LAKE BUENA VISTA -- The Marlins are gauging interest at the winter meetings in pitchers Ricky Nolasco and Leo Nunez but are not committed to trading either. They would have to be overwhelmed by any offers. Still, in what is a decidedly weak year for free agent starting pitchers, there should be no shortage of potential suitors for Nolasco. And, with so many teams searching for bullpen help, creating interest in Nunez shouldn't be all that difficult.
Nolasco has two years remaining before entering free agency, making him all the more attractive. Nunez is in his final year of arbitration. Dealing both pitchers would give the Marlins about $10 million they could apply elsewhere.
The Marlins recently added to their starting pitching depth by signing veteran Javier Vazquez, who will join a rotation that already includes -- in addition to Nolasco -- Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad. The Marlins also have Alex Sanabia waiting in the wings. But the rotation lacks a left-hander, which might be one area the team might try to address.
The team has also shored up its bullpen by acquiring four new arms -- Edward Mujica, Ryan Webb, Mike Dunn and Dustin Richardson -- through a series of three trades, and is looking for additional left-handed help at a low cost. Nunez, who saved 30 games last season, is expected to command a figure of about $4 million through arbitration while Nolasco could end up making somewhere around $6.5 million.
The Marlins have spoken to Nolasco's agent about giving the pitcher a contract extension that would buy out two arbitration years and one year of free agency. But those talks have stalled, at least for the time being. If the Marlins don't find any deals to their satisfaction and end up keeping the two pitchers, Nolasco will likely be slotted behind Johnson in the No. 2 spot in the rotation while Nunez will remain the favorite to close. Marlins president of baseball operations Larry Beinfest said last week that Nunez "has a leg up" on everyone else for that role going into spring training.