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Ervin Santana Rumors
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.
WEDNESDAY: 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).
TUESDAY: 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.
Having seen their rotation come into question due to a host of injuries, the Braves made what would have been a relatively shocking move just one week ago; Atlanta announced this morning that they have signed right-hander Ervin Santana to a one-year deal that is reportedly worth $14.1MM — the exact amount of the qualifying offer he rejected back in November.
It's been a rocky offseason for Santana to say the least. Coming off one of the finest seasons of his career, the 31-year-old entered free agency with his eyes on a large multi-year contract, but like fellow free agents Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez, found that teams preferred to wait out the Masahiro Tanaka signing before turning to that trio of top MLB free agents.
Jimenez and Santana, in particular, found suitors difficult to come by due to the compensatory draft picks attached to their names after rejecting qualifying offers. When Jimenez eventually struck a four-year deal worth $50MM (the same amount Garza was guaranteed), Santana was left as the odd man out on the free agent market. He held out for his four-year deal shortly but ultimately set a new course and targeted a one-year deal with an eye toward signing as quickly as possible. That new goal came with the news that he was splitting from agent Bean Stringfellow of Proformance. However, Santana (and Jose Bautista) stuck with agent Jay Alou, who resigned from Proformance shortly after the news.
Santana posted a 3.24 ERA with 6.9 K/9, 2.2 BB/9 and a career-best 46.2 percent ground-ball rate in 211 innings for the Royals last year — his lone season with Kansas City. Royals GM Dayton Moore acquired him from the Angels last offseason in what amounted to a salary dump after Santana posted an ERA north of 5.00 in 2012 and was rewarded for his faith in a bounce-back campaign. Santana now has a sub-4.00 ERA in three of his past four seasons and has seen his ability to produce ground-balls steadily increase since 2011.
The Braves didn't look like a team that needed a great deal of pitching after a 2013 season in which their starters finished sixth in the Majors with a combined 3.51 ERA, tied for sixth with a 3.58 FIP and also tied for sixth with a 3.65 xFIP. However, the team saw Tim Hudson depart via free agency and sign with the Giants, and more recently, they've been beset by injuries in their rotation. Kris Medlen left his Sunday start and is believed to have ligament damage in his right elbow that could require surgery. Brandon Beachy is experiencing tightness in his biceps after undergoing a pair of elbow surgeries (one of which was Tommy John) in the past two years, and Mike Minor could miss a couple of weeks to open the season after urinary tract surgery this offseason.
By making this signing, the Braves are sacrificing their No. 26 overall selection in the draft, though that loss is lessened somewhat by the fact that they will have the No. 32 overall pick after losing Brian McCann to the Yankees as a free agent. The signing also means that Royals will now gain the No. 28 selection in the 2014 draft, as Yahoo's Jeff Passan tweeted over the weekend. That will give Kansas City four of the first 58 picks in this year's draft.
Santana also drew heavy interest from the Blue Jays, Orioles (even after the Jimenez signing) and the Twins late in his free agency. Minnesota even offered a three-year deal believed to be worth $30-33MM, but Santana held firm to his desire for a one-year deal, believing himself capable of posting a big season and re-entering the free agent market next offseason. Santana, of course, could find himself in the same situation next year, but the value of next year's qualifying offer could be north of $15MM. As such, he's likely to earn at least $29MM over the next two seasons anyway, meaning Minnesota's offer is just $1-4MM greater over one more year.
Beyond that, the Braves have a tight payroll and had to make a clear exception to sign Santana this season; they may not be able to afford the risk of extending a qualifying offer, even after a solid season. Finally, another strong year would give Santana back-to-back seasons of well above-average performance and four seasons of a sub-4.00 ERA in five tries. That could be enough to persuade teams that were wary of his rough 2012 and/or the medical reports on his elbow to show interest.
MLB.com's Mark Bowman first tweeted that the two sides were nearing completion on a deal, and David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution tweeted that the Braves would announce the signing of Santana this morning. Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes confirmed that it was a one-year pact (Spanish Twitter link). Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported Santana's salary (via Twitter).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Here's the latest on Ervin Santana, whose free agency situation has been the most active in recent days among the three still-unsigned players who declined qualifying offers:
- The Braves are "making [a] legitimate run" to sign Santana, a source tells Jim Bowden of ESPN.com (on Twitter).
- Santana could be expanding the search for possible landing spots, reports Ken Rosethal of FOX Sports (via Twitter). An executive from an interested team told Rosenthal that Santana's representatives were "talking to everyone."
- The Orioles are standing by their previously-reported, one-year offer of around $13MM, reports Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun. A source tells Encina that the O's had been in touch with Santana's reps late this afternoon, and that Santana is likely to choose a destination within the next day or two.
- The Orioles and Blue Jays still look like the favorites, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Santana's interest in a one-year deal is genuine, reports Heyman, with the righty being motivated to prove himself on the field.
- Indeed, as MLBTR's Steve Adams noted earlier this morning, if Santana signs a one-year pact and throws well enough to earn another qualifying offer, he would stand to make nearly as much in two years as he could on the three-year offers he has reportedly received in the low-$30MM range. Or, he might find the substantial, multi-year deal that has seemingly eluded him to date. It bears recalling that Scott Feldman managed to get three years at a $10MM AAV earlier in the offseason, and that more comparable arms like Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jimenez landed $50MM guarantees over four years. Betting on another good season and a market reset carries risk, but accepting a lesser multi-year deal would pretty much ensure that Santana could not reach his full earning potential.
- Orioles GM Dan Duquette called Santana's market "interesting," with more possible teams seemingly entering the fray as injuries change roster complexions.
- We learned that Braves starter Kris Medlen is getting a second opinion, but his MRI shows ligament damage. Atlanta has definitely been in touch with Santana, the same report provided.
The Braves are indeed very interested, with financial concerns the main limitation. Meanwhile, the Royals have put in a call on Santana. The Blue Jays and Orioles have standing offers out, Rojas adds.
2:21pm: O'Brien hears from a person connected to the Royals that the Braves may now be making a run at Santana (Twitter link). In addition to Medlen's injury, Brandon Beachy left today's Spring Training start with biceps tightness.
10:17am: The Braves haven't completely ruled out Santana in the event of a serious Medlen injury, writes MLB.com's Mark Bowman, but the financial and draft pick costs are definite factors. Atlanta would very much like to strengthen its crop of top prospects, and sacrificing the No. 26 selection in the draft would go against that thinking.
9:19am: Over the weekend it was reported that Ervin Santana has completely changed course and is now seeking a one-year deal with an eye toward a lucrative multi-year deal next offseason. With one-year offers of $13MM plus incentives and $14MM without incentives from the Orioles and Blue Jays, respectively, there appear to be a pair of clear favorites for Santana.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provides some updates on the Santana sweepstakes this morning, noting that the Blue Jays' players are lobbying for Santana to come to Toroto. Santana has many friends on the club, including countrymen Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion and Jose Reyes. One source told Rosenthal that several Jays players got together and texted Santana a picture of themselves holding a poster that read, "Come to Toronto."
One potentially game-changing factor to the Santana market could be the severity of the injury to Braves right-hander Kris Medlen, who left Sunday's Spring Training game with a forearm strain. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution touched on the topic this morning, wondering if the Braves could consider expanding their budget to bring him into the fold. Rosenthal writes that the Braves will get the results of an MRI on Medlen today. The draft pick loss wouldn't be as big for the Braves as some teams around the league, as Atlanta would surrender the No. 26 selection after already having received the No. 32 selection for losing Brian McCann to free agency. That forfeiture, however, would be the most significant of the specific teams mentioned in Rosenthal's piece.
Rosenthal also has some specifics on recent offers made to Santana; the Orioles' last three-year offer was believed to be in the $27MM range, while the three-year offer from the Twins was in the $30-33MM range. That offer was still on the table as of last night. However, as Rosenthal notes, Santana could earn nearly that much over the next two seasons by taking $14MM or so in 2014 and receiving a qualifying offer following the season, as next year's QO could jump to the $15-16MM range.
As the Braves await the results of today's MRI on Kris Medlen's right forearm, many have speculated that the team could turn to Ervin Santana in the event that Medlen is out for a significant period of time. However, David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution writes that he doesn't expect Atlanta to make a panicked move in the event of a serious injury to Medlen. If Medlen is on the DL, O'Brien expects Atlanta to open the season with Julio Teheran, Brandon Beachy, Alex Wood, Freddy Garcia and David Hale, with Mike Minor stepping into one spot once he's ready to go in mid-April, and Gavin Floyd eventually taking another. He adds that Josh Beckett's name "does nothing" for any member of the Braves organization to whom O'Brien has mentioned it. Here's more on their rotation and the NL East…
- As if Medlen's injury wasn't enough, Beachy left his start for the Braves today due to tightness in his right biceps, writes O'Brien. Beachy described the injury as "dull tightness" and has experienced it in his other two Spring Training starts. However, it got better as he threw harder in his last start, and today he says it worsened. Braves doctors told Beachy before the game that it was ok to try to pitch through the tightness. He wouldn't commit to being ready for Opening Day when asked by O'Brien, but said he thought the tightness was normal following a pair of surgeries. Following the rough start, Beachy told FOX Sports' Jon Morosi that he tried to throw harder again today but wasn't able to increase his velocity (Twitter link).
- ESPN's Buster Olney covers the Braves' rotation in the intro to his daily blog post (ESPN Insider required and recommended). Olney spoke to one evaluator who said, "It's just impossible to see Atlanta taking on significant money, and they seem to be reluctant to give up any prospects of value…" suggesting that a major acquisition isn't likely. That evaluator wondered if they might be interested in out-of-options hurlers like Zach Britton (Orioles), Vance Worley (Twins), Sam Deduno (Twins) or Franklin Morales (Rockies) should they pursue outside help.
- The Mariners are again doubling down on the number of scouts they have at today's Mets game, tweets Adam Rubin of ESPNNewYork.com. Rubin adds that Seattle's scouts have "been religiously attending Mets games." New York has been said to have interest in displaced Seattle infielder Nick Franklin, so Mariners scouts could be trying to determine a fair asking price.
- Jeff Manship has impressed the Phillies thus far in Spring Training, writes Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia was the only club to call Manship prior to his agreement to a minor league deal in early September, the right-hander told Gelb. Manship says he's enjoying the competition this spring and is excited to have a shot at earning a rotation spot for the first time in his five trips through a big league camp. Manship has allowed one run with six punchouts and one walk through seven Spring Training innings to date.
The Twins still have an offer out to free agent starting pitcher Ervin Santana, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press writes. It's unclear how much the Twins' offer to Santana is worth. Berardino notes that, earlier in the offseason, the Twins offered Matt Garza three years and $42MM with a vesting option for a fourth year, although 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson tweets that the offer to Santana is significantly less. Earlier on Sunday, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that the Twins had made a three-year deal to Santana, but that Santana preferred a one-year deal if he could not get a deal in the four-year, $50MM range.
The Twins appear to be continuing to try to upgrade a rotation that struggled in 2013. They've already added Ricky Nolasco and Phil Hughes on multiyear deals this offseason, while re-signing Mike Pelfrey to a two-year deal. The Twins' top 2014 draft choice, No. 5 overall, is protected, so they would only have to give up the No. 46 overall pick if they signed Santana.
It was reported yesterday Ervin Santana is weighing one year offers from both the Blue Jays ($14MM) and Orioles ($13MM plus incentives) with two other clubs also expressing interest. Here's the latest on the top ranked free agent remaining on MLBTR's 2014 Top 50 Free Agents list:
- Orioles manager Buck Showalter told reporters, including MASNsports.com's Roch Kubatko (Twitter), GM Dan Duquette told him nothing is imminent on the Santana front.
- Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com writes the Twins offered Santana a three-year deal, but he prefers a one-year contract unless someone is willing go four years at his asking price.
- With all this recent action on Santana, Heyman tweets it may take a few days for the situation to resolve itself adding both the Blue Jays and Orioles have made strong one-year proposals.
- 1500ESPN.com's Darren Wolfson tweets he's been told Santana isn't coming to Twins with the hangup being length of contract (Santana wants one year and the Twins want three years).
Big-league ballplayers make plenty of money, but that doesn't mean free agency isn't stressful. Brian MacPherson of the Providence Journal takes a fascinating look at free agency as seen through the eyes of Red Sox players. Chris Capuano reports that, whenever he's a free agent, he sends his agent a list of teams in order of preference, but then has to wait to see if there's mutual interest. He also notes that, typically, playing for a winner becomes more and more important to a player the older he gets. David Ross says that, before the 2009 season, he signed to be a backup with the Braves rather than a starter with the Astros because the Braves offered a two-year deal.
Here are more notes from around the American League:
- Conflicting reports yesterday regarding Ervin Santana has everyone confused. "I really don’t know what’s real and what’s not real in that case," Orioles Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations Dan Duquette told reporters, including Rich Dubroff of CSNBaltimore.com.
- The biggest culprit for Santana's situation is the right-hander's own camp, which dramatically overestimated his market and then was slow to change gears, ESPN's Buster Olney writes (Insider subscription required). Olney suggests that, if Santana's demands had been more realistic, he could have at least wound up with a contract similar to Matt Garza's or Ricky Nolasco's, rather than the one-year deal he now appears likely to receive.
- Back to the Orioles, Duquette still has the financial flexibility to improve the roster, but is confident in the pitching they currently have in camp, according to MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli. "We have some more resources that we can invest in our team, and we'll take a look at each case as it comes up," Duquette said. "We do have a little more pitching depth with our starting pitching going into the season, and some of the young pitchers we have high hopes for are continuing to develop their skills."
- GM Dave Dombrowski says the Tigers won't be trading any starting pitchers, including Rick Porcello, reports Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press. Earlier today, the Boston Globe's Nick Cafardo reported that the Tigers would field offers for Porcello.
- Starting pitcher Justin Masterson, who is eligible for free agency after the 2014 season, has surprisingly suggested to the Indians that he might be willing to sign a shorter-term extension, perhaps three years, but the Indians have not yet responded with an offer, CBS Sports' Jon Heyman tweets.
- The Rangers are trying to develop a long-term answer at catcher, Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News reports. Texas hasn't had stability at catcher since Ivan Rodriguez left over a decade ago. "It’s a topic of conversation, absolutely," says GM Jon Daniels. "We’ve had some guys come over here as big-time catching prospects, but we haven’t developed our own long-term championship-caliber starter." The Rangers have beefed up their coaching staff in an attempt to help their catchers develop. The Rangers' best hope of becoming a homegrown regular catcher is, of course, top prospect Jorge Alfaro, who played most of the 2013 season with Class A Hickory.
Edward Creech contributed to this post.
6:26pm: Santana continues to consider offers from the Orioles and the Jays, ESPN's Enrique Rojas tweets, noting that two other clubs had expressed interest this afternoon (Spanish link).
4:08pm: FOX Sports' Jon Morosi tweets that a source tells him that Santana could wait "days" before signing. 4:00 has come and gone, and there's no news about his decision.
12:08pm: Rojas writes (Spanish-language) that Santana is deciding between the Jays, who have offered $14MM, and the Orioles, who have offered $13MM plus incentives.
11:43am: Enrique Rojas of ESPN Deportes tweets that Santana will sign with the Jays for $14MM by 4:00pm if he does not receive a better offer by then.
11:40am: The deal is not yet done, but Santana and the Jays are discussing one, the New York Post's Joel Sherman tweets.
11:18am: The Blue Jays have agreed to terms with Ervin Santana on a one-year, $14MM deal, Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes tweets. Earlier in the day, Soldevila had reported that Santana would sign with an AL club for $14MM. Santana has until recently been represented by Proformance, although there have been recent reports about the possibility of Santana ending his relationship with that agency.
Santana pitched 211 innings with the Royals in 2013, posting a 3.24 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. After the season, he rejected a $14.1MM qualifying offer, hoping to strike it big on the free agent market. Obviously, that didn't happen, as the issue of draft pick forfeiture supressed the market for Santana and several other players. The Blue Jays have two first-round picks, at No. 9 and No. 11, and both are protected. So they'll have to give up the No. 50 overall pick for signing Santana.
Santana's one-year deal gives him the opportunity to hit the free agent market again next offseason, when he will turn 32. If he performs well, however, he may still have to deal with the qualifying offer issue. Santana ranked sixth on MLBTR's list of the top 2013-14 free agents. Ubaldo Jimenez, who ranked 11th and also rejected a qualifying offer, received four years and $50MM from the Orioles, and Santana reportedly sought a similar contract. ESPN's Buster Olney recently tweeted that teams were concerned about the health of Santana's elbow.
Assuming Santana remains healthy, however, $14MM plus the No. 50 overall draft pick seems like a very reasonable price for the Blue Jays to pay a young-ish, solidly-above-average starting pitcher who topped 200 innings last year. Santana will provide a significant boost to a Jays rotation that was unsettled after R.A. Dickey, Brandon Morrow and Mark Buehrle.