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Contract Details and Breakdown: Twins Sign Ricky Nolasco for Four Years, $49 Million

Jesse breaks down the dollars and years on Nolasco's contract, also including Minnesota's new contract commitments going forward and how the Twins could get their money out of the deal.

It took a few hours between Chris Cotillo's initial tweet and the one from Jeff Passan announcing the details of the Ricky Nolasco contract, but it finally happened. Courtesy of two Passan tweets, here are the specifics.

Here's what that looks like.

Year Contract Nolasco's Age Salary Twins Total Payroll Commitments **
2014 Year 1 31 $12,000,000 $58,000,000
2015 Year 2 32 $12,000,000 $38,950,000
2016 Year 3 33 $12,000,000 $35,300,000
2017 Year 4 34 $12,000,000 $35,000,000
2018 * Option 35 $13,000,000 $35,000,000

* 2018 carries $1MM buyout option
** Contracts only; does not include arbitration figures

As of this morning, the only players under contract beyond this season are Joe Mauer, Glen Perkins, and Ricky Nolasco. Outside of Perkins' buyout in '16, it's just Mauer and Nolasco. This should tell you two things.

  1. Even if the Twins add another one or two multi-year, multi-million dollar contracts to the roster this winter, they still have a great deal of payroll flexibility in coming years.
  2. The Twins fully anticipate Nolasco being one of the rotation's leaders, and being one of the players who will shoulder the load in turning Minnesota from laughing stock to competitor.
How much value the Twins need to squeeze out of Nolasco in order for the contract to pay for itself will depend on your belief on the cost of a win. Most places I've read seem to think the cost of a win this season is just over $6 million, although it's been argued that it's actually between $7 million and $8 million. Let's be conservative and go with the cost of a win being roughly $6 million dollars.

At $6MM per win, the Twins would need Nolasco to accumulate 8.2 wins above replacement over the next four years in order to make the contract worth its money. How strong of a bet is Nolasco to average two wins per year? Let's look at his history via FanGraphs.

Year 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 Total
Innings 212.1 185.0 157.2 206.0 191.0 199.1 1151.1
WAR 3.9 4.1 2.3 3.1 2.5 3.0 18.9

According to fWAR (FanGraphs' version of Wins Above Replacement), it looks like Nolasco is a good bet to be worth the money the Twins are paying him. For what it's worth, in the last six years Matt Garza accumulated just 15.9 fWAR.

In that same time frame, Nolasco's cumulative "open market" value averaged $14.4 million per season. Even for the biggest free agent signing in franchise history, it's possible to see this as a below market value deal for Minnesota.

There is certainly risk in any long-term free agent contract, and that risk seems to be more pronounced for pitchers. While this contract is certainly comparable to the one signed by Edwin Jackson in January 2013 (four years, $52 million) and Mark Buerhle in December 2011 (four years, $58 million), Nolasco is two years younger than Buehrle at the time of his signing and he's also far less volatile of a pitcher than Jackson. As far as consistency can be taken in the world of pitchers, Nolasco doesn't do too badly.