Ervin Santana Rumors

East Links: Santana, Sox, Cespedes, Phils, Mets

The Braves are expected to make a qualifying offer to Ervin Santana, reports David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. In the event that Santana leaves, the team may pursue a top-of-the-rotation type of arm, O’Brien writes, but their lack of financial flexibility would make the trade market a more likely avenue than free agency. O’Brien adds that he finds it unlikely that Santana would accept the QO — a sentiment with which I wholeheartedly agree. He also notes that should the club lose Santana, it might be more motivated to try to retain Aaron Harang, even though he is in line for a sizable raise from the $2MM he earned in 2014 (including incentives). MLBTR’s Zach Links recently profiled Harang, pegging him for a two-year, $14MM contract. Santana was also profiled by MLBTR, with Tim Dierkes projecting a four-year pact worth $56MM.

Elsewhere in baseball’s Eastern divisions…

  • The Red Sox are prioritizing Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley as the look toward the offseason, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. The team may also look at Aramis Ramirez, though he’s not believed to be as coveted as Sandoval or Headley and is said to prefer a return to Milwaukee, per Heyman, who adds that the Yankees would like to re-sign Headley. Red Sox third basemen combined to hit just .245/.305/.351 in 2014.
  • Red Sox people strongly denied a previous report that Yoenis Cespedes is hated by the team’s coaching staff, Heyman writes in a second piece. One source called the report “totally untrue,” and manager John Farrell added on MLB Network Radio that the notion was “completely unfounded,” Heyman adds. He goes on to write that a trade of Cespedes is unlikely (though not impossible), given Boston’s overall need for power.
  • The Phillies announced today that their entire coaching staff has agreed to return to the club for the 2015 season.
  • Joel Sherman of the New York Post looks at the second round of changes coming to the dimensions of Citi Field and writes that the new dimensions may give some type of hint as to which players are most likely to be traded by the Mets this offseason. The Mets are planning to make Citi Field more homer-friendly and build the pitching staff around arms that emphasize strikeouts and ground-balls. Names like Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler fit that description, but Bartolo Colon, Dillon Gee and, to a lesser extent, Rafael Montero are all more prone to fly-balls, making them more likely to be dealt.

Free Agent Faceoff: Ervin Santana vs. Brandon McCarthy

MLB Trade Rumors is firing up this year’s version of the Free Agent Faceoff series, in which comparable free agents are analyzed side by side. Each post will conclude with a reader vote on the value of the players involved. The first faceoff featured three shortstops. In the second, we’ll look at a pair of starters:

It’s a common consensus this year that the free agent class for starting pitchers has a great deal of separation between the top three starters — Max Scherzer, Jon Lester and James Shields — and the rest of the class. While opinions on the ranking of those three vary (perhaps a topic for another installment in this series!), there’s a cloudier picture when it comes to the second tier of free agents. Most of the pitchers in the second tier come with some form of blemish on their record, be it a checkered injury history, the possibility of a qualifying offer, inconsistent year-to-year results or some combination of the above. Today we’ll take a look at a pair of 31-year-old starters who can each try to make a case that he’s the best among the second tier: Ervin Santana and Brandon McCarthy. (This is, of course, not to say that the “best among the second tier” is specifically limited to these two.)

McCarthy vs. Santana is somewhat of a case of tantalizing upside versus steady and reliable. McCarthy totaled an even 200 innings in 2014 — the first time in his career he’s reached that mark and just the second time in which he’s topped 180 frames. Santana, on the other hand, threw 196 innings and has topped the 200 mark on five occasions in his career. He’s averaged 207 innings per season over the past five years — durability to which McCarthy cannot lay claim.

In four of the aforementioned seasons, Santana has posted an ERA south of 4.00 — bottoming out at 3.24 last season in Kansas City. McCarthy’s best seasons came in 2011-12 with Oakland when he posted a combined 3.29 ERA in 281 1/3 innings. However, those two seasons are the only in which he’s successfully kept his ERA under 4.00.

To this point, the argument seems skewed heavily in Santana’s favor, but McCarthy’s case is certainly not without merit. When looking at the two through a sabermetric lens, McCarthy can be seen as not only the better pitcher, but arguably one of the better pitchers in the league. McCarthy’s 2.86 FIP in 2011 led the league, and a comparison of their marks in ERA (3.81 vs. 3.87), FIP (3.44 vs. 4.19), xFIP (3.43 vs. 3.88) and SIERA (3.60 vs. 3.93) all favor McCarthy. The Yankees were likely drawn to McCarthy’s sabermetric profile this July when trading for him, and that investment paid off handsomely, as McCarthy pitched to a stellar 2.89 ERA with 8.2 K/9 and 1.3 BB/9 in 90 1/3 innings down the stretch.

McCarthy has generated more ground-balls than Santana since buying into sabermetric principles back in 2009, but he took his ground-ball rate to a new level in 2014 (52.6 percent) while Santana regressed in the same area (42.7 percent). Both pitchers possess strong command and can miss bats, but McCarthy has shown better control over the past four seasons while Santana has bested McCarthy in strikeout rate each year. McCarthy’s strikeout rate did jump in 2014, along with his velocity (career-best 92.9 mph average fastball), but Santana’s strikeout rate rose as well (even against non-pitchers in the NL).

Other factors to consider: Santana will pitch all of next season at age 32, while McCarthy won’t be 32 until July. Additionally, Santana is eligible to receive a qualifying offer, meaning he could again come with draft pick compensation attached to his name; McCarthy is ineligible to receive a QO after being traded midseason.

Each player has been on the receiving end of a Free Agent Profile at MLBTR (McCarthy’s penned by me, Santana’s by Tim Dierkes), which provide even more in-depth looks at the pros and cons of each. Use those as you wish to help formulate an opinion before voting…


Free Agent Profile: Ervin Santana

Ervin Santana‘s 2013-14 offseason did not go as planned following a strong 2013 campaign.  After spending all winter searching for a strong multiyear deal, he settled for a one-year deal with the Braves in March matching the qualifying offer amount of $14.1MM.  Turning down a qualifying offer from the Royals was considered a major factor in Santana’s disappointing market, as teams did not want to pay full price while surrendering a draft pick.  Now, after another solid season, Santana must navigate the free agent market again, potentially with another qualifying offer.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Atlanta BravesStrengths/Pros

Santana missed over a month in 2009 with a UCL sprain in his pitching elbow, but his agents presented teams with a statement from Dr. James Andrews last offseason in which the surgeon noted, “He doesn’t need any further treatment for his right elbow partial UCL tear, as on (the) MRI today it appears that it has completely healed.”

Santana had another healthy season despite signing late, and it might be enough to put the elbow concern to rest.  In fact, he’s been quite durable, making at least 30 starts in each of the past five seasons and posted a sub-4.00 ERA in four of those campaigns.  Though his first big league start didn’t come until April 9th, Santana still ranked 11th among free agent starters with 196 innings.  Santana’s average of 6.32 innings per start ranked fifth among free agents.

Santana struck out 8.2 batters per nine innings in 2014, his best mark since 2008. That ranks fourth among free agent starters.   Some of that can be attributed to moving to the National League and striking out pitchers, though Santana also increased his strikeout rate against non-pitchers.  And despite a reputation as being fairly homer-prone, Santana allowed only 0.73 HR/9, fifth among free agent starters.

Santana’s 3.63 SIERA bettered his 3.95 ERA, and the skill-based estimate might be a better way to project what he’ll do next year.  Only five free agent starters topped Santana’s 2.8 wins above replacement.  After the Big Three of Max Scherzer, Jon Lester, and James Shields, there’s a case for Santana as the top pitcher in the second tier.

Weaknesses/Cons

One of the biggest cons for Santana is a potential draft pick cost, if he receives and turns down a $15.3MM qualifying offer from the Braves.  More on that later.

Santana is relatively hittable, having allowed 8.9 hits per nine innings this year.  Perhaps that was a fluke, given a .319 batting average on balls in play.  Still, left-handed hitters batted .283 against Santana this year, and they also hit him hard in 2012.

As Fangraphs’ Mike Petriello pointed out this month, no right-handed starter has thrown sliders more often than Santana over the past two years (nearly 36% of the time).  The pitch is generally considered to be hard on a pitcher’s elbow, even if Santana has proven himself to be durable.  Any team entertaining signing Santana to a multiyear deal will be more concerned with what will happen moving forward.

While Santana did a nice job limiting the longball this year, his 8.8% home run per flyball rate wasn’t in line with his career norm and his 42.7% groundball rate wasn’t anything special.  If his HR/FB returns to normal, he’ll return to being the pitcher who allowed 1.26 home runs per nine innings from 2010-13.

Personal

Santana looked up to Pedro Martinez as a boy growing up in San Cristobal in the Dominican Republic, and was signed by the Angels at age 17.  He’s now married with two children.  Jesse Sanchez’s MLB.com article and video from September 2013 gives great insight into his family life.  Santana is described by his wife as a quiet yet silly guy who enjoys playing with his children.

Market

In my estimation, the second tier of free agent starting pitching this winter includes Santana, Kenta Maeda, Brandon McCarthy, Francisco Liriano, Justin Masterson, Jake Peavy, Hiroki Kuroda, and Jason Hammel.  Of those eight, only Santana, Liriano, and Kuroda are even eligible to receive qualifying offers.  Kuroda could retire, and even if he doesn’t he would be extremely picky where he plays.

After speaking to rival executives last month, ESPN’s Buster Olney predicted Santana would receive a qualifying offer from the Braves, while Liriano would not receive one from the Pirates.  So there’s a very real scenario where Santana is the only second-tier pitcher to receive a qualifying offer.  Even if some teams feel he’s the best pitcher in this tier, they could certainly turn to someone they rank lower who will not require draft pick forfeiture.

The qualifying offer situation muddies Santana’s free agency again, making it difficult to predict which teams will be involved.  If he receives and turns down a QO, he’ll be a better fit for teams with protected first rounders like the Cubs, White Sox, Phillies, Red Sox, Twins, Astros, Rockies, Rangers, and Diamondbacks.  The draft pick forfeiture would further be minimized if one of those teams first signs another player who turned down a QO, meaning Santana would only require forfeiture of a third-round pick.  The Twins pursued Santana last winter and still need starting pitching.  I don’t think a QO will kill Santana’s market, and certainly teams without protected first rounders will  have interest.  The Marlins, Yankees, Tigers, and Giants could get involved.  The Blue Jays, Orioles, and Mariners were in on Santana last winter, but their needs may have changed.

Santana could also return to the Braves in 2015, as the team faces uncertainty in the rotation after Julio Teheran, Alex Wood, and Mike Minor.

Expected Contract

The Braves’ best chance of retaining Santana might be if he accepts a qualifying offer, which I find unlikely.  Santana would not risk much by turning down a QO — last winter showed that a one-year deal near the qualifying offer value will probably be out there all winter and into Spring Training.

Obviously Santana does not want a repeat of that scenario, so it will be important for agent Jay Alou to set proper expectations.  One year ago, MLBTR’s Steve Adams predicted a five-year, $75MM deal for Santana, and I agreed.  Edwin Jackson‘s four-year, $52MM seemed like the floor.  In November of 2013, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported Santana’s asking price was in excess of $100MM over five years, with Jon Heyman of CBS Sports pegging the price at $112MM over five.  A week later, agents Bean Stringfellow and Joe White (who no longer represent Santana) showed Rosenthal the binder they created to showcase their client, which they felt made the $100MM case partially through an ill-conceived comparison to Zack GreinkeStringfellow later denied asking for five years and $112MM, but it seems likely that he, White, and Alou started off too high for Santana, and once expectations were adjusted into the Edwin Jackson range, it was too late.  Santana’s one-year deal was not owed entirely to the qualifying offer.

Now only Alou remains, and he should at least be able to score the now-standard four-year, $50MM deal this time.  As I think Santana will be plenty appealing even with another qualifying offer, I’m predicting a four-year, $56MM deal this time around.  Combined with the 2014 one-year deal, Alou would be able to say he ultimately got Santana five years and $70MM, not far off Steve Adams’ original estimate from last offseason.



Olney On Qualifying Offer Candidates

In his latest Insider-only blog, ESPN’s Buster Olney runs down a list of pending free agents that are candidates to receive qualifying offers. Olney spoke with several executives from around the league and is of the mind that James Shields, Max Scherzer, Pablo Sandoval, Melky Cabrera, Russell Martin, Nelson Cruz, J.J. Hardy, Victor Martinez, Ervin Santana, David Robertson and Hanley Ramirez will receive qualifying offers, which should fall between $15MM and $15.5MM.

Here are a few more notes from Olney’s piece…

  • The Giants intend to give Sandoval a QO with the assumption that he will reject the offer and test the open market. San Francisco appears willing to offer him just three years, says Olney, and even going to four years might be too much of a stretch. Such a commitment seems much too light to land Sandoval, who, at 28 years old, will be one of the youngest free agents on the market.
  • It looks like the Dodgers and Ramirez could be moving in separate directions, as rival evaluators anticipate the team will extend a qualifying offer with the expectation that Ramirez signs elsewhere.
  • The value of Martin on a one-year deal, even north of $15MM, makes a QO for the Pirates “an easy call,” one rival GM said to Olney. Some may wonder whether or not Francisco Liriano is a QO candidate, but executives polled by Olney feel that his injury history and lack of innings present too much risk for the Bucs to extend such an offer. I’m inclined to agree; while Martin is a lock to turn down the QO, Liriano would have more hesitancy, and a $15MM salary would represent nearly 21 percent of the Pirates’ Opening Day payroll from 2014.
  • Some evaluators think that Cruz will again find himself with a more limited market than he expects due to his age, 2013 PED suspension and the fact that his OBP and defense are less impressive than his power totals.
  • Many rival executives feel there’s simply no way that the Tigers will let Martinez get away. Olney’s right in noting that a QO is “an easy call” for V-Mart, who currently sports a hefty .333/.401/.567 with a career-high 31 homers.
  • Olney also feels that a QO for Robertson is an easy call. While he notes that teams don’t pay $15MM for closers anymore, one evaluator said to him: “…with any other team, we wouldn’t be talking about this. But it’s the Yankees, and they can do it.” On a somewhat related note, Olney adds that Koji Uehara‘s late-season swoon may be a blessing of sorts for the Red Sox, who can now approach him with an offer much lower than a QO would have been. I noted in yesterday’s MLBTR chat that I’d be more hesitant to give Robertson a QO, but the Yankees could certainly afford to run the risk.

NL East Notes: Santana, Marlins, Rollins, Phils

It was on this day in 1961 that Braves legend Warren Spahn threw a no-hitter at age 40, holding the Giants to just two walks in the 1-0 result.  It was the second no-hitter of Spahn’s long career, yet his first came just eight months earlier when he no-hit the Phillies on September 16, 1960.

Here’s some news of note from around the NL East…

  • Ervin Santana‘s newly-developed changeup has been a big new weapon in his pitching arsenal, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan writes.  It’s still early in the season and the changeup’s effectiveness could drop as scouting reports get around the league, Sullivan warns, yet the results have thus far been very impressive for Santana and the Braves.
  • The Marlins could’ve added more veteran depth to their young rotation over the offseason, yet manager Mike Redmond, pitching coach Chuck Hernandez and the front office all decided that the young arms were the way to go, MLB.com’s Joe Frisaro writes.  “As we entered the offseason and started our planning, there were tough decisions and frank discussions. If there was not a belief from the dugout to the front office that these weren’t the right guys, then we would have gone out to try to find whatever we needed,” Miami president of baseball ops Michael Hill said.
  • Jimmy Rollins has been “an ideal citizen” within the Phillies clubhouse and has taken on a leadership role with young players, a source tells FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.  This could be Rollins’ way of moving past the tension that existed between he and manager Ryne Sandberg during Spring Training, Rosenthal notes, or Rollins could be attempting to ensure that he receives the 434 PA he needs for his 2015 option to vest.
  • Also from Rosenthal’s column, the Phillies‘ bullpen “remains alarmingly thin” and “an outside addition would be helpful.”  Phillies relievers have posted a 5.14 ERA this season, the third-worst bullpen ERA in the majors.  Right-handed relief is a particular need given that Justin De Fratus, Brad Lincoln and B.J. Rosenberg have all been hit hard and none are even currently on the Major League roster.

AL East Notes: Santana, Lester, Yanks, Meek, Escobar

Last week, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reported that several Blue Jays players were willing to defer their salary in order to help the team bring Ervin Santana on board, and it was later reported by Sportsnet's Shi Davidi that the group of Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Bautista, Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey were the five who were willing to do so. Last night, Rosenthal added to the story, reporting that Santana was so close to heading to Toronto that the MLBPA had already approved the deferrals. Rosenthal again speculates on the possibility of Rogers Communications imposing a payroll limit on the 2014 Blue Jays, which would help explain their quiet offseason (which was previously examined by our own Mark Polishuk). Elsewhere in the AL East…

  • The Boston Herald's Gerry Callahan opines that while Jon Lester is clearly the No. 1 starter for the Red Sox, he's not elite and isn't worth the money he could make on the open market. Callahan writes that another team will "get stupid" with Lester, offering him something in excess of $130-140MM, and if talks get to that point, then Boston would be wise to emulate the A's or Rays instead of the Dodgers or Yankees, and let their high-priced star walk.
  • In a second column from Rosenthal, he looks at a number of topics that also pertain largely to the AL East, beginning firstly noting that we shouldn't expect to see the Yankees pursue any outside help after injuries to Mark Teixeira or David Robertson. The Yankees feel that both injuries will be short-lived, and therefore aren't looking strongly at Ryan Madson and/or Joel Hanrahan, nor are they considering trades for first basemen.
  • Also of interest to Yankees fans will be Rosenthal's look at the rise of Yangervis Solarte — a minor league signing who has experience an unlikely rise to prominence in the Majors. Solarte's agents, Chris Leible and Peter Greenberg of the Legacy Agency, recall that their initial representation of Solarte was merely a favor to his uncle, Roger Cedeno. At one point this offseason, the Yankees dropped out of the bidding for Solarte, who was highly sought after. However, he was recommended by three different scouts, and Leible encouraged him by advising that his best ticket to the Majors was in a utility role.
  • Rosenthal also looks at the long road back to the Majors for Evan Meek, who signed a minor league deal with the Orioles this offseason only after calling his former Pirates manager (and current O's bench coach) John Russell and asking for a look. He ultimately auditioned for seven or eight clubs, but chose to go to Baltimore.
  • Lastly, Rosenthal notes that the extension for Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar was "almost certainly" his own call rather than that of his agents at Miami Sports Management. He writes that Escobar seems to prefer even minor levels of security and would rather have his new guarantee than risk waiting until free agency to sign, even if the outcome could have been something along the lines of Omar Infante's four-year deal with the Royals this offseason.

Blue Jays Players Were Willing To Defer Salary To Land Santana

5:43pm: Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Reyes, Jose Bautista, Mark Buehrle and R.A. Dickey were the five players who would have been willing to defer salary to sign Santana, SportsNet.com's Shi Davidi reports. Those are the five highest-paid players on the Jays' roster this season. The deferrals raise "very troubling questions" about the direction of the franchise, Davidi writes, wondering why the Jays did not come up with the money themselves.

10:50am: Ervin Santana certainly looked to be headed to the Blue Jays at one point this offseason, but late injuries to Braves right-handers Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy prompted Atlanta to swoop in and sign him to a one-year, $14.1MM contract (the same figure Toronto had offered). According to the latest report from Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, Blue Jays players were willing to defer their salaries in order to allow the club to sign Santana. Rosenthal adds that discussions never got past the "conversation" stage, however.

One agent told Rosenthal that he never took the situation that seriously, as the MLBPA wouldn't have allowed players to merely defer their salary without receiving some form of additional financial compensation. Still, as Rosenthal points out, the discussions raise some questions about the Jays' payroll flexibility for the 2014 season.

Two agents told Rosenthal that they heard talk of deferral from their players but were never approached by GM Alex Anthopoulos. While Anthopoulos declined comment to Rosenthal, team president and CEO Paul Beeston admitted to Mark Galloway of CBC Radio that there were some discussions about deferring salary for current players to accomodate Santana (Audio link). Said Beeston:

"Well, there was discussion about that, Matt. And to be very honest with you, I think if it would've gone that way, that would've been fine. But we are at $140MM right now. One thing that we do have is a very generous owner from the point of view of what they have committed to try to build the team."

Beeston was somewhat vague when asked by Galloway if ownership had capped spending at that $140MM mark, replying, "Well, we're a business. So the answer to that is we have a budget. So the answer is it's not a cap, because I think if we can increase our revenue, we can increase our expenses. But we run it as a business."

Beeston added that if money gets to the point where ownership isn't comfortable, other avenues such as trades or the farm system become avenues to improve the team. He offers high praise for Top 100 prospects Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, noting that they're excited to introduce them to the Major League fanbase and will need a combination of cost-controlled players to pair with the team's more expensive stars. 


Medlen To Undergo Tommy John; Beachy To Receive 2nd Opinion

MARCH 17: Medlen will undergo the second Tommy John surgery of his career tomorrow, tweets Mark Bowman of MLB.com. Meanwhile, Beachy is headed to Los Angeles for further evaluation after also being seen today by Dr. James Andrews.

Comments from GM Frank Wren certainly made it sound as if Beachy could be headed in the same direction, even if he is holding out hope, as Carroll Rogers of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports“I think it’s natural for guys to want to exhaust every possibility before they ultimately make that decision that I’m going to have surgery,” Wren said. “Sometimes these decisions aren’t black and white. There’s enough gray that they want just another set of eyes and another impression on what’s being seen.” The possibility of a second Tommy John procedure for Beachy was reported several days ago.

Looking ahead, the Braves could be in a tough spot next fall, when Medlen will qualify for his final trip through arbitration. He avoided arbitration this year by agreeing to a $5.8MM salary, and the resulting high salary floor could make it tough for Atlanta to tender him a contract for 2015. Medlen will not even be nine months into the recovery process at the point at which tender decisions are due. Teams have guaranteed money under similar circumstances — indeed, the Braves promised Gavin Floyd $4MM to join the club for 2014 — but the fact that this is Medlen's second UCL replacement certainly increases the risk.  

MARCH 12: Medlen told reporters, including MLB.com's Mark Bowman (Twitter link), that he has spent the past two days preparing himself for a second Tommy John surgery. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution says there is a "high likelihood" that Medlen will need Tommy John. O'Brien relays that Medlen was "angry and in denial" after injuring his arm on Sunday; he threw two more pitches before exiting the game (Twitter links).

MARCH 11: Braves right-hander Kris Medlen received his MRI results Tuesday and consulted with team doctors before GM Frank Wren addressed the media. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution was on-hand as Wren revealed to the public that the MRI showed "some involvement in the ligament." However, MRIs on patients that have already undergone Tommy John surgery are difficult to read, and Medlen will therefore undergo further tests and meet with Dr. James Andrews to get another opinion before determining if surgery is required.

While Wren wouldn't comment on specific names, he admitted that the team is exploring the starting pitching market for additional help. O'Brien reports that the Braves have definitely reached out to Ervin Santana as one possibility. Wren called the Braves' mounting pitching injuries "worrisome," though the team believes Brandon Beachy's biceps tightness to be routine for players who have undergone elbow surgeries in the past (per O'Brien's Twitter).

Santana threw a two-inning simulated game yesterday and may wait a day or two before signing, Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes reported last night. In that report, he added that financial concern is the main deterrent for the Braves, whose primary competition is the Orioles and Blue Jays. Baltimore has offered a one-year, $13MM deal plus incentives, while Toronto is offering one year and $14MM without incentives. The Twins have offered a three-year deal reported to be in the $30-33MM range, but Santana's preference is a one-year deal, as he could essentially guarantee himself roughly that amount over two years by signing for roughly $14MM for this season and getting a qualifying offer next offseason.

The potential loss of Medlen would be a devastating blow for a Braves rotation that already lost Tim Hudson to free agency and could be without Mike Minor for the early portion of April. Atlanta was projected to have a rotation of Medlen, Minor, Beachy, Julio Teheran and Alex Wood to open the season, with Gavin Floyd eventually slotting in once recovered from Tommy John surgery. Now, they may have to turn to Freddy Garcia, David Hale and other internal candidates, which would be less than ideal for a team expecting to contend in 2014.


Braves Notes: Santana, Payroll, Wren, Medlen

The Braves were the surprise winners of the Ervin Santana sweepstakes, signing a one-year, $14.1MM deal with the free agent right-hander earlier today.  We've already published one batch of items about how the Santana signing impacts the other teams who were in the hunt for his services, but here's some news about what the signing means for Atlanta…

  • Santana's deal will raise the Braves' payroll to around the $107MM threshold, but club chairman and CEO Terry McGuirk has no problem with the added money since the team is "in a winning mode," he tells MLB.com's Mark Bowman.  "It's the right time.  Money was not the issue so much as, 'Is it the right time to do it?' We want to send a message to the guys in this clubhouse, our fans and our sponsors and the whole organization that we expect to win."
  • "The [Braves'] announced move to Cobb County has become the gift that keeps on giving," Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes (Insider access required).  Since the team's new stadium plan was announced, the Braves have had the financial ability to sign Santana and ink several key players to multiyear extensions.
  • Braves GM Frank Wren deserves credit for acting quickly to sign Santana, Jeff Schultz of the Journal-Constitution writes, once it became clear that Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy's injuries were serious.  In Schultz's words, "more often than not [Wren] is not proactive in situations like this."
  • The Braves didn't approach Medlen about an extension this winter, David O'Brien of the Journal-Constitution tweets.  Medlen agreed to a one-year, $5.8MM deal for 2014 to avoid arbitration in his second arb-eligible season, and he is eligible for free agency following the 2015 season.  Of course, both Medlen's future in Atlanta and his pitching future in general could be in question as it appears likely the right-hander will soon undergo his second Tommy John surgery.

Reactions To And Fallout From Ervin Santana Signing

Addressing his team's sudden and successful entry into the market for starter Ervin Santana, Braves GM Frank Wren said that he did not expect to be in the market for free agent starters, but felt Santana was the best option available going into the offseason. (Video of press conference via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.) It was Atlanta's good fortune that Santana remained unsigned when Kris Medlen walked off the mound with an injury on Sunday. Wren immediately made contact, knowing that he had to catch up quickly with other clubs further down the road on talks with Santana. "Once we started talking, we realized that Ervin was very interested in us as well, thought this was a good opportunity for him, and it was a perfect fit for us." 

  • For Atlanta, the message to the field staff and players was clear. "[The signing] means our GM and our front office want to win," manager Fredi Gonzalez said, as MLB.com's Joe Frisaro tweets.
  • The key for Santana was his desire to pitch in the National League, Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca reports on Twitter. Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos confirmed, saying that he was told Santana "had a strong desire to pitch in the NL and there was no way to compete with that." (MLB.com's Gregor Chisholm provides a transcript of Anthopoulos's chat with the media today.) The GM also emphasized that he was "very comfortable we did everything we could" to land Santana, who the club "viewed … as an impact starter." Anthopoulos implied some disappointment with the way things unfolded, declining comment on several questions about reports that a deal was done last Saturday by saying that he was "trying to take the high road here." 
  • From the Twins' perspective, most talks were "very exploratory," assistant GM Rob Antony told Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press"I think what they were looking at and were looking for was different from what we were thinking," explained Antony. "… We weren't necessarily looking for a one-year guy."
  • Meanwhile, the Royals' short run with Santana is now officially over, but the team feels fine about how things worked out, Andy McCullough of the Kansas City Star reports on Twitter"I think Erv's going to do very well," GM Dayton Moore said, "and we're going to get the pick. And it all worked out." Indeed it did: K.C. got a valuable draft choice and excellent season from Santana, all for the low price of $12MM and the rights to minor league lefty Brandon Sisk.