The trade market for Miami Marlins starting pitcher Ricky Nolasco is scorching hot right now. Fox Sports is reporting that as many as six teams are considering Nolasco: the Dodgers, Giants, Padres, Orioles, Rockies, and Rangers. Of that group, the Dodgers are the favorite, while the Giants and Padres are next up in the pecking order. The Orioles loom as a possibility, while the Rockies don't look like a factor and the Rangers might not be the best option considering their needs.
Yet, despite Nolasco's popularity, Miami may not get the return they're looking for because they don't want to eat any of Nolasco's contract. A deal between the Rockies and Marlins fell apart because Miami didn't want to send money and get better prospects. That's right: it's looking like this is becoming yet another Marlins salary dump as opposed to a chance to acquire some potential building blocks for the future.
With that revelation, a team like the Dodgers or Giants gets the leg up on a team like the Padres or Rockies, who generally don't operate with a very high payroll. Nolasco is owed something like $6 million for the rest of the season, which would be a drop in the bucket for the Dodgers and their $216 million payroll or the Giants and their $136 million payroll. Both the Rockies and Padres are operating at a much lower budget, and the Orioles are still under the $100 million mark as well.
Now, which of these teams needs Nolasco the most? The immediate answer to me is Baltimore. Orioles starting pitchers have a 4.83 ERA this season thanks to Jason Hammel plummeting back to earth after a breakout 2012 and Wei-Yin Chen making just eight starts while dealing with a strained oblique. San Diego and San Francisco have also had disappointing performances from their rotations this year, with the Padres not getting a whole lot from anyone other than Eric Stults and Andrew Cashner (especially when you look past Jason Marquis' record and ERA) and the Giants having a black hole behind Madison Bumgarner and still searching for a fifth starter after Ryan Vogelsong broke his hand.
Ironically, it's the Dodgers that seem to be the front runners for Nolasco, yet they're the team that needs him the least in my opinion. Los Angeles starters have a sterling 3.52 ERA this season, and while Clayton Kershaw, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Zack Greinke have done a great job holding the fort down, it's not all them. In six starts, Stephen Fife has held his own, and Chris Capuano has been adequate in eight starts. Even with Chad Billingsley's Tommy John surgery, Ted Lilly's continuing neck problems, and Josh Beckett's strained groin, the Dodgers have more pressing issues than their starting five.
Where do I think Nolasco eventually ends up? I'm going to put my money on the Giants. Brian Sabean has never been afraid of making a move to improve his team, and with the Giants staring down the barrel of a 9-15 June, Sabean must realize that he needs to do something if the defending champions want to reach the postseason once again.