Ervin Santana Rumors

Quick Hits: Payrolls, DH, Suspensions, Trade Candidates

ESPN’s Jayson Stark examines the rising payrolls around the game, noting that even 10 years ago, just three teams has payrolls topping $100MM. This year, Stark points out, 22 clubs have $100MM+ payrolls. Stark spoke with Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski, Giants CEO Larry Baer and sports economics expert Andy Zimbalist about the change and its impact around the league. Dombrowski notes that the extra Wild Card added to each league has made teams more willing to spend, because more teams believe they can win, and he also discussed the impact of increased payrolls on roster construction around the league. Baer commented that the additional sources of revenue — namely, TV deals, I would presume — have made it easier for teams to sign players to long-term deals, because revenue is easier to project. Not that long ago, Baer notes, revenue was tied much more heavily to ticket sales, and signing a young player to an extension was riskier, because teams could only project revenue a few years out at a time.

A few more miscellaneous notes from around the league…

  • Baseball America’s Matt Eddy provides a thorough, comprehensive explanation of his belief that it’s time for the National League to adopt the DH rule. Eddy notes that pitcher productivity is at an all-time low, relative to the production of non-pitchers — even as the production of non-pitchers declines in its own right. One NL assistant GM spoke to Eddy about the advantage that AL teams have not only in interleague games in AL stadiums, but in the ability to rest their best players while still giving them four at-bats. Eddy also argues that because improving their offensive prowess doesn’t accelerate their timeline to the Majors — no pitcher will be promoted because he’s a good hitter or withheld from the Majors to work on his swing — there is neither means nor incentive to improve their hitting skills. Eddy views the DH and the pitcher as “two sides of the same, hyper-specialized coin,” noting that a DH contributes solely to the offensive element of a game, whereas a pitcher functions as the key constituent of the defense. Interestingly, a 2013 poll of 18 MLB managers revealed that 12 of those managers were in favor of adding the DH to the NL, Eddy adds.
  • Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post looks at the recent suspensions of Mariners lefty David Rollins, Twins right-hander Ervin Santana, Mets closer Jenrry Mejia and Braves prospect Arodys Vizcaino for Stanozolol and investigates a possible connection. Commissioner Rob Manfred said earlier this week that the league conducts an investigation anytime that there are multiple suspensions for the same banned substance, though he has no reason to assume a connection at this point. Kilgore spoke with subject matter expert Dr. Charles Yesalis about the tests and was told, “There is no way, in my mind, this is one big coincidence.”
  • Cole Hamels, Johnny Cueto, Carlos Gonzalez, Scott Kazmir and Adrian Beltre top a list of midseason trade candidates compiled by Jim Bowden of ESPN (Insider subscription required/recommended). Kazmir’s inclusion is interesting, in that Bowden expects a trade to occur whether the A’s are contending or not, as he notes that the team won’t be able to afford to re-sign Kazmir. He speculates that Kazmir will be flipped, possibly for another Major League caliber starter to step into his spot, though as I pointed out in reviewing their offseason, the A’s already have a sizable reserve of rotation options from which to draw.

Twins Notes: Starters, McGowan, Santana

Here’s the latest from the Twins as they head towards their Monday opener in Detroit…

  • The Twins aren’t looking for starting pitching help right now as they feel they already have enough internal candidates to replace Ervin Santana, La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports (Twitter link).  Mike Pelfrey will step into the rotation while Santana serves his 80-game suspension, with Trevor May and Alex Meyer on hand as depth options.
  • Though the Twins were recently “kicking the tires” on righty Dustin McGowan, 1500 ESPN’s Darren Wolfson reports that the former Blue Jay isn’t going to end up in Minnesota (Twitter link).  The Twins are known to be seeking bullpen help, so they may yet strike a deal with a different player or pick someone up on waivers before Opening Day.
  • Santana’s suspension is the latest blow to Minnesota’s recent history of free agent pitching signings, CBS Sports’ Mike Axisa writes.  While the Phil Hughes signing was a big success, Pelfrey and Ricky Nolasco underachieved last season after signing multi-year deals and now Santana will miss the first half-season of his four-year, $54MM contract.  While there’s still lots of time for Santana, Nolasco and Pelfrey to make good on their deals, Axisa notes that the mid-market Twins can’t afford to make expensive mistakes in free agency.
  • Unsurprisingly, Twins GM Terry Ryan tells Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the club bases its decision to call up prospects not on service time, but on the player’s readiness for the majors.  The service time debate could soon arise in Minnesota when star prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are close to the bigs.  The Twins didn’t delay Joe Mauer‘s service clock in 2004, yet Miller observes that doing so would’ve gained the team an extra year of control over Mauer and possibly saved them some money off the $184MM extension he eventually signed.

Ervin Santana Suspended 80 Games For PED Use

3:57pm: The Twins have announced that Pelfrey, not May or top prospect Alex Meyer, will step into the rotation.

3:53pm: Via the MLBPA, Santana has apologized and denied ever knowingly taking a banned substance:

“This is unexpected news for me and my family.  I am issuing this statement so the public knows where I stand.  First, my deepest apologies to my family, fans, colleagues, teammates and my current employer the Minnesota Twins.  I am very disappointed that I tested positive for a performance enhancing drug.  I am frustrated that I can’t pinpoint how the substance in question entered my body.  I would never knowingly take anything illegal to enhance my performance.  What I can guarantee is I never knowingly took anything illegal to enhance my performance.  That’s just not me, never has been and never will.”

3:38pm: Twins right-hander Ervin Santana has been suspended 80 games after testing positive for the performance enhancing drug Stanozolol, the league announced.

Clearly, this move is devastating news for a Twins team that committed $54MM — a franchise-record for free agent spending — to Santana on a four-year deal this past offseason. Santana was signed to bring stability to a Twins rotation that has been among the league’s worst in each of the past four seasons. The team has issued the following statement regarding Santana’s suspension:

“We were disappointed to learn of the suspension of Ervin Santana for violating Major League Baseball’s Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. We fully support Major League Baseball’s policy and its efforts to eliminate performance enhancing substances from our game. Per the protocol outlined in the Joint Drug Program, the Minnesota Twins will not comment further on this matter.”

Santana had projected to slot in behind Phil Hughes in the Twins rotation, joining Kyle Gibson, Ricky Nolasco and Tommy Milone in the starting five. One might imagine that Mike Pelfrey, who had previously expressed disappointment in being moved to the bullpen, might get a chance to finally provide the Twins with some healthy innings in the rotation, although I’d imagine that prospect Trevor May will at least garner some consideration as well.

Santana is slated to earn $13.5MM this season, so the Twins will recover approximately half of that sum while he is on the restricted list without pay. Nonetheless, that’s hardly a silver lining for Minnesota. Left-handed reliever Aaron Thompson has been recalled from Triple-A Rochester to take Santana’s roster spot, though no official announcement has been made as to who will step into the rotation in his stead.



Twins Assistant GM Antony On Offseason, Farm System, Future

Twins assistant general manager Rob Antony sat down for his yearly interview with Jesse Lund of SB Nation’s Twinkie Town, and the two discussed a number of topics, including the Twins’ offseason moves, the future of Torii Hunter in Minnesota, the 2015 rotation, the farm system in general and the timelines of vaunted prospects Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano. The whole interview — split into a Major League portion and a Minor League portion – while lengthy, is well worth the read for Twins fans (and baseball fans in general). Here are some highlights…

  • Antony explains to Lund that the Twins are aware of Hunter’s defensive decline but still feel that he can be adequate in right field. The Twins valued Hunter’s bat and also his experience and vocal leadership style — something the front office feels the team has lacked in recent years. Hunter “doesn’t have any interest in playing anywhere else,” Antony adds, noting that while he’s on a one-year deal, Hunter could return for future seasons as long as he remains healthy and productive. I’d imagine that would eventually require a reduced role for Hunter, possibly as soon as next season.
  • Left-hander Tommy Milone struggled greatly after being acquired from the A’s on July 31, but the reason for his troubles may very well have been a benign tumor that was discovered in his neck after the season. Antony tells Lund that the tumor “took a long time to discover” but has since been removed.
  • Milone will be one of several starters battling for the fifth spot in the rotation, alongside Alex Meyer, Trevor May, Tim Stauffer and Mike Pelfrey. Antony discusses the Twins’ signing of Ervin Santana and how leaving just one spot in the rotation may block some useful players but creates much-needed depth. He also confirms that the Twins had interest in Santana on a multi-year deal late last offseason. “I think we actually kind of picked up our conversations. He had a little bit better idea of where his market was [this offseason],” Antony adds.
  • Shortly before the Santana signing, the Twins “took a run at some relievers” that ultimately signed elsewhere, per Antony. Mike Berardino reported in December that the Twins made an offer to Jason Frasor, so he’s likely one of the names in question. As for the others, Luke Gregerson and Pat Neshek are possibilities, as they signed with Houston just one day before the Twins added Santana. David Robertson and Andrew Miller also signed in the week leading up to Minnesota’s addition of Santana, though it strikes me as unlikely that the team made a serious run at either.
  • Asked about a previous report that the Twins thought they had a pair of trades agreed upon before the other party took a different offer at the last minute, Antony replied: “It wasn’t anything major, where we were on the cusp of doing anything big. We had conversations with a few different clubs, and they showed some interest in our players and we exchanged names and those types of things … it didn’t evolve.”
  • It was Phil Hughes‘ camp who first approached the Twins about an extension, Antony says, and the team was immediately receptive to the idea. The Twins recognized how steeply the asking price would increase if Hughes repeated his 2014 season and was only a year from free agency and “took an opportunity.” Antony feels that with Hughes getting financial security and the team getting a potential building block for its rotation, the trade worked out for both parties.
  • The Twins’ front office feels the team underachieved in 2014 and was capable of winning 76-77 games rather than the 70 with which they finished. As such, Antony said he’s hopeful of finishing near or above the .500 mark this season and believes the team should be fighting for a playoff spot come 2016.
  • While Minnesota used to shy away from pitchers who were likely destined for the bullpen near the top of the draft, Antony says their philosophical outlook has changed. Players with plus velocity and a strong secondary pitch are typically off the board early, he notes, and the Twins loaded up on such arms this year, grabbing the likes of Nick Burdi, Michael Cederoth and Jake Reed.
  • Both Sano and Buxton could be with the team in 2015, with Antony specifying a September callup as a possibility for Sano while speaking more generally about a possible Buxton promotion. Additionally, Antony didn’t rule out the possibility of highly regarded right-hander Jose Berrios making the 2015 club at some point.
  • Asked about the reasoning behind signing Santana as opposed to waiting until next offseason when there is a stronger crop of free agent starters, Antony cited a desire to get better for the 2015 season and faith that some of the arms in the system could eventually develop into front-end types to pair with Santana and Hughes. Specifically, he mentioned Meyer: “[H]opefully Alex Meyer is a guy that, six/seven years from now, people are saying ‘Glad the Twins signed him long-term’ … and he becomes one of those guys.”
  • The Twins are hopeful that Sano, Kennys Vargas and Oswaldo Arcia will settle in as their 3-4-5 hitters of the future and don’t foresee adding any big-time power bats to the mix in the near term.

Twins Sign Ervin Santana

MONDAY: Fangraphs’ Kiley McDaniel tweets that Santana’s contract contains just one option, which requires Santana to not only reach 200 innings in 2018 but also to reach 400 innings from 2017-18 and to pass a physical at the end of his 2018 season.

THURSDAY: The Twins have officially agreed to a four-year, $55MM deal with free agent starter Ervin Santana. The pact includes a $14MM club option ($1MM buyout) for a fifth year that will automatically vest if he throws 200 innings in 2018. He will earn $13.5MM annually over the guaranteed portion of the deal.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Atlanta Braves

Santana, of course, settled for a one-year deal with the Braves last year at the value of the qualifying offer. By acting more quickly this time around, he was able to secure the multi-year pact he was looking for. Minnesota will need to give up a pick to add Santana, but will be able to hold onto its protected first-rounder.

He earned that payday by following up his excellent 2013 campaign with a solid effort last year. Santana threw 196 innings for Atlanta, posting a 3.95 ERA with 8.2 K/9 against 2.9 BB/9 and a 42.7% groundball rate. But there were signs that he was even better than his results, as FIP (3.39), xFIP (3.47), and SIERA (3.63) all liked his work.

Those numbers led MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes to predict that the 31-year-old righty would land a four-year, $56MM deal, and that is very nearly exactly what happened. As Dierkes noted, the Twins pursued Santana last year and clearly liked his arm.

Santana joins a staff that already features several arms from last year’s free agent market, including Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes. Minnesota will hope for an improvement from that group, which posted the league’s second-worst cumulative ERA last year. Several young arms are expected to begin moving into the big league mix as well, with the team likely hoping its open market spending will join up with the rise of a much-heralded overall prospect group.

Also of note is the fact that the AL Central continues to be a division to watch. The White Sox have announced their intention to contend and the Indians are a rising team that just added Brandon Moss. And that’s all before considering the big-spending Tigers and World Series runner-up Royals.

Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports first reported that a deal was nearing (Twitter links). LaVelle A. Neall III of the Star Tribune (via Twitter) and Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (Twitter link) reported that it was done. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter), Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com (likewise), Enrique Rojas of ESPNDeportes.com (via Spanish-language tweet), and Passan (via Twitter) all contributed aspects of the deal’s workings. 

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.


AL Central Notes: Santana, Tigers

The Twins had interest in their own former pitcher Francisco Liriano on the free agent market, but when Liriano agreed to terms with the Pirates, the Twins quickly changed course and ended up with Ervin Santana, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press writes. He’s been very, very durable,” says Twins GM Terry Ryan, referring to Santana. “He’s got enough velocity (92-94 mph). He’s got a slider that is probably his best pitch. … He’s not afraid of the American League, which is another good thing. The (cold) weather is not scaring him off either, which is another good thing.” Berardino reports that Santana received good reviews of the Twins organization from Liriano, Alexi Casilla and Torii Hunter, all friends of his. Here’s more from the AL Central.

  • The Tigers‘ Winter Meetings trades added to their 2015 payroll but might end up saving them money, writes MLB.com’s Jason Beck. The Tigers added Yoenis Cespedes and Alfredo Simon while trading away Rick Porcello. MLBTR projects Porcello to make $12.2MM next season. Cespedes will make $10.5MM, while MLBTR projects Simon will make $5.1MM. Leaving aside other potential minimum-salary players included in the trades, that means the Tigers’ payroll increased by roughly $3MM. If the Tigers had kept Porcello and signed a free-agent outfielder, though, their payroll probably would have increased by considerably more than that.

AL Central Notes: Porcello, Scherzer, Melky, Twins

The Tigers didn’t trade Rick Porcello to the Red Sox due to a lack of progress in extension talks, Porcello’s agent Jim Murray tells FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi.  The two sides “briefly discussed” extending Porcello’s contract beyond the 2015 season, Murray said, “but it was more in the context of something both parties may or may not talk about in the future.”  Here’s some more from around the AL Central…

  • Though Scott Boras has openly said the Tigers won’t get a chance to match an opposing team’s final offer for Max Scherzer, an industry source tells MLB.com’s Jason Beck that the agent will indeed give Tigers owner Mike Ilitch a chance to match “at least as a professional courtesy.”  The good relationship between Boras and Ilitch has paved the way for several Boras clients to come to Detroit, perhaps most notably Prince Fielder in the 2011-12 offseason.
  • Also from Beck, he passes along comments from Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski reiterating that nothing has changed between Detroit and Scherzer.  “I guess anything can happen but we’re not in active pursuit at this time. We’re happy with our starting pitching,” Dombrowski said.  “Again, we love him, but as I said at the time, we were the sole club that could sign him last spring. It didn’t work. I don’t think our odds improve with 29 other clubs that could potentially try to sign him.”
  • Melky Cabrera is still the Royals‘ top choice to fill their hole in the outfield, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.  If Cabrera can’t be signed, K.C. has such options as Nori Aoki, Colby Rasmus or Alex Rios as fallback options.
  • The vesting option on Ervin Santana‘s four-year contract with the Twins will require more than just 200 IP from the righty in 2018 to guarantee his 2019 season, a source tells Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press (Twitter link).
  • The Twins haven’t discussed extensions with Phil Hughes, Brian Dozier or Trevor Plouffe yet this offseason, Mike Berardino reports (via Twitter).  Berardino suggests that talks could wait until January.  The three players have very different contract situations — Dozier isn’t arbitration-eligible until next winter, Plouffe is projected to earn $4.3MM in his second of four arb years as a Super Two player and Hughes still has two seasons remaining on the three-year, $24MM deal he signed last winter.  Of the three, Hughes would clearly be the most expensive to extend given his tremendous 2014 campaign.

Winter Meetings Rumors: Giants, Santana, Marlins, Morneau, Dodgers, Angels

Needless to say, it was a frenetic end to the Winter Meetings. Over the course of the morning, several forward-looking reports emerged. We’ll round those up here:

  • The Giants are focused on free agent starter James Shields, according to Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News (via Twitter). San Francisco is alive on both Shields and Ervin Santana, John Shea of the San Francisco Chronicle adds on Twitter. The club met with Shields in San Diego, as Chris Cotillo of SB Nation reported yesterday (Twitter link).
  • The Twins are still trying to land Santana, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, who adds that the GiantsRoyals, and Yankees have also expressed interest in the free agent righty.
  • The Marlins are still looking hard at the free agent and trade market for a first baseman, Clark Spencer of the Miami Herald reports on Twitter. A deal could come at any time, Spencer adds.
  • Attempts by the Marlins to deal for Justin Morneau of the Rockies have fallen apart, tweets MLB.com’s Tom Singer. He hears that Miami could rekindle talks with the Pirates regarding a Pedro Alvarez-for-Nathan Eovaldi swap.
  • Communications between the Marlins and Rockies regarding Morneau will continue, MLB.com’s Thomas Harding reports on Twitter, though Harding’s source says he is not sure if the potential match “has legs.”
  • The Dodgers did not make their moves as a prelude to dealing away Zack Greinke or dealing for Cole Hamels, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports on Twitter. Los Angeles has already done its heavy lifting with yesterday’s series of moves, says Sherman.
  • After trading away second baseman Howie Kendrick, the Angels are “open to opportunities” for additions at the position, GM Jerry Dipoto tells Mike DiGiovanna of MLB.com (Twitter link). The Halos are not interested in free agents Jed Lowrie and Stephen Drew, per Dipoto. Of course, the team just added Josh Rutledge to join in-house option Grant Green in the current mix.

Quick Hits: Scherzer, Santana, Zimmermann, Segura

Agent Scott Boras says he will not give the Tigers the opportunity to match offers for his client Max Scherzer, Chris Iott of MLive.com writes. “This is not church bingo,” Boras told the media Wednesday. “You pretty much are in the market on a player. You tell all the teams and everyone involved that he can sign at any time. He’s open to signing at any time.” A Tigers official recently said that a new deal with Scherzer was “not happening,” however, so right now, it sounds like the Tigers aren’t that inclined to play bingo either. Here’s more from around the big leagues.

  • The Yankees are considering signing Ervin Santana, SB Nation’s Chris Cotillo tweets. Santana has lately been connected to the Twins, Giants and Royals, with the Twins reportedly prepared to offer a deal in the range of four years and $50MM. The Yankees, meanwhile, are looking for starting pitching, but GM Brian Cashman has said he’s being “patient” at the Winter Meetings.
  • The Nationals met with Jordan Zimmermann‘s agent, Mark Pieper, on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings, James Wagner of the Washington Post writes. “It was a re-acquaintance, if you will, to talk about philosophies and parameters and that type of thing,” says Nats GM Mike Rizzo. The two sides had not attempted to negotiate an extension for Zimmermann since before the 2014 season. Zimmermann is eligible for free agency next winter. Last week, FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal reported that the Nationals would again attempt to extend Zimmermann. Wagner adds that the Nationals do not plan to trade Zimmermann, Doug Fister or Ian Desmond (all of whom are eligible for free agency at the end of the year) before the start of spring training.
  • Jean Segura‘s struggles last season have the Brewers thinking they shouldn’t offer players extensions in the spring, Tom Haudricourt of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel writes. The Brewers offered Segura a six-year, $38MM extension last spring, but Segura’s camp turned it down. Segura had a poor first half, and the Brewers feel he was pressing. Near midseason, Segura tragically lost his infant son. He then returned to the team and struggled through July and August before hitting better in September. “I do think [the extension offer] was a distraction for Segura,” says GM Doug Melvin. “You’re around all the players (in camp) and they talk about it. I just think the focus on spring training is important to get ready.”
  • The Braves have not contacted Kris Medlen since they non-tendered him, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution tweets. Medlen missed the entire 2014 season after having his second Tommy John surgery.
  • Reliever Matt Albers, who missed much of the 2014 season due to shoulder trouble, will begin throwing in February, SportsNet.ca’s Ben Nicholson-Smith tweets. More than one team has shown interest, Nicholson-Smith notes. Albers, 31, has appeared in parts of nine big-league seasons with the Astros, Orioles, Red Sox, Diamondbacks and Indians, posting a 4.42 ERA with 6.3 K/9 and 4.0 BB/9.

Twins “Pushing” To Sign Ervin Santana

THURSDAY: Minnesota is prepared to offer Santana a contract in the neighborhood of four years and $50MM, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman reports.  The Royals and Giants are among the other teams involved in the Santana chase.

WEDNESDAY: The Twins are “pushing to get [a] deal” with free agent right-hander Ervin Santana, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports (Twitter link).  Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (via Twitter) hears that the Twins have made an offer to Santana, though he cautions that the offer alone doesn’t indicate that a deal is close.

For what it’s worth, Twins GM Terry Ryan won’t even confirm that the Twins have interest in the free agent hurler, as Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com tweets.  He says that any news of a deal (or, presumably, a near-deal) is news to him.

Santana, 31, pitched to a 3.95 ERA with 8.2 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and a 42.7 percent ground-ball rate in 196 innings of work in 2014.  While his ERA rose, metrics such as FIP (3.39) and xFIP (3.47) felt Santana had his best season since 2008.

Earlier today, we learned that the Giants are talking with Santana now that they have lost out on their top target, Jon Lester.  The veteran is said to love “pitching in the cold,” so Minnesota might prove to be a solid fit for him.