According to these tweets from Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports, Ervin Santana likely won't be getting as big a payday as he was hoping for. Is this possibly an open door for the Texas Rangers to sign him?
When you take a look at a couple of other pitchers with career numbers comparable to those of Santana's, it's not hard to imagine that Santana will have a difficult time hauling in $60 million over four years.
Ricky Nolasco signed a four-year/$49 million deal with the Minnesota Twins earlier this offseason. Matt Garza, who split time with the Chicago Cubs and Texas Rangers last season, is reportedly close to a four-year/$52 million contract with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Garza's deal with Milwaukee was both reported to be final and pending yesterday by several different sources. Apparently there is some holdup between the two parties. Adam McCalvy, the Brewers' beat writer for MLB.com—h/t to Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal—said the delay "isn't related to medical concerns," and instead "it's just taking time to complete the deal."
Regardless, this puts Santana in a tough spot on January 24, 2014. If there are any concerns over Garza, who is arguably a better pitcher than Santana and doesn't require the forfeiture of a first-round pick, there have to be even greater concerns over Santana.
Now to the question: Should the Rangers start to make a push for Santana?
If the highest he'll get is $15 million per year for four years?
Again, as Passan insinuates, that asking price is likely to continue to go down after the Garza situation is resolved. That's just because it's easy to argue that Garza is a better pitcher outright. But when you throw in the compensatory pick required to sign Santana, that price drops even more.
If he can be had for, say, four years and $50 million or less, the Rangers should jump. That is probably close to a fair price for his ability anyway. In the past, I've written about Santana and how he can help the Rangers' rotation. You can check that out here.
The two most attractive things about Santana are his durability and his stuff.
He's thrown 211 or more innings in three of his last four seasons and has made at least 30 starts in all of those last four seasons. He devours innings and has the same kind of attacking mentality of the guy he would be signed to replace for now, Derek Holland.
Santana is 31 now and won't turn 32 until December of next offseason. He has a relatively clean injury history and would be 34 at the end of the four years. There's a good chance he'd still be in pretty good shape by then.
Santana has always had above average stuff, including one of the game's best sliders when it's on. A huge reason why he was so successful with the Kansas City Royals last season? He rediscovered the mid 90s velocity on his fastball, something he really hadn't had since his 2008 campaign with the Los Angeles Angels, in which he went 16-7.
He has the repertoire to handle pitching in Arlington. Will he give up homers? You bet—and quite a few of them too. Since 2010, Santana has allowed an average of 29.5 balls to leave the yard. But don't let that black mark tell the whole story.
Santana is also a strikeout pitcher who is pretty controlled at the same time. He has a quality career 2.52 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a career opponents' batting average of .253, which is excellent considering he's been in the American League his whole career.
When you examine these numbers, it becomes a little more clear as to why he's had four seasons with an ERA over 4.5: he has a tendency to give up two-run and three-run homers more than solo shots. In the past, teams have jumped on him early. But other than being homer prone, he's a pretty good pitcher.
If you're worried about losing a draft pick by signing him, the Rangers will get a first-round pick back when Nelson Cruz very likely signs elsewhere.
So if Santana's price starts to sit right at 4/50 or less, the Rangers should make a push to sign him. Their offense can survive his occasional bumpy start. Much more often than not, he's going to give them six to seven innings and will absolutely go hard after hitters.
Think about this rotation after Holland returns:
Yu Darvish, Derek Holland, Ervin Santana, Matt Harrison and Martin Perez.
For the time being, Colby Lewis or Nick Tepesch could man the five spot. But two of the most important things Santana does for the rotation is give it that third inning eater, as well as keep Alexi Ogando in the bullpen for the vast majority of the time. He's better suited as a lockdown reliever.
Additionally, bringing in Santana wouldn't force young Perez to move up in the rotation. Right now, he is possibly the no. 2 starter behind Darvish with Holland out. That's a tall task for him despite his major steps forward in 2013. There is no harm in allowing him to develop another year pitching lower in the rotation, where expectations aren't as high.
At four-years/$50 million though, it becomes far more likely that some other team with a greater need for starters—the Toronto Blue Jays perhaps—outbids the Rangers for Santana. Still at that price, Texas ought to have the money ready. That price just covers what Santana will give you.
Otherwise, the Rangers should re-take their seats on the Bruce Chen/Paul Maholm/Jerome Williams train.
Just a thought.
If Santana's price dropped a bit from $60 million, how interested would you be in the Rangers signing him?
*All stats courtesy of baseball-reference.com