Ervin Santana Rumors

Pirates Make Qualifying Offers To Martin, Liriano

NOVEMBER 9: Martin will decline the qualifying offer prior to Monday’s deadline, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. The move comes as no surprise given the strong market developing for his services. As we learned yesterday, the Pirates, Cubs, Dodgers, and Blue Jays are the early front runners.

NOVEMBER 3: The Pirates have extended one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers to both Russell Martin and Francisco Liriano, the team announced.

Both moves have been expected to varying degrees. Martin was seen as the likelier candidate, but Liriano is coming off a pair of strong, albeit injury-shortened seasons, and figures to seek a more lucrative multi-year deal on the open market.

Martin batted .290/.402/.430 for the Pirates this season and has come to be regarded as one of the game’s most elite defensive backstops based on his ability to control the running game and his exceptional pitch-framing skill. Liriano, meanwhile, pitched to a 3.38 ERA with 9.7 K/9 and 4.5 BB/9 in 168 innings this season and turned in a combined 3.20 ERA in 323 1/3 innings with the Pirates over the past two seasons.

Both Liriano and Martin will now have one week to decide whether or not to accept the offers. In Martin’s case, with his rumored price tag soaring north of $50MM over the past couple of months, conventional wisdom says that he’ll turn the offer down. Some may find Liriano a better bet to accept the offer, and while that’s true, doing so would expose him to the risk of an injury or a down season. It seems more likely to me that he’ll decline the QO in search of a multi-year deal, looking to the case of Ervin Santana last year as a worst-case scenario. Santana declined the $14.1MM qualifying offer from Kansas City and still signed a one-year, $14.1MM contract with the Braves months later. (Santana also received a QO of his own earlier today.) By declining the offer, Liriano is at most risking a few million dollars, as even with a draft pick attached, he could likely find $12MM+ on a one-year deal, if not the entire value of the QO as Santana did last season. However, accepting would be risking the upside of $15-20MM more than the QO on the open market.

MLBTR readers can keep track of all players who receive a qualifying offer by using our Free Agent Tracker.


Twelve Free Agents Receive Qualifying Offers

Today marked the deadline for players to receive one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers, and after nine players receiving a QO in 2012 and 13 players receiving the offer last offseason, 12 players have been extended a qualifying offer by their teams in 2014. They are:

Should these players reject the offer and sign with a new team, their former team will stand to receive a “sandwich” round draft pick as compensation. Those new teams, in turn, will have to forfeit their top unprotected draft pick. If a player rejects a QO but ultimately re-signs with the same team, no draft pick shuffling occurs.

There will be 11 protected picks in this year’s draft, as the picks of the teams with the 10 worst records are protected under the CBA, and Houston’s comp pick for failure to sign Brady Aiken is protected as well. The D’Backs, Astros, Rockies, Rangers, Twins, Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs, Phillies and Reds will all have their first-round selections protected. Those clubs will instead forfeit a second-round pick to sign a free agent with draft pick compensation attached. Teams can sign more than one free agent that has rejected a QO, as the Orioles did last winter in signing both Ubaldo Jimenez and Cruz. In that instance, Jimenez cost the team its first-round pick, while Cruz cost the club its second-round selection.

The players listed above will now have one week to decide whether or not to accept the QO and play on a one-year deal worth $15.3MM, or instead to or reject the offer in search of a larger guarantee on the open market.

The word “guarantee” is the key to that sentiment: while many will focus on whether or not the players can top that average annual value on the free agent market, more often than not, a player is concerned primarily with maximizing the amount of money he can earn over his prime seasons. Few players are ever sold on the idea of playing on a one-year deal when a multi-year guarantee can be had. Single-year contracts, on the free agent market, are often reserved for older players who don’t know how long they wish to continue playing (e.g. Hiroki Kuroda last winter), players coming off massive injuries (e.g. Corey Hart last winter) or players who have significantly underperformed in a contract year (e.g. Chris Young last offseason).

While upon first glance it might make sense to suggest a player with a spotty track record, such as Liriano, should accept the offer, there’s more downside for him in accepting than in rejecting. Even if Liriano is faced with a cold market, he’d likely be able to find a one-year contract at an AAV north of $10MM, if not a one-year offer commensurate with the total sum of the qualifying offer, as Santana did last offseason when signing a one-year, $14.1MM contract with the Braves. Whereas the downside in accepting is “settling” for a one-year deal a few ticks below the QO level, the upside in rejecting is finding perhaps a three-year deal that could more than double the guarantee he’d otherwise receive. This risk/benefit calculus generally points toward testing the market.

The one case for accepting in this year’s class, that I see, would be that of Cuddyer. Though a solid veteran bat coming off a strong pair of seasons in terms of his rate stats, Cuddyer has defensive limitations and injury questions that will also drag his stock down. He played in just 49 games in 2014 and will play next season at age 36. MLBTR’s Zach Links only pegged his free agent stock at $22MM over two years in his recent Free Agent Profile for Cuddyer. It does seem there’s a real chance that Cuddyer could come in significantly lower than $15.3MM on a one-year deal if he rejects, and the upside may not be much greater for him as a two-year deal may have been the realistic ceiling anyhow.

Reports on whether or not any player will accept the offer should be filtering in over the next week, but those looking for a quick resource to check the status of each can use MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker (the provided link is already filtered to show only free agents that have received the QO, and their status will change from “Received” to “Rejected” or “Accepted” upon a decision being reached).


Braves Make Qualifying Offer To Ervin Santana

The Braves announced that they have officially made a one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offer to right-hander Ervin Santana, who will now have a week to accept or decline the offer. Should he decline and sign elsewhere, which seems likely, the Braves would receive a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round of next year’s draft.

Santana, 31, enjoyed a solid season for Atlanta in which he posted 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. While his ERA rose, metrics such as FIP (3.39) and xFIP (3.47) felt Santana had his best season since 2008.

Santana was hit with a QO last offseason as well and struggled to find a deal, though that may have been more due to the fact that his agents (two of whom no longer represent Santana) were said to be seeking a deal north of $110MM than the fact that Santana required a draft pick in order to sign. Even with a QO hanging over his head, Santana was able to find a one-year deal worth the exact amount of the QO ($14.1MM) late in the offseason, and he had similar one-year offers from both Baltimore and Toronto as well as three-year offer in the $30-33MM range from the Twins.

Suffice it to say, while the QO likely impacted his value in a negative manner, it certainly didn’t eliminate all interest in him on the open market. I’d wager that hitting the market with more realistic expectations this time could be beneficial — a sentiment which Tim Dierkes elaborated upon in his recent Free Agent Profile for Santana. Tim ultimately predicted a four-year deal north of $50MM for Santana — a projection with which I agree.

Earlier today, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeted that Santana has indicated that he’d consider accepting the QO, though as O’Brien noted shortly thereafter, it’s possible that was simply posturing by Santana’s camp in an effort to dissuade the team from making the offer in the first place (Twitter links).

You can use MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker to follow everyone who’s received a QO to this point and track their status in the coming week as they make their decisions.



Qualifying Offer Rumors: Santana, Kuroda, Hanley

Teams have until 4pm CT today to issue one-year, $15.3MM qualifying offers to impending free agents.  If the offer is turned down, a team would receive a compensatory first round pick in the 2015 draft if their free agent signed elsewhere.  MLBTR will report on all of the qualifying offers when they’re officially issued and you can stay quickly updated via MLBTR’s Free Agent Tracker.  Here’s the latest QO buzz, with the newest items at the top of the post…

  • The Braves have told Ervin Santana that he will receive a qualifying offer, a source tells MLB.com’s Mark Bowman.  The move was expected given Santana’s good 2014 season, and it will be interesting to see how Santana fares in free agency this offseason given how the QO playing a role in limiting his market last winter.   MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes predicts Santana will find a four-year, $56MM deal this time around.
  • The Yankees “don’t seem especially likely” to make Hiroki Kuroda a qualifying offer, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman writes, though the club hasn’t yet made a final decision about what to do with the 39-year-old righty.  Heyman doesn’t think a rival team would give up a draft pick to sign Kuroda to a one-year deal worth more than $15.3MM, so if the Yankees did issue the QO, it could limit Kuroda’s market.  Kuroda could also retire or return to Japan, making the qualifying offer scenario moot.
  • Also from Heyman, there is no doubt the Dodgers will make Hanley Ramirez a qualifying offer even if Andrew Friedman and Ramirez’s agent both aren’t commenting on the matter.

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.