evidence in exchange for a new name and a new future?" Somewhere in the back room of a New Jersey Italian restaurant, Vinny squints up at that TV, before turning to a mustachioed confidant and nodding. "That's him." At least Joe will get a ring. And the Cubs will get another bullpen piece for Joe Maddon to play with. Sure Smith’s home run rate is up and his strikeout rate is down, but he gets grounders, and I guess you can’t really have enough bullpen help. —Meg Rowley
Joe Smith’s going to Joe Smith, and now he’s going to do it for the Cubs, which means even if a guy or four get hurt in front of him, he’s still not going to get any save opportunities. And if Joe Smith isn’t getting any save opportunities, there are about 150 relievers with a better whiff rate than Smith’s this year, any number of which would provide better middle-man value. Those in deep Holds leagues can hang onto him until Maddon’s usage pattern becomes clear, but I still be scouring the wire for options with better ratios. —Wilson Karaman