Ervin Santana Rumors
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.