The last moments of the trade deadline are generally saved for massive deals and great players switching teams and this one did not disappoint as Jonathan Lucroy, Matt Moore, Steve Pearce, Joe Smith, Jon Niese, and Jay Bruce were moved in the final hours before the 4 PM deadline. There was one move that didn’t fit, however, as no players of note were traded and the deal went down between two non-contending teams.
The trade saw Ricky Nolasco and Alex Meyer go from the Twins to the Angels in exchange for Hector Santiago and Alan Busenitz. While the Twins trumped up Nolasco’s value in recent days, posturing as if they would prefer to keep the veteran with a 5.44 ERA since joining Minnesota, they were obviously interested in moving him and the $12 million he is guaranteed next season. Nolasco also has a team option for $13 million for 2018 (with a $1 million buyout) that will become a player option, which he would definitely use, should he pitch another 275.1 innings before the end of 2017.
Hector Santiago is headed to Twins, along with RP Alan Busenitz, for two starting pitchers. @Ken_Rosenthal says Ricky Nolasco, Alex Meyer.
— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) August 1, 2016
The Nolasco deal has been a disaster since day one for the Twins, who originally signed him to a four year, $48 million deal in December 2013. Despite being far from real contention, the Twins chose to go the expensive route in filling their rotation rather than the typical rebuilding route of calling up talent internally. This deal and the one signing Ervin Santana have crippled the Twins financially and left them in a difficult situation trying to make excuses for why the veterans are playing instead of younger players, like Tyler Duffey, Tommy Milone, and Jose Berrios.
One of those young starters was Alex Meyer, who went to Los Angeles in the four player swap. Meyer was ranked #14 in all of baseball among prospects by Baseball Prospectus in 2015, but has since dealt with injuries and has pitched extremely poorly in his limited major league experience, allowing 10 earned runs on 12 hits, including three home runs, in 6.1 innings pitched. Meyer was on the seven day DL in AAA for right shoulder inflammation when the trade was made.
Returning to the Twins, presumably just to eat up innings for the rest of the season as all those young pitchers mentioned before are currently under performing to the extreme, is Hector Santiago. Santiago is having a poor season for LA, but is only 28 and under team control for one more year of arbitration. He is owed only the remainder of $5 million for this season and could likely be signed for a similar amount next season or extended.
What on the surface seems a deal of little value for less value is essentially a way for the Twins to move on. They are able to save the money they owed to Nolasco and any more time they would have spent getting Meyer healthy and back to the majors. Instead, they have a better and cheaper pitcher in Santiago who can help them get to their next window without worrying about wasting money or having a player with too high of an investment to cut if the need comes across.
For the Angels, they are essentially paying $13 million(assuming they keep Nolasco under 200 innings next year, which shouldn’t be hard), plus the difference between Santiago and Nolasco’s deals for the rest of this season, for the chance to see if Meyer can return to the level that made him one of the most highly touted prospects in baseball just a year ago. Considering the type of player a #15 prospect in the country is worth, only having to give up Santiago and take on $13 million is a bit of a steal.
Chances are this deal will never really matter beyond the Twins passing off the bill that they shouldn’t have accepted in the first place to a team more fiscally fit to pay it, but if Meyer ever does turn things around, it could be an expensive reminder to small market teams not to lie to themselves about what stage their team is in and not to get in free agent bidding wars with the big boys.