By JON KRAWCZYNSKI
Right-hander Ricky Nolasco and the Twins agreed to terms on a free-agent contract Wednesday, a person with knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press. The person requested anonymity because the team does not plan to announce a deal until Nolasco passes a physical.
Terms of the deal were not immediately available, but Yahoo! Sports reported that it was for four years and $49 million. That's a hefty price for the Twins, who historically have been reluctant to hand out big-money deals to free agents. Prior to Nolasco's contract, the most the Twins had spent on a free agent who did not come through their system was the three-year, $21 million deal they gave Josh Willingham in 2011.
But their need was acute and Nolasco was widely considered one of the top available free agents in a thin crop of starting pitchers. He's walked just 2.1 hitters per nine innings for his career, which makes him a perfect fit for the Twins, who have always placed a premium on control from their starters.
Pitching to contact has become a bit of a sore spot for Twins fans, who have watched their team's starting staff get bludgeoned while throwing strike after strike right down the middle. But Nolasco also has a healthy 7.4 strikeouts per nine innings, and he's shown the ability to get out of jams without letting the hitter put the ball in play.
Nolasco's Twitter account already has a Twins logo as its avatar, and this beleaguered team will no doubt be just as eager to welcome him into the fold. Nolasco pitched at least 185 innings in five of the last six seasons and will immediately slot in right near the top of what was the worst pitching staff in the majors last year.
The Twins have lost at least 96 games in each of the last three seasons, thanks in most part to their woeful starting pitching. Last year the starters had an ERA of 5.26. Toronto was the next worse at 4.81. Only two of their starters had ERAs under 5.00, with Samuel Deduno's 3.83 leading the way and Kevin Correia's pedestrian 4.18 next.
The Twins have also inquired about veteran Bronson Arroyo among other available arms, and are expected to continue adding players to beef up the rotation. Matt Garza and Phil Hughes are among the other viable options, and the Twins also could bring back Mike Pelfrey for depth.