The Miami Marlins have already passed their soft deadline regarding trading Ricky Nolasco, and now there is a possibility the Marlins may not make a move before Nolasco makes one more start. Though the Nolasco situation may be fluid, we have yet to hear anything drastically new about his trade status as we approach the 2013 MLB trade deadline.
On Buster Olney's Baseball Tonight podcast, Jayson Stark reports that three teams are still in the primary hunt for Nolasco's services (Insider required). Stark reports that the remaining three teams are the Los Angeles Dodgers, Colorado Rockies, and Texas Rangers, with the other teams "on the periphery" and unlikely to make a deal. Furthermore, Stark and Olney agreed that both the Rangers' and Rockies' interests are "lukewarm" and that the Dodgers are still the frontrunner and primary candidate to acquire Nolasco.
The problems regarding Nolasco' remaining $5.5 million salary continue to hold up a potential deal. The Dodgers seem more than willing to acquire Nolasco for middling, C-rank prospects and eat the remainder of the salary. The Rockies are on the opposite end of the spectrum, offering "two decent prospects" for Nolasco if the Fish swallow the entire remainder of his contract. We have discussed potential trade returns for both the Dodgers and the Rockies, and it seems likely that there is a slight fit on both sides, if the Marlins remain realistic.
The interest by the Rangers is one due to injury concerns rather than depth concerns. Colby Lewis and Alexi Ogando have yet to return from injury, Nick Tepesch, Justin Grimm, and Martin Perez are filling in three slots, but at least two of those pitchers are struggling enough for the Rangers to seek an upgrade before either of their injured starters return. The team is lucky to have Derek Holland and Yu Darvish playing as well as they are, but the rotation could still use a lift.
The advantage for the Fish is that, like the Dodgers (though not to the same degree), the Rangers are flush with cash thanks to a lucrative TV contract and recent success yielding fan fervor. They could be another team willing to eat all of Nolasco's remaining salary for him to be a fourth or fifth starter once their rotation is back to normal. Despite the differences in ballparks between Miami and Texas, Nolasco certainly seems like an upgrade over both Tepesch and Grimm, and any performance like the one Nolasco showed on Wednesday night against the Atlanta Braves must help everyone's cause.
However, the issues regarding the price tag on Nolasco remain the same. If the Fish are looking to get the acquiring team to eat his salary, it will be at the cost of a valuable prospect. No matter how the Marlins try to sell Nolasco's recent strong play, he still bears the reputation of a back-end starter who could not perform up to his peripheral numbers before. This season may be Nolasco's best since 2008, but that will not be enough to buy him or the Marlins significantly more resources in a trade.
The Rangers have a number of options the Marlins could acquire, including a large pile of middle infield prospects who could add nice depth to the team's barren cupboard in that area. The Fish simply need to be smart with their discussions; if they do want to trade Nolasco sooner rather than later, then they need to be more realistic about his value and not hesitate in chasing a potential overpay.