Ervin Santana Rumors
ESPN.com's Jerry Crasnick checked in with 21 general managers, assistant GMs, player personnel people, and scouts to get their take on some of the biggest storylines of the winter. Here's a look at some of the highlights..
- Almost everyone sees Robinson Cano staying put with 19 votes for the Yankees, one vote for the Dodgers, and one for the Cubs. Nearly everyone sees Cano getting a seven- or eight-year deal worth $160MM-$230MM and no one expects him to approach the $300MM figure he was asking for from the Bombers earlier this year. It should be noted that the GM that picked the Cubs said that he has no inside info to support that pick.
- Nine execs see Masahiro Tanaka landing with the Dodgers while six chose the Yankees. All but a handful of those surveyed think his payout will exceed the $60MM Yu Darvish got from the Rangers. Tanaka is ranked as the top available pitcher by MLBTR's Tim Dierkes.
- Seventeen of the 21 participants in the survey say David Price will get traded this winter. Where will he land? The Rangers got nine votes and the Dodgers got four nods with one vote each for the Nationals, Cardinals, Angels, and Astros.
- Opinions were somewhat split on whether Jacoby Ellsbury or Shin-Soo fChoo will provide better value over the course of their next deals. Twelve execs said Ellsbury, eight voted for Choo, and one GM declined to vote, saying that neither one will match what they get.
- When asked to pick the best pitcher between Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, and Ubaldo Jimenez, ten execs chose Garza. Most seemed to agree that the lack of quality starting pitching available will lead to all three being overpaid. One American League scout seemed to like Jimenez on some level but was skeptical of him long-term. "Ubaldo has the best chance to give you impact in the short term, but I am not buying him over the course of 3-4 years," the scout said.
- When asked which former Yankees prospect has a better chance of succeeding elsewhere with a change of scenery, Phil Hughes was the overwhelming choice over Joba Chamberlain.
- Crasnick asked the execs which aging pitcher had the most left in the tank between Roy Halladay, Hiroki Kuroda, and Tim Hudson. Kuroda had the backing of 12 people surveyed, Hudson got eight votes, and Halladay had just one exec in his corner. "Maybe the chances of [Halladay] coming back aren't real good if you look at it objectively," a scout said. "But if the guy wants to [keep pitching] and be successful, I wouldn't put it past him."
The Giants are fans of free agent catcher Brian McCann, but they won't move former MVP Buster Posey to a new position to make room for him, writes Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. However, they could shift center fielder Angel Pagan to one of the corners and look into outside options like Jacoby Ellsbury. Meantime, their emphasis is on the rotation and they have already shown interest in Matt Garza, Ervin Santana, Ubaldo Jimenez, and many other free agent starters. Here's more out of the NL West..
- Right now, there's no evidence that the Rockies will consider trading stars Carlos Gonzalez or Troy Tulowitzki, one GM tells Heyman. That GM said he has been told Gonzalez is "definitely" not available and was left with the impression that Tulowitzki isn't being traded either. Rockies Executive Vice President/Chief Financial Officer & General Counsel Bill Geivett said of Tulowitzki today, "He's not going anywhere," tweets Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Geivett suggested the same of CarGo. Morosi adds that Geivett indicated he'd need to be overwhelmed to trade center fielder Dexter Fowler, but he did not explicitly rule that out.
- Along the same lines, Geivett shot down rumblings connecting Tulowitzki to the Cardinals, writes Troy Renck of the Denver Post. Geivett believes that with the right additions, the Rockies can put themselves in position to contend. "We like our core group of guys. We feel like we have a good crew to build around. I know some people disagree, but we don't feel that we are that far away," Geivett said. "We have to be healthy. We can't have our two main guys missing too much."
- Starting pitching and a power outfield bat are among the items on the Diamondbacks' wish list, writes Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. General Manager Kevin Towers believes that he is poised to be active in trade talks with depth in the middle infield and center field.
The Yankees are planning to make Japanese ace Masahiro Tanaka a "top priority" this winter and are considered the team to beat in bidding for the 25-year-old, according to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Writes Passan: "If re-signing Robinson Cano is priority No. 1 for the New York Yankees this offseason, securing the rights to Japanese starter Masahiro Tanaka is No. 1a."
The Yankess "are going to be bold" in bidding for Tanaka, Passan continues. Previously, Passan has spoken with executives who believe that Tanaka's posting fee could top $75MM, although we still don't quite know how the posting system will work going forward. Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball have been working on alterations to the posting process for quite some time, and George A. King III of the New York Post reported earlier today that a resolution could still be several weeks away. Under the previous system, Tanaka could have been posted on Nov. 1.
Passan writes that Yankees officials aren't concerned about previous failures of Hideki Irabu and Kei Igawa on the big stage in New York, adding that they liken Tanaka's makeup and personality to that of Hideki Matsui.
The Yankees are in the market for two starting pitchers to pair with CC Sabathia and Ivan Nova next year, Passan continues, and they're intrigued by Ubaldo Jimenez, Matt Garza and Dan Haren. The Yankees are not expected to be in the market for Ervin Santana, he adds, as they don't feel that he would fit well in New York. Jimenez and Santana would cost the Yankees a draft pick due to the fact that each is all but certain to reject the qualifying offers received on Monday. Garza and Haren did not receive qualifying offers.
The Yankees figure to have some deep-pocketed competition for Tanaka, as the Dodgers are expected to be aggressive in pursuing him, and he's on the Angels' radar as well. Despite the success of Yu Darvish, reports have indicated that the Rangers aren't expected to be big-time players for Tanaka, of whom they don't think as highly as Darvish. The Giants, another team that has spend liberally of late, aren't expected to be serious players for Tanaka either, despite having some interest.
The Yankees' motivation may be greater than that of any other suitor, as Tanaka fits within their desire to reduce payroll below the $189MM luxury tax threshold. Tanaka's posting fee won't count against that tax, and his average annual value could be notably lower than the current crop of Major League free agent pitchers.
Josh Willingham's three-year, $21MM contract is the largest free agent contract the Twins have ever issued, but agent Matt Sosnick told Parker Hageman of Twins Daily that Willingham actually turned down a more lucrative offer from a team that was farther west than the Twins are from his Alabama home. More from Hageman's piece and some other Twins-related items below...
- Sosnick also told Hageman he "loves the Twins" and that there's no GM in the game he respects more than Terry Ryan. His respect for the Twins' honesty and player development led him to turn down more money for German outfield prospect Max Kepler back in 2009 to sign with Minnesota. Kepler still signed for $800K, which was, at the time, the largest bonus ever signed by a European prospect.
- Within his piece, Hageman notes that he also spoke with Ryan about the upcoming offseason. Ryan "flinched" when talking about signing pitchers on the wrong side of 30 to multiyear deals, as they're more likely to break down.
- The Twins are one of several teams to reach out to Johan Santana's agent and request his medicals, writes La Velle E. Neal III of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Santana's agent, Ed Greenberg, told Neal that his client "still loves Minnesota" and enjoyed working with pitching coach Rick Anderson, who is still serving the same role on the Twins' coaching staff.
- Neal also reports that the Twins have checked in with the agents for Ervin Santana, Ricky Nolasco (who is represented by Sosnick), Dan Haren and Scott Feldman, though their specific level of interest in each is unknown. Ryan told Neal that he thinks the quick turnarounds of the Indians and Red Sox will be good for non-contending teams' chances at signing free agents, as they served as examples that a team's fortunes can change quickly. The Twins won just 66 games in 2013 -- just two and three games fewer than the Indians and Red Sox won in 2012, respectively.
- Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported earlier in the week Byron Buxton and Miguel Sano are done for their respective seasons in the Arizona Fall League and Dominican Winter League. Buxton has been battling a left (non-throwing) shoulder strain, and Sano has been diagnosed with a strained UCL in his throwing elbow. Sano's injury sounds more serious, but he's been examined by Dr. James Andrews, who agreed with the team's medical staff that no surgery is necessary. Paul Molitor, the newest member of the Twins' coaching staff, told Berardino that Sano's elbow troubles aren't related to his throwing mechanics.
Free agent, right-handed starters Ervin Santana and Ricky Nolasco are both looking for five-year deals, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. The former hopes to earn a $100MM guarantee, while Nolasco is asking for $80MM, sources tell Rosenthal.
Of course, it is still early, and players' agents are probably still feeling out how baseball's revenue increases will translate to free agent dollars. The pair of durable thirty-year-olds, who were born within a day of each other, just put up respective 3.0 fWAR campaigns. For Santana, his 3.24 ERA over 211 innings for the Royals was a marked improvement on a terrible 2012. Throwing for the Marlins and Dodgers, Nolasco's 3.70 ERA across 199 1/3 innings was his best since 2008. Santana is still weighing a qualifying offer, though there is little doubt he'll reject it, while Nolasco was ineligible due to his mid-season trade.
MLBTR recently provided full profiles of both pitchers. Steve Adams predicted a five-year, $75MM pact for Santana. And after profiling Nolasco back in September, Tim Dierkes upped his estimate on Nolasco to four years and $52MM in his list of the top fifty free agents.
The Tigers would love to hammer out an extension with Max Scherzer, one of three finalists for this year's AL Cy Young award, but Tim Dierkes wrote yesterday that it is highly unlikely to happen this winter. The standout hurler is projected to earn $13.6MM in arbitration this year and his rising price tag could even lead Detroit to explore a deal this offseason. Here's tonight's look around the AL Central..
- The Royals have yet to discuss an extension with Eric Hosmer, according to Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter). "I’m locked in for another four years, and we have guys whose contracts expire before mine," Hosmer said. The 24-year-old hit .302/.353/.448 with 17 homers this past season.
- The Twins have formally expressed interest in free agent hurler Ervin Santana, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN (via Twitter). Santana could prove to be too pricey for Minnesota, however, as Tim predicts that he will command a deal in the range of $75MM over five years.
- Walk year disappointments and poor investments have made it difficult for the White Sox to take advantage of the qualifying offer system, writes Jim Margalus of South Side Sox. The White Sox could have gotten one for Jake Peavy last year, but they instead signed him to a two-year deal and flipped him to Boston in a deal that netted them Avisail Garcia.
The Twins have a host of problems to address, but their biggest shortcoming is their starting pitching, writes Phil Mackey of 1500 ESPN. Twins starting pitchers ranked last in the American League in ERA, innings, strikeout rate, and Wins Above Replacement in 2013.
3:58pm: The Royals confirmed that they have made a qualifying offer, per Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star (on Twitter).
12:46pm: The Royals have indicated to Ervin Santana that he will receive a qualifying offer, according to Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca (on Twitter). The $14.1MM offer will allow the Royals to receive a compensatory draft pick at the end of the first round should Santana reject the offer and sign elsewhere.
That's the most likely scenario for Santana, who rebounded from a disastrous 2012 season to turn in 211 innings of a 3.24 ERA with 6.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9. Santana figures to be one of the top three arms on the free agent market along with Masahiro Tanaka and Matt Garza, which led me to predict a five-year, $75MM contract for the righty on the open market in my free agent profile of him last month.
It's been an eventful 12 months for Ervin Santana. It seems hard to believe that just a year ago, Royals GM Dayton Moore's decision to acquire Santana and $1MM for minor leaguer Brandon Sisk was widely panned. Since that time, Santana resurfaced as one of the better pitchers in the American League, one of the game's top trade chips at the deadline and of course, one of the most desirable free agents on the market.
Santana shaved nearly two runs off his ERA this season, dropping it to 3.24 and crossing 200 innings for the fifth time in his nine-year career. Durability is one of Santana's biggest assets; he's only been on the disabled list twice in his career. Dating back to 2011, Santana's average of 6.5 innings per start is the highest of any notable free agent. That ability to work deep into games is a boost for teams looking to avoid overtaxing their bullpens.
Santana's 92.4 mph average fastball is among the fastest for free agent starters this season. Only Matt Garza, Josh Johnson, Jon Lester, Jason Hammel, Edinson Volquez, A.J. Burnett and Scott Kazmir throw harder. Lester's option will be picked up, however, while Volquez and Johnson posted two of baseball's worst ERAs. If you're looking for a starter that can average better than 92 mph on his fastball, Santana is a cut above the rest. In terms of swinging-strike rate, only Burnett, Kazmir, Ricky Nolasco and Chris Capuano topped Santana's 10 percent mark.
Santana's career 2.8 BB/9 rate is a testament to his excellent control, but he took that a step further in 2013. Santana's 2.2 BB/9 rate is fifth-best among qualified starters. Removing three intentional walks from the equation, that number drops to 2.0. Santana also continued to display an increased ground-ball rate, posting a career-best 46.5 percent mark in 2013 -- his third-straight season of at least 43.2 percent.
Age is on Santana's side; he's set to turn 31 in December, making him younger than a number of his peers and bringing the promise of a few more of his prime years over the course of his next contract.
Santana is homer-prone (career 1.22 HR/9), and the homer bug bit fiercely in 2012 when his 39 long balls allowed were the most in the Majors. That season was a clear outlier, as evidenced by a remarkably fluky 18.9 percent homer-to-flyball ratio (the league average that season was 11.8 percent, and Santana's career mark is 11 percent). Even if you ignore the outlier season, however, only twice has he posted a HR/9 better than the league average.
For a player who is positioned as one of the top pitchers on the free agent market, Santana doesn't strike hitters out at an elite rate. His 6.9 K/9 in 2013 was below the league average of 7.2 for starting pitchers, and he hasn't averaged more than 7.0 punchouts per nine innings since 2008.
I'd be remiss not to point out that Santana was little more than a salary dump a year ago at this time. The Royals' acquisition of him was widely questioned, as he was coming off a season in which he posted a 5.16 ERA -- his second ERA north of 5.00 in a four-year span. Santana does not have consistency on his side, and he pitched below replacement level in 2012.
Part of the reason for his other 5.00+ ERA season (5.03 in 2009) was that he partially tore his UCL and elected to rehab and pitch through it. His ERA that season is probably more representative of the injury than his ability, as he posted a 7.81 first-half ERA but a 3.90 second-half ERA (3.09 in his final 12 appearances). Santana has never had the injury corrected, but it doesn't appear to be a major issue, as he's thrown 980 innings since partially tearing the ligament. Put another way, Santana has thrown nearly as many innings since the 2009 injury as one of his competitors, Josh Johnson, has thrown in his entire career dating back to 2005.
Advanced metrics such as FIP, xFIP and SIERA all feel that even in Santana's best seasons, he's more of a 3.90-4.00 ERA pitcher. Those may be a bit unfair, as he's shown the ability to consistently post a BABIP that's better than the league average, as seen in his .282 career total. It's still hard to ignore the fact that Santana has had just one truly elite season -- a 219-inning, six-fWAR (five rWAR) masterpiece back in 2008. He's never been able to replicate his velocity, swinging-strike rate or strikeout rate from that season.
Santana's strong overall numbers in 2013 make a qualifying offer an absolute no-brainer for the Royals, so a team will absolutely have to forfeit its first- or second-round pick to sign him.
Per the Royals media guide, Santana and his wife, Amy, reside in the Dominican Republic in the offseason. He enjoys teaching children about baseball fundamentals and is outspoken in the confidence he has in himself and his teammates on Twitter. Santana was a hot topic at MLBTR over the summer months, and he showed off his playful side by making this Youtube video that described how it felt to be the target of so many trade rumors.
Santana parlayed his rebound campaign into a No. 6 ranking on Tim Dierkes' Free Agent Power Rankings, leapfrogging Garza as the top domestic free agent pitcher on the market (Masahiro Tanaka, at No. 5, is the top overall pitcher).
The Royals have made it known that they'd like to re-sign him, but if they're truly reluctant to offer more than three years, Santana is as good as gone. Any team in search of pitching figures to at least place a call on Santana, meaning that the Orioles, Blue Jays, Yankees, Twins, Indians, Mariners, Giants, Rockies, Pirates, Cubs, Nationals, Phillies and Mets should all have varying degrees of interest.
Of course, not all those teams will be willing to bid high enough to land his services, nor will they all be keen on surrendering a draft pick to acquire Santana. The Twins are one team that has recently said they'd forfeit their second-round selection if they liked a player enough, though Santana is far pricier than their typical mold. On the flip-side of the coin, the Mets seem strongly against the idea of sacrificing their second-round selection for any player other than Shin-Soo Choo.
ESPN's Keith Law recently wrote (Insider subscription required and recommended) that a four-year deal is a likelihood for Santana on the free agent market, adding that he prefers him to Garza and Dan Haren.
I find a four-year deal to be the floor for Santana, and would expect agent Bean Stringfellow of Proformance to seek a five-year pact. Given the sheer volume of teams looking to bolster their rotations and the relatively weak crop of free agent hurlers on the market, Santana has an honest chance at getting there. We've already received a glimpse at what the early market for free agent pitching will look like, with Tim Lincecum agreeing to a two-year, $35MM extension with the Giants.
Going back to 2008, Anibal Sanchez, Zack Greinke, C.J. Wilson, Yu Darvish, Cliff Lee, John Lackey, CC Sabathia and Burnett have inked free agent deals for five or more seasons. Each of those players was considered one of the top two starters on the market in his respective free agent class. Second-tier pitchers such as Derek Lowe and Edwin Jackson have been able to find lofty four-year commitments, and Santana enters free agency on the heels of a vastly superior season to the one that led to Jackson's four-year, $52MM pact with the Cubs.
As ludicrous as it would've sounded a year ago -- and improbable as it will sound to some even now -- my expectation is that Santana finds a team willing to push the limits and offer a five-year, $75MM contract.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star reports that the Royals maintain there is a possibility for them to retain Ervin Santana this offseason. GM Dayton Moore has gone on the record in saying that Santana will get a qualifying offer, notes Dutton, and one club official pointed to the struggles that gave Kyle Lohse on last year's market. Lohse was significantly older than Santana, of course, but a qualifying offer does up the price to sign Santana for everyone other than the Royals. Dutton senses that at this time, the team doesn't want to go beyond three years, but that could change once they gauge the market. Here's more out of the AL Central...
- MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger tackles a host of Twins-related topics in his latest Twins Inbox, starting off by dismissing the notion that Joe Mauer's concussion and Josmil Pinto's impressive big league debut spell the end of Mauer's days behind the plate. Mauer and GM Terry Ryan both say that Mauer will still catch, and the proposed destination of first base for Mauer may not be vacant. Bollinger reports that Justin Morneau is a candidate to return to the team, but there mixed feelings about whether or not he'd return, as he may prefer to sign with a contender.
- Bollinger also notes that Brian Dozier's strong season at second base could make top prospect Eddie Rosario a trade chip to land starting pitching, or it could make Dozier himself a trade chip with Rosario nearing the big leagues. He adds that the Twins need to acquire starting pitching this summer, and Ryan will have the funds to do so via free agency and the prospects to do so via trade. Only Byron Buxton, Miguel Sano and Mauer (who has a full no-trade clause) are untouchable in trade talks this offseason, according to Bollinger.
- The White Sox gave a club-record $1.6MM signing bonus to Dominican outfield prospect Micker Adolfo this July, writes MLB.com's Scott Merkin, and GM Rick Hahn expects more of the same next season as he looks to rebuild the team following a 99-loss campaign. Hahn anticipates being allotted roughly $5MM to spend on international free agents, which should give him plenty of ammunition to be aggressive.
The latest out of the AL Central to kick off your Wednesday morning...
- Right-hander Ervin Santana offered praise for the Royals organization, its training staff and his teammates when asked by Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star if he'd be open to returning to the team next season. Santana told Dutton that his main focus is finishing the season strong, however. General manager Dayton Moore said the Royals "certainly like" Santana and will make an effort to bring him back for 2014.
- Jhonny Peralta has been told by Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski that he will not be the team's starting shortstop if he returns to the team for the postseason following his 50-game suspension, writes James Schmehl of MLive.com. If the Tigers don't bring Peralta back, they will have to make a move to remove him from the roster when his suspension is up, which likely would mean designating Peralta for assignment, Schmehl adds.
- MLB.com's Jason Beck spoke with Tigers lefty Darin Downs, who told Beck that he was in "offseason mode" when he got a surprise call from the team and was called up to the Majors. Downs had already gone home to Florida for the winter to be with his family and hadn't thrown for a week. Beck details how rare a move like this is for the Tigers in his piece.
- "I don't know that," Twins GM Terry Ryan told reporters, including Charley Walters of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, when asked who will replace Justin Morneau in 2014. "We're still looking at it, seeing how we're going to respond, seeing how our guys do." Walters adds that there's still a chance Morneau could re-sign in Minnesota.