The Dodgers and Marlins have reportedly agreed to a trade that will send right-handed starter Ricky Nolasco and $197,000 in cap room to sign international free agents to Los Angeles for a trio of pitching prospects. The trade comes as the Dodgers are beginning to climb in the standings, winning 11 of their last 14, and in the wake of last weekend's news that Josh Beckett will miss the remainder of the season following surgery to relieve thoracic outlet syndrome.
There is an irony to this move, given the Dodgers entered the 2013 season with an apparent excess of starting pitching. L.A. opened the year with eight starting pitchers on their 25-man roster, but they quickly traded one (Aaron Harang), have since lost two to season-ending injuries (Beckett and Chad Billingsley), have been unable to keep a fourth healthy (Ted Lilly), and have had disappointing results from a fifth (Chris Capuano). As a result, Stephen Fife and Matt Magill have combined for seven starts this season, and the Dodgers found themselves in the market for reinforcements.
Nolasco is an upgrade only because Capuano has been so bad (just three quality starts in ten turns, across which he has gone 2-6 with a 5.47 ERA). A 30-year-old righty who posted an 87 ERA+ from 2009 to 2012, Nolasco has been better thus far this season. He has managed to revive his sinking strikeout rate while avoiding the gopheritis that plagued him earlier in his career, but he has merely pulled himself up to league average.
It's not clear Nolasco is better than the pitcher the Dodgers traded away in April, Harang, who ultimately landed with the Mariners and has gone 4-4 with a 3.68 ERA over his last 11 starts. That's hindsight being 20/20, of course, but the comparison isn't flattering to Nolasco, given that the Dodgers effectively had to pay the Rockies to take Harang for Ramon Hernandez, a backup catcher they've since released, pitching in $4.25 million of Harang's salary in the deal.
Not that the Dodgers gave up a lot to get Nolasco, who is eligible for free agency this fall. The most advanced of the three pitching prospects they sent to the Marlins is 6-foot-6-inch righty Josh Wall, a 26-year-old with mid-90s heat who appeared in 13 games for the Dodgers since last July and could prove to be a useful set-up man. The one with the highest ceiling is Angel Sanchez, a lanky 23-year-old, right-handed starter who throws in the mid-90s, but who just cracked High-A. Scouts think Sanchez could make the majors as a starter, but he has a long way to go, is a bit old for his level, and needs a reliable third pitch behind his fastball and slider. The last man, Steve Ames, is a 25-year-old righty reliever with a low-90s fastball/slider combination who has yet to make his major-league debut and has seen his double-digit strikeout rate drop considerably in his Triple-A debut this season. Neither of the three was a top-10 prospect in the Dodgers' system; meanwhile, the Dodgers got a little extra cap room to help them go out and sign the next Sanchez on the international market.