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Marlins Win Christmas Day Extension

Ricky Nolasco was headed into this third arbitration season after achieving Super 2 status in 2009. That is no longer his concern after inking a three-year contract with the Florida Marlins. Per MLB.com, the terms of the deal call for $6 million in 2011, $9 million for ’12 and $11.5 million for ’13. There is also an innings bonus of up to a half million per season.

He was under team control for 2011 and 2012 before being free agent eligible. The general model is that arbitration-eligible players are expected to earn around 40% of their free agent market value in their first year, 60% in their second and 80% in their third and final year of arbitration.

Super 2s complicate that, but with the base salaries listed it is clear that Nolasco will be underpaid. If you figure $11.5 million as the free agent base value, then Nolasco is getting 52% for his third year of arbitration and 78% in his fourth.

On top of that, $11.5 million is paying Nolasco as if he’s approximately a 2.5-win pitcher. Nolasco easily exceeded that in both 2008 and 2009 and even matched that in an injury-shortened 2010 season. All the Marlins need is for him to do is repeat 2010 three more times and they’ll have broken even. Is that feasible for Nolasco?

After one of the most unlucky seasons in 2009, Nolasco posted similar core numbers in 2010 and saw his atrociously unlucky 61% strand rate in 2009 rebound to a much more usual 72%. And though his strikeouts dropped a little, he reduced his walks proportionally and even upped his swinging strike rate. He missed some time with a knee injury, but non-arm injuries are less worrisome and he remains a fair bet to log at least another 150+ innings of mid-3 xFIP in 2011 and beyond.

The Marlins got themselves a good deal here that could turn into a fantastic deal if Nolasco stays completely healthy.