Ervin Santana Rumors
There are now three free agents remaining who are tied to draft-pick compensation. For two of them -- defense-first infielder Stephen Drew and defensively-limited slugger Kendrys Morales -- the situation appears simple. Their limitations prevent them from being the kind of premier players who drive their own market. And, at present, their skillsets do not have the multiple suitors (i.e., teams with both need for and motivation to spend on that player) necessary to create a small bidding war.
But that is not the situation of Ervin Santana, a starting pitcher who could, in theory, upgrade any rotation in baseball. (Indeed, he's been tied to a laundry list of clubs.) He has posted 200+ innings with a sub-4.00 ERA in three of the last four years. At age 31, Santana is not particularly young, but neither is he particularly old.
As the spring goes on, potential demand is likely only to rise as the inevitable arm injuries continue to occur. Santana is the only impact hurler left on the open market. Meanwhile, the most attractive trade targets increasingly seem likely to stay home for the time being.
In other words, Santana's market is still wide open; after all, the Brewers were a surprising, late-March landing spot for Kyle Lohse last year. In that respect, it is hardly shocking to hear that Santana has not dropped his demand, which reportedly stands in the range of four years and $50MM (the comp du jour for good-but-imperfect starters).
Though there is plenty of time for Santana to find a taker for his price tag, of course, he could ultimately reach a point at which waiting for a buyer means missing regular-season action. Agent Bean Stringfellow said recently that his team had discussed the possibility of waiting to sign until after the June amateur draft to shed the drag of compensation. "Ervin Santana is a front-line starting pitcher. He will be compensated as such," said Stringfellow. "Whatever it takes to make that happen, we will make it happen, simple as that." If it comes down to it, though, would Santana take what he can get, as did Lohse? Or would he really be willing to test the uncharted waters of a qualifying offer holdout?
So, the poll covers two questions: First, what kind of deal will Santana ultimately get? And second, when will he get it?
Click here for the results.
As expected, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker both won't be ready for Opening Day, Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon told reporters (including MLB.com's Greg Johns) yesterday. Iwakuma is dealing with a strained tendon on his right middle finger and will be sidelined until mid-to-late April, while Walker has been shut down for a week with shoulder inflammation. With Seattle's rotation thinned, it will only increase speculation that the M's could increase their interest in Ervin Santana. Here's some more from the M's...
- While the Mariners could still use a pitcher and a right-handed bat, two sources tell CBS Sports' Jon Heyman that the team has "little or no loot left to spend," which GM Jack Zudriencik wouldn't confirm. A lack of payroll space could explain why the Mariners haven't extended offers to Santana or Kendrys Morales, and didn't make an offer to Nelson Cruz (before he signed with the Orioles) despite interest in all three players.
- Missing Iwakuma and Walker early in the season could particularly hurt the Mariners since they play the A's 10 times before May 7. "If Walker and Iwakuma miss the month of April, with our schedule that month it could get ugly," a Mariners source tells Heyman. Robinson Cano and at least one other M's player expressed the opinion that Santana would be a great fit, while Cano would also like to see the switch-hitting Morales brought back. "I'm not going to lie. We need an extra bat, especially a right-handed bat," Cano said. "We have many left-handed hitters. We need at least one more righty. You don't want to face a lefty pitcher with a lineup of seven left-handed hitters."
- The Mariners have sent scouts to watch young Rays pitchers, Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times reports. The two clubs recently came close on a trade that would've sent Nick Franklin to Tampa, though Topkin believes that the M's can find a better fit elsewhere for the young infielder.
- Danny Hultzen will miss the entire 2014 season as he recovers from major left shoulder surgery, but the highly-regarded prospect tells Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times that he's optimistic about his recovery and resuming his pro career.
Earlier today, we learned the Rangers were one of seven teams who watched Johan Santana throw during a workout in Fort Myers, Florida. Though Santana wouldn't be available until around the middle of the season as he recovers from shoulder surgery, he could serve as depth for a Texas rotation that is suddenly facing some injury problems. Here's some more on the Rangers' pitching explorations...
- Veteran left-hander Joe Saunders worked out with the Rangers today, USA Today's Scott Boeck tweets. The Orioles, who were talking to Saunders earlier this month, are also still interested in the southpaw.
- With Derek Holland and Matt Harrison battling injuries, MLB.com's Richard Justice suggests that the Rangers are a good fit for free agent Ervin Santana. There have been conflicting reports around whether or not Texas is interested in Santana, and the bigger obstacle could be Santana's desire for a four-year contract. Justice suggests that the Rangers could offer Santana one or two guaranteed years plus an option, as Santana could then get back onto the free agent market with more momentum on the open market if he pitches well in Arlington.
- The Rangers agreed to terms with 12 pre-arbitration players on one-year contracts, the team announced. ESPN Dallas' Richard Durrett has the salaries, and as expected, all 12 men made close to the $500K league minimum. The highest-paid of the dozen was left-hander Robbie Ross, who will earn a little under $513K next season. With Mike Trout's record $1MM pre-arbitration deal making news, MLBTR's Zach Links today looked at how teams have different ways of determing pre-arb salaries.
Ervin Santana isn't lowering his asking price as Opening Day inches closer, reports Jon Heyman of CBS Sports. Executives from teams with interest in the right-hander tell Heyman that despite the onset of Spring Training, Santana is still seeking something in the range of $50MM over four years -- the same contract signed by Ubaldo Jimenez with the Orioles and Matt Garza with the Brewers, and $1MM more than Ricky Nolasco got from the Twins.
Heyman adds that Santana has been seeking four years "for a while now," and that won't change no based on the calendar or fellow draft-pick free agent Nelson Cruz settling for a surprising one-year, $8MM deal. According to Heyman, the Orioles, Mariners, Rangers and Rockies are looking at Santana right now, and the Blue Jays are believed by some to still be a possibility.
Colorado's interest in Santana could be tied to the fate of right-hander Jhoulys Chacin, who underwent an MRI due to shoulder pain. Fresh off a 3.47 ERA in 197 1/3 innings for the Rockies last season, the 26-year-old entered Spring Training as a lock for the club's rotation. However, the team announced today (on Twitter) that Chacin has a strained right shoulder with inflammation and will not be able to throw for at least a week.
It's logical to assume that a serious setback for Chacin would heighten Colorado's interest, but Troy Renck of the Denver Post writes that even with the somewhat negative news from today's MRI, the team isn't interested in Santana at four years and $50MM. Renck has written previously that the club is turned off by Santana's history of fly balls and homer problems, though it's worth noting that Santana's fly-ball rate has drastically declined over the past three seasons as his ground-ball rate has risen.
Heyman closes by saying that Santana is said to be willing to wait for the right deal to present itself and could consider waiting until after the June Draft to sign, which would rid him of the draft pick compensation attached to his name. Earlier today, MLBTR's Tim Dierkes looked at which pick each of the 30 teams would have to surrender to sign Santana (or Stephen Drew or Kendrys Morales). While not all of those teams are logical fits at this time, it takes just one major injury for a new suitor to emerge.
The calendar will turn to March soon, but our #6, #14, and #28-ranked free agents remain unsigned. The primary factor in the delay for Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew, and Kendrys Morales is that signing any one of them requires the new team to forfeit its highest unprotected draft pick and its associated bonus pool money, because these players were among 13 to turn down a one-year, $14.1MM qualifying offer in November. Earlier draft picks are more valuable, of course, so let's take a look at the pick each team would have to forfeit to sign one of these three free agents. The 2013 slot value for each pick is also provided; those numbers will increase for 2014. 2014 draft order information comes courtesy of River Ave. Blues.
As many have pointed out, the current system provides a major incentive for teams to sign multiple compensation free agents. Now that the Orioles have surrendered their #17 pick for Ubaldo Jimenez and their #52 pick for Nelson Cruz, they could sign Santana, Drew, or Morales with the smallest draft pick cost of any team. In theory, teams at the bottom of this chart should be willing to offer at least several million more than a team near the top, assuming a desire and need for one of the three free agents. It's why Drew makes so much sense for the Mets.
These three free agents have a good reason not to sign a one-year deal right now, with the season less than a month away, even though Cruz did so recently. As Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports recently pointed out, a player must be with his team for the entire season to receive a qualifying offer. Santana could sign a one-year worth $15MM or so and make it official on March 22nd, and not have to worry about being saddled with another qualifying offer after 2014. On the other hand, losing the ability to make a qualifying offer lowers his value to the signing team, to some degree.
If any of the three compensation free agents is willing to wait until June 5th to sign, the draft pick compensation issue goes away and the players can be signed without forfeiture of a pick. The old teams, the Royals, Red Sox, and Mariners, would not gain a supplemental round pick in that scenario. If those teams perceive that threat to be real, it provides an incentive for them to explore deals to bring back Santana, Drew, and Morales, respectively.
Though he's yet to officially retire, 43-year-old slugger Jim Thome would like to be a big league manager at some point, writes Daryl Van Schouwen of the Chicago Sun-Times. Thome, who took a position in the White Sox' front office last summer, told Van Schouwen: "I want to look at what the next phase is for me getting back on the field, competing at a high level. There is a side to me that wants to manage someday and prepare myself for it if that opportunity came calling." More out of the AL Central as Spring Training picks up steam...
- Jim Souhan of the Minneapolis Star Tribune writes that one conversation three years ago changed Glen Perkins' future with the team entirely. The bad blood between Perkins and his hometown Twins was well documented, as he had been weighing a grievance against Minnesota regarding his service time. Perkins approached pitching coach Rick Anderson and manager Ron Gardenhire and simply told them he had no desire to play elsewhere. Anderson tells Souhan: "He came to me right here and said, ‘Can I talk to you? I was born and raised in Minnesota, I’ve spent my entire life in Minnesota, I want to be a Twin. I want to be a better teammate, I want to be a better pitcher, don’t give up on me.’" Perkins, a 2013 All-Star, has developed into one of the game's best closers since that time.
- The Twins have signed 18-year-old Australian first baseman Jack Barrie to a six-figure bonus, according to a report from Australian news outlet SBS. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN confirmed that it's a six-figure deal and adds that the team still has money left in its 2013-14 international free agent budget after the signing (Twitter link).
- In the latest edition of his "Hey, Hoynsie!" mailbag, Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer tells one reader that he would be "stunned" if the Indians made a late play for Ervin Santana. Though Cleveland's name has been connected to the former Angels and Royals hurler, Hoynes says that the team values its first-round pick too highly to make such a move.
- Jhonny Peralta was planning on appealing his suspension last season in order to remain with his teammates through the playoff push, writes USA Today's Bob Nightengale. However, when the club acquired Jose Iglesias from the Red Sox, Peralta says he "knew [he] had to take [his] suspension." Nightengale spoke with GM Dave Dombrowski, who told him: "We talked to his agent (Seth Levinson, at the time) and we knew he was thinking of appealing. There was a time I was thinking he was going to appeal. And at that point, we wouldn't have made a trade. But my gut told me the closer we got to the (trade) deadline, and talked to them, he wasn't going to appeal."
MLBPA chief Tony Clark addressed today the situation of Ben Wetzler, the Phillies' draft choice who was recently suspended by the NCAA for having an agent present while he negotiated with the club, Ben Nicholson-Smith of Sportsnet.ca reports. "What we're doing in the short-term is trying to make sure we understand exactly what happened and what led to what happened with that young man in college," said Clark. "Rest assured it's a concern, it's something that we're paying attention to, but outside what's been bantered about through the media, we don't know much else at this point." For their part, the Phillies have yet to offer any comment other than acknowledging that they "did participate in the NCAA investigation." One agent tells Nicholson-Smith that, if the team did report Wetzler's use of an agent, "it was extremely short-sighted and impulsive on the part of the team."
Here are a few more links to round out the evening:
- The Rockies have recently made contact with free agent starter Ervin Santana, reports CBSSports.com's Jon Heyman. The team's interest may be dependent upon the status of Jhoulys Chacin, whose shoulder issues are still being assessed. A Rockies official denied interest in Santana, however, reports MLB.com's Thomas Harding.
- Though the Dodgers needed a roster spot to make room for new signee Erisbel Arruebarrena, the club elected to designate Justin Sellers for assignment rather than putting Chad Billingsley on the 60-day DL, writes Chris Gabel for MLB.com. That constitutes something of a vote of confidence in Billingsley's ability to return from Tommy John rehab in a relatively short time frame. The 29-year-old is entering the final year of a three-year, $35MM pact, with the club holding a $14MM option ($3MM buyout) on his 2015 season.
- While Mets shortstop Ruben Tejada has reportedly shed some pounds, the club is nevertheless reportedly less than happy with his athletic form, reports Kevin Kernan of the New York Post. If that translates to an underwhelming start to camp, Kernan implies, there could be increasing impetus to sign Stephen Drew. "I would not be surprised if we signed Drew," an official said, "but at the same time, I don't expect it to happen."
- Across town, the Yankees are keeping tabs on reliever Joel Hanrahan after inking another rehabbing former closer in Andrew Bailey, reports Andy Martino of the New York Daily News. As Martino explains, interest in arms like Bailey and Hanrahan shows that the club has some concern with its pen depth.
- The Twins are a very unlikely landing spot for Cuban shortstop Aledmys Diaz, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN. Diaz is looking to land a deal like the five-year, $25MM contract given Arruebarrena, says Wolfson, but Minnesota does not believe he is as good as his countrymate.
Let's take a look at a few notes out of Orioles camp to start out the day: ...
- Late last week, Baltimore had an in-person meeting with J.J. Hardy's agent regarding the initiation of extension discussions, reports Eduardo Encina of the Baltimore Sun (via Twitter). Though both sides have indicated an interest at keeping the shortstop off of next year's free agent market, Hardy said recently that no talks had taken place.
- Baltimore is expected to announce later today that Nelson Cruz has signed a one-year deal and passed his physical, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com. A press conference is likely to occur tomorrow.
- Southpaw starter Wei-Yin Chen, who inked a three-year deal out of Taiwan before the 2012 season, is set to become a free agent after either 2014 or 2015, says Kubatko. (His deal contains a $4.75MM club option with a $372K buyout for 2015.) Though Chen's Baseball-Reference page indicates that he would qualify for arbitration beginning next year, and stay under club control through 2017, that is not the case.
- Multiple sources tell Kubatko that the O's are not in on free agent starter Ervin Santana. The club would need only sacrifice its third-round pick to ink Santana or one of the other remaining free agents tied to draft compensation (Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew), having already given up its first and second to land Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez.
The three remaining free agents tied to draft-pick compensation -- Ervin Santana, Stephen Drew, and Kendrys Morales -- would all considering waiting to sign until after the June amateur draft, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. Rosenthal's piece builds upon a prior report from MLBTR's Tim Dierkes, who noted that those players could be considering the strategy, which would prevent their former clubs -- the Royals, Red Sox, and Mariners -- from picking up an extra draft choice.
Here's how it works: If a sufficient offer is not forthcoming, these free agents could change their market situation by waiting until after the draft to sign. At that point, a new signing club would no longer need to sacrifice a pick, and their prior club would not stand to earn one.
Interestingly, Rosenthal also suggested a twist on that strategy, noting that a player could avoid a future qualifying offer just by waiting until after Opening Day to sign. If any of the three remaining draft-pick bound players was forced to settle for a one-year deal (like Cruz), he could use that approach to ensure that his new club would not once again saddle him with compensation, while also ensuring a full year's payday (one of the problems with waiting until June to sign). Of course, there is a countervailing consideration: a signing club would lose the possibility of retaining the player through a qualifying offer or instead getting a compensation pick in return, which reduces the player's value to his new club.
In the aggregate, these options constitute a set of increasingly high-stakes maneuvers, each carrying leverage trade-offs between the player and prospective clubs. For instance, as Dierkes has noted, the threat of a former team not gaining a compensation pick could make a re-signing more likely.
I would add that these two possible approaches each make more sense for different situations. A player who is planning to settle for a one-year pillow contract would take significant risk by waiting until June, because any increase in their annual salary would potentially be offset or eclipsed by the fact that they cannot earn all of it (not to mention risks of changes in how the market sees the player and in market demand). But that player would also potentially gain quite a bit by waiting for Opening Day to sign, because he would get to enter the following year's market without compensation attached. The considerations go the other way for a player who still figures to land a multi-year deal, who would have relatively less to lose by skipping a few months of salary and, potentially, more to gain by shedding the burden of draft compensation. But if three years were already on the table, a free agent would gain nothing by waiting until after the start of the season to sign unless they were truly willing to sit all the way through the June draft.
The agents for the trio made clear to Rosenthal that they have thought through the rules, and are leaving all options on the table. Bean Stringfellow, Santana's agent, said that waiting until after the draft is "certainly something we've talked about," and made clear that his client would not follow Nelson Cruz in signing a one-year deal for substantially less than the $14.1MM qualifying offer. "Once you get past the draft," said Stringfellow, "a lot of teams will be in play with the expanded playoffs. You wouldn't have a draft pick attached. ... Ervin Santana is a front-line starting pitcher. He will be compensated as such. Whatever it takes to make that happen, we will make it happen, simple as that."
Scott Boras, who represents Drew and Morales, noted that other clubs also have incentives to wait until after the draft since they do not need to give up a pick to sign the player. He also notes that a signing would mean that those clubs would also potentially avoid the need to sign a future compensation player, and could potentially reap a future pick of their own when the player's deal expires. "A road map for this strategy has been figured out," said Boras. "There is a significant advantage under this system for teams to develop a plan to sign premium free-agent players -- the top 6 to 12 percent -- where they can gain draft currency and also improve their team in the current and long-term."
Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times writes that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik says he has "zero expectations" for former top prospect Jesus Montero, who arrived to Spring Training 40 pounds over the team's target weight for him. The Mariners assign each player such a figure prior to each offseason, but sources tell Divish that Montero has yet to meet one since joining the club in a 2012 trade. "After winter ball, all I did was eat," Montero admitted. It's another hurdle the DH will have to conquer after a 2013 season marred by injury and a Biogenesis-related suspension. Here's more out of the AL West:
- The Mariners' interest in Kendrys Morales may depend on the ability of Corey Hart to stick in the outfield, Greg Johns of MLB.com reports. Hart has logged time in the outfield in the early days of Spring Training, and if he can handle a job there, it could open up the DH spot for Morales.
- Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News hears that the Rangers aren't pursuing Ervin Santana (Twitter link). A recent report named Texas as one of three clubs with strong interest in the hurler.
- Sam Fuld may face long odds to make the Athletics' roster out of Spring Training, as the team already has four outfielders and probably won't carry another, reports MLB.com's Jane Lee. Fuld agreed to a minor league deal with the A's early this month.
- The Angels may rely heavily on their bullpen in 2014, as they enter the season with major question marks behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson in the rotation, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes.