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Ricky Nolasco: $80 Million Too Much for a Backup

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COMMENTARY | In the pool of current Los Angeles Dodgers free agents, Ricky Nolasco has to be pretty low on the list of urgent team desires.

When looking at the broader pool of availability -- one that includes David Price and Masahiro Tanaka -- Nolasco pretty much falls off the list.

Even then, with the inconsistency of the Dodger rotation because of injury, a week ago I would have said that Nolasco would be a solid signing. For a fifth starter. Or a long reliever.

In fact, I would have expected the Dodgers to offer Nolasco a Brandon League-esque contract. That is, too much for what he produced but enough to keep him around just in case he someday became a legitimate force. It doesn't really make sense, but the Dodgers seem to think and negotiate that way. At least, that's the only plausible explanation for League's $22.5 million over three years. How else can you explain that amount for a career 3.80 relief pitcher?

But news broke Friday morning that Nolasco wants $80 million over five years. Or a whopping $16 million per year. That's more than twice what League got.

Too Many Pitchers

The bigger question is: How many starting pitchers do the Dodgers need? Dodger fans can presume (and hope) that Clayton Kershaw isn't going anywhere. And Zack Greinke is locked in through 2018 at the hefty sum of $147 million. Hyun-Jin Ryu's contract keeps him in blue through 2018 as well (though for significantly less that Greinke). So, barring any major catastrophe, the Dodgers have three legitimate starters.

And it's easy to forget that the Dodgers also have Chad Billingsley and Josh Beckett under contract. Billingsley is a Dodger through 2015 under his current contract, but Tommy John surgery ended his 2013 season before it even began. It's hard to know if we'll ever see the 16-game-winning Billingsley of 2008 again. Even then, his 16 wins were paired with a 3.14 ERA. And the Dodgers saw a decrease the number of innings he pitched every season since. If Billingsley can return to his previous best, he would be a longshot at the third starting spot behind Kershaw and Greinke. Chances are, he'd be a solid fourth starter behind Ryu, which would put Nolasco in the category of an extremely overpaid fifth starter.

The Dodgers' contract with Beckett, who underwent surgery in July to ease a nerve issue that left him without feeling in his pitching hand, lasts one more year. Although he is expected to return in the spring, his showing with the Dodgers in 2013 was anything but strong. His eight starts left him with an 0-5 record and an ERA over 5.00. The Dodgers owe him nearly $16 million in 2014, and adding another pitcher of his caliber -- like Nolasco -- for the same amount of money seems a little more than crazy.

Save the Money for Price and Tanaka

The biggest two reasons I wouldn't give Nolasco what he's asking for are: David Price and Masahiro Tanaka. I suppose it is wishful thinking to think the Dodgers can pull off signing both of these guys. But…

Visions of a Kershaw-Greinke-Ryu-Price-Tanaka rotation dance in my head.

You knew the Dodgers were in trouble during the playoffs when commentators were addressing the question of whether Kershaw and Greinke could pitch six of the seven games in the NLCS. Even though three of the four games started by that pair were losses, I'd have to think that with current rotation most fans would feel most comfortable with the ball in the hands of those two.

If the Dodgers can sign the left-handed Price with his stats of 2012 -- 20 wins and a 2.56 ERA -- we'd be looking at a rotation where the third and fourth starters could legitimately be the first and second starters on other teams.

The chance the Dodgers would be taking is in signing the Price of 2013 who ended 10 wins and a 3.33 ERA. Not bad numbers, but in a free agency year when you're usually seeing a remarkable showing, Price was a little disappointing. Still, I would choose Price over Nolasco. The advantages Price has over Nolasco are age and the .189 average he holds left-handed batters to. If I had to put $80 million somewhere, I'd give it to Price in a heartbeat.

The Dodgers have made it no secret that they want to sign Japanese star Tanaka, and I would have to think that the only thing standing in their way is the New York Yankees. Tanaka's 24-win season with a 1.24 ERA in the Japanese Pacific League makes him attractive to a lot of teams, but both the Dodgers and Yankees have a track record of scouting, recruiting and making deals happen with players from Japan.

If the Yankees are prepared to give Tanaka over $100 million, I would say that the Dodgers should take the $80 million that Nolasco wants and roll it into Tanaka's contract.

Jana Sosnowski has been an avid follower of the Los Angeles Dodgers for the past 20 years. She enjoys keeping score of games, researching history and calculating stats.

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