The Miami Marlins and Ricky Nolasco have been connected to just about every pitching-starved team in the majors during this trade deadline season, but the team that seems to be at the top of the list is the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers have the opportunity to offer the Marlins payroll relief and a passable prospect, which would great news for a team that is always looking for both. Few other ballclubs seem willing to pay Nolasco's remaining $6 million salary, so the Dodgers' likely willingness to throw more money into their season pit puts them at the head of the class.
But what type of prospect could the Marlins possibly get in return for Nolasco? If the team is being realistic, there should be two tiers of player whom the Dodgers would give up in a trade: one tier with no salary being paid by the Marlins, and one with most or all of the salary being paid.
To determine these returns, I enlisted the help of various prospect lists from respected sources, including Minor League Ball's preseason rankings, True Blue LA's preseason list, the top 20 prospects as per MLB.com, and Baseball Prospectus's top 10 list.
If the Marlins pay Nolasco's salary, a B-ranked player could be on their way. There are two ideal, dream scenarios, and there are other players who seem more likely.
Zach Lee, RHP
Corey Seager, 3B
Neither of these players should be returning for any trade with Nolasco, as they are simply too high-level to be involved in such a mediocre player return. One should not even dream about such players in any return, except that the Dodgers once gave away Carlos Santana for Casey Blake, then kept Blake around for a while afterwards as Santana developed into a first-division starter. In other words, only the Dodgers would consider giving up this much for someone like Nolasco, but you still should not expect that.
Joc Pederson, OF
Peterson is an interesting name because of his numbers. John Sickels of Minor League Ball and MLB.com ranked him third in the organization, while Baseball Prospectus and True Blue LA ranked him fifth. The knock on Pederson is that he does not have elite tools, but he makes up for that with production; in 2012, as a 20-year-old, he hit .313/.396/.516 (.400 wOBA, 137 wRC+) in High-A in the California League. He has been even more impressive this season, as he is hitting .296/.383/.500 (.398 wOBA, 154 wRC+) this season in Double-A playing in the Southern League. In comparison, Christian Yelich is only hittinh .262/.342/.518 (.382 wOBA, 143 wRC+) in the same league.
Chris Reed, LHP
Reed has pitched 122 2/3 innings in Double-A since being picked in the first round of the 2011 draft, but he has been underwhelming in that situation. Part of that comes from being converted to a starter from a college reliever, but his big issue as a starter remains control. In those 122 2/3 innings, he has walked batters in 9.4 percent of plate appearances, and he has yet to crack a 20 percent strikeout rate at the same time (17.0 percent). His advantage is a nice two-pitch arsenal of a fastball and a slider, but he does lack the third pitches to work to both sides.
No Salary Paid
If the Marlins avoid paying any salary at all for Nolasco, they might get a few options among lower-ranking prospects or players who have a mixed track record of success. The Fish would have a chance at one or two of these players in return for an unpaid Nolasco.
Matt Magill, LHP
Magill is older than all of these players, but he's also the most polished prospect. He had a monster Double-A year last season as a 22-year-old, striking out 27 percent of batters faced last season and posting a 3.75 ERA and 2.93 FIP. The issues is that he too has a lack of control (9.8 percent walk rate last year) and is working with middling stuff, as his fastball is a mediocre 88-92 mph pitch. However, True Blue LA noticed an increase in his fastball, up towards the mid-90's last season. He struggled in the majors this season as part of the Dodgers' endless set of unbearable replacements, but he has an average skillset that could turn into a back-end starter.
Chris Withrow, RHP
Withrow is a reliever, which would immediately be disappointing for the Marlins, but would also be totally expected given Nolasco's salary. Withrow looked good working solely out of the pen in Triple-A this season, striking out 27.8 percent of batters faced and posting a 1.85 ERA and 2.21 FIP. He also lacks control in a major way, making him akin to a right-handed version of Mike Dunn. If he can keep missing bats, he has the closer-type stuff and the ability to get ground balls with his fastball, and that can help at the tail end of the pen despite control issues.
Tim Federowicz, C
Federowicz is the least impressive of the prospects listed, as he profiles primarily as a true defensive-minded backup catcher in the big leagues. The Marlins, however, are light on catching talent, with Rob Brantly struggling in his first full year and Jake Realmuto faltering in Double-A despite his defensive skills. Federowicz has at least hit in Double-A, and he has had at least one fantastic Triple-A season, albeit in a hitter's paradise like Albuquerque (.294/.371/.461, .367 wOBA, 116 wRC+ in 2012). He has an off-chance to realize some power and decent hitting and become a starting-caliber player with his excellent defense, but the odds are on him being a backup.
What is the Deal?
The players listed range from the fourth or fifth best prospects in the Dodgers' system down to the 10th or 11th best. If the Marlins pay off Nolasco's salary, you can expect to receive one of the players in the first category. Based on the Marlins' tendencies in the past and current needs on the roster, do not be surprised if Chris Reed is the player of choice. The Fish always believe they can use starting pitcher depth, and there is a possibility that none of the Marlins' current rotation members other than Jose Fernandez will not stick on the roster in the future.
If the Fish choose to not pay for any of Nolasco's salary, expect one or two of the back-end players to come the Marlins' way. Magill would be the ideal choice, possibly packaged with Federowicz, but a set of any two of those players would be more than expected for a return.
If those deals sound underwhelming to you, it is simply because the Marlins could not possibly expect a great return from a player like Nolasco with his salary. If the Marlins indeed want strong talent, it is imperative the team swallow its pride and take out its pocketbook to earn back better players. Or, if that fails, they can appeal to Ned Colleti's less rational sides. You know, whichever is easier.