Johan Santana Rumors

Johan Santana Ends 2015 Comeback Bid

Two-time American League Cy Young winner Johan Santana has ended his bid for a comeback this season, reports ESPN New York’s Adam Rubin. The longtime Twins and Mets hurler will again attempt a comeback in the 2016 season, Rubin adds.

The 36-year-old Santana signed a minor league contract with the Blue Jays this offseason in hopes of returning to a Major League mound for the first time since the 2012 season. Santana was recovering from an Achilles injury that cut short his 2014 comeback attempt, and lately he’s been slowed by an infection in his toe. Because of that, he felt he would not have sufficient time to ramp up and get into Major League shape by the time the issue had healed.

A pair of major shoulder surgeries has significantly shortened the career of Santana, who was unquestionably one of the most dominant — and arguably the most dominant — pitchers in the game for a period of time in the mid-2000s. From 2004-10, Santana posted a 2.87 ERA with 8.8 K/9 against 2.2 BB/9, averaging 216 innings per season. His ERA+ over that stretch was a remarkable 151, indicating that he was 51 percent better than the league-average pitcher in that stretch. Santana totaled three straight seasons worth seven or more wins above replacement and, in the estimation of many, should have won three consecutive Cy Young Awards. (He won in ’04 and ’06, but Bartolo Colon took home first-place honors in ’05, largely on the strength of his 21 wins, as Santana was superior in most other categories.)


Article XX(B) Free Agent Updates: Tuesday

Per the latest iteration of Major League Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement, players with six years of service time who finished the 2014 season on a 40-man roster or on the 60-day DL but signed Minor League deals over the offseason are entitled to a $100K retention bonus if their new team wishes to assign them to the Minor Leagues. Otherwise, they must be added to the MLB roster or Major League disabled list. Players who do receive the retention bonus are also given June 1 opt-out dates in their Minor League pacts.

MLBTR’s Jeff Todd ran down a list of this year’s Article XX(B) free agents earlier in the month, and we’re now arriving at the juncture of Spring Training where decisions must be made on these players — the deadline will come at 11am CT tomorrow. Many such players have already been released or granted their release today (some will re-sign with the teams that released them, as Chris Perez did in Milwaukee), but here are updates on players who were paid this bonus or learned that they’ve made their respective teams…

  • Yahoo’s Jeff Passan tweets that utility man Kelly Johnson has made the Braves‘ 25-man roster. Johnson inked a Minor League pact that included a yet-unreported base salary. His versatility, the organization’s familiarity with him and the fact that the 32-year-old slashed a hefty .273/.396/.523 with a pair of homers in 54 plate appearances this spring likely all factored into the decision.
  • The Nationals will pay left-hander Rich Hill the $100K retention bonus, tweets James Wagner of the Washington Post. The 35-year-old yielded a pair of runs in 7 1/3 innings this spring and will give the Nats some left-handed relief depth. Of course, the Nats also just traded away some lefty relief by dealing out-of-options southpaw Jerry Blevins and his $2.4MM salary to the Mets.

Earlier Updates

  • Padres catcher Wil Nieves has received a $100K retention bonus, tweets Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Nieves is still in the running for the team’s backup catching slot, Lin adds. Tim Federowicz was slated to be the team’s backup, but knee surgery has sidelined him for the next several months. The team must make a final call by this Sunday.
  • The D-Backs and catcher Gerald Laird and agreed to a five-day extension that will allow him to remain in big league camp, reports Jack Magruder of FOX Sports Arizona (on Twitter). Zach Buchanan of the Arizona Republic adds some clarity, noting that Laird still received the $100K retention bonus but will have the opportunity to fight for a roster spot (Twitter link). The five days will give the Snakes a bit more time to determine whether or not they want to take the veteran Laird north with them to open the season.
  • The Blue Jays have paid the $100K retention bonus to both Johan Santana and Munenori Kawasaki, tweets Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports. Both players were on Minor League deals, but Santana didn’t get into a game with the big league club as he continued to rehab from injury. Kawasaki hit .333/.481/.571 in 27 plate appearances but didn’t make the big league roster. He’ll head to Triple-A and wait for a call to the Majors in an organization with which he is quite familiar and where he is quite popular among the coaches and his teammates.
  • Right-handers Brad Penny and Jesse Crain both received retention bonuses from the White Sox, Passan also reports (on Twitter). The duo will remain in the Minors in the hopes of a spot opening with the big league club. Penny struggled to a 6.89 ERA in 15 2/3 innings this spring, though little can be gleaned from such a small sample, and he did issue only four walks along the way. Crain, like his former Twins teammate Santana in Toronto, didn’t pitch in a big league game as he continued to rehab from injuries that cost him the entire 2014 season in Houston.
  • Both Geovany Soto and Matt Albers, on the other hand, have made the White Sox‘ roster and will be added to the 40-man, Passan reports in the aforementioned tweet. Presumably, Soto will be in the mix for everyday at-bats behind the plate following a strong spring performance. Albers will slot into the bullpen and bring an experienced arm to serve as a right-handed setup option. Soto’s base salary is an unknown, wheres Albers stands to reportedly receive a $1.5MM base for making the club.

AL East Notes: Moncada, Santana, Hendriks

The Red Sox‘ recent signing of Yoan Moncada finds its roots in one of GM Ben Cherington’s first decisions on the job, as Tim Britton of the Providence Journal writes. By promoting Eddie Romero to director of international scouting and soliciting more international input from VP of player personnel Allard Baird, Cherington was preparing to explore new ways for the team to make wise investments in new talent. “There are fewer and fewer opportunities to gain advantages,” says Cherington. “A lot of things have been leveled out, so attention to [international] areas was definitely a reaction to that.” The piece is too long to fully describe here, so be sure to give it a read.

  • Moncada says he hopes to be in the big leagues in one year, he told reporters including Boston.com’s Steve Silva. But he seemingly acknowledged that goal was hardly a sure thing, or even his primary purpose. “I’m just looking forward to getting back on the field and playing baseball,” he said. “It’s been so long. … I want them to see me as a dedicated teammate and a good guy.”
  • Veteran Blue Jays lefty Johan Santana is still passionate about his craft, as Ken Fidlin of the Toronto Sun writes. Indeed, that’s the reason that he is still trying to come back after a series of setbacks. Soon to turn 36, Santana is still building up strength with short throwing sessions (in both time and distance). “When it’s time to move on I’ll move on but I still feel that I can do this,” says Santana. “I had a great career, a lot of ups and downs but I’ve always had a positive outlook, through good days and bad days.”
  • Fellow Blue Jays hurler Liam Hendriks is facing a different set of challenges, as MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm writes. Out of options and adjusting to life as a reliever, Hendriks says he hopes to crack the Toronto pen out of camp — not least of which to script a worthwhile follow-up to a 2014 season after which he was named the best Australian ballplayer.


Quick Hits: International Draft, Viciedo, Rollins

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark is not yet willing to endorse an international draft, Jon Morosi of FOX Sports writes. “The idea of a worldwide anything or an international anything in a lot of ways sounds great in theory,” Clark says. He adds, though, that “to simply take a system that appears to work — and I say ‘appears’ purposely — appears to work in one place and plop it down in another is a dangerous proposition.” Clark suggests that the draft seems to work reasonably well in the U.S. and Canada, where players have high school degrees or even some college, and can therefore approach the draft from an educated perspective. Latin American players, though, often sign at much younger ages. Clark does add, though, that an international draft will be a “topic of discussion.” Here’s more from around the game.

  • The Blue Jays‘ minor-league deals for Dayan Viciedo and Johan Santana aren’t risky, but those two players could cost over $9MM with incentives if the Jays do roster them. With that in mind, MLB.com’s Gregor Chisholm wonders why the Jays signed Viciedo and Santana (who presumably have some chance of making the team, and therefore earning their big-league salaries) rather than pursuing bullpen help. The Blue Jays made some big moves early in the offseason when they acquired Russell Martin and Josh Donaldson, but have been quiet lately, even though their bullpen is a bit thin. A cheap deal for someone like Burke Badenhop or Joba Chamberlain might have made sense, Chisholm suggests.
  • On a related note, Blue Jays manager John Gibbons doesn’t seem overly enthused about the Viciedo addition, John Lott of the National Post writes. “He was available,” says Gibbons. “He’s got some big-league time in. Been successful, to a certain extent. Bring him to camp, see what he is.” Viciedo will play first base and third base in camp, as well as left field.
  • Rule 5 pick David Rollins is excited to compete for a job as the second lefty out of the Mariners‘ bullpen behind Charlie Furbush, AJ Cassavell of MLB.com writes. Manager Lloyd McClendon doesn’t want a lefty specialist, but rather someone who can work multiple innings. That role might work for Rollins, who started 12 games last year for Double-A Corpus Christi in the Astros’ system.

Blue Jays Sign Johan Santana To Minors Deal

FRIDAY: Santana will receive a $2.5MM base salary if he’s in the big leagues, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reports (Twitter links). The deal also includes $2.05MM in incentives for games started (up to 25) as well as $2MM in roster bonuses. He has an April 28 opt-out date, and it’s not likely he’ll be ready by Opening Day, tweets Shi Davidi of Sportsnet.ca.

THURSDAY: The Blue Jays have signed veteran left-hander Johan Santana to a minor league contract with an invitation to their big league Spring Training camp, according to a team press release.  Santana is represented by Peter Greenberg of the Legacy Agency.

Santana hasn’t pitched in either the majors or minors since 2012, as he has been sidelined by both left shoulder capsule surgery (his second such procedure in three years) and, most recently, a torn Achilles tendon last June while on a minor league deal with the Orioles.  Santana returned to make some appearances in the Venezuelan Winter League this offseason and drew interest from multiple teams, including the Padres and Yankees, though his Venezuelan outings were limited by shoulder soreness.

Given his checkered injury history and the fact that Santana turns 36 in March, it’s hard to see this as anything more than a depth signing for Toronto.  It’s worth noting, however, that the last time Santana was healthy (the first few months of the 2012 season), he still gave the Mets several quality starts, including a no-hitter.

The Jays’ rotation depth was thinned by a few offseason trades, leaving rookie top prospect Daniel Norris as the projected fifth starter behind Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey, Marcus Stroman and Drew HutchisonAaron Sanchez and Marco Estrada are likely the two top backup options should Norris struggle, though since the Jays are aiming to have both pitchers in the bullpen, a veteran option like Santana could come in handy.  The Jays have been looking for relief pitching depth as well, though according to Sportsnet’s Shi Davidi (Twitter link), Santana is being looked at by the team as a starter.


Pitching Notes: Johan, Shields, Twins

Most of the meat left on the free agent bone belongs to the pitching segment of the market. Indeed, five of the seven players who I listed this morning as intriguing free agents were right-handed pitchers.

Here’s the latest on some arms from around the league:

  • There was more cloudy news out of Venezuela regarding Johan Santana‘s comeback attempt, as his agent tells Jon Morosi of FOX Sports that he will not attempt to pitch again in the winter league. (Twitter links.) Santana may still aim to take a mound for scouts, but any such plans are “unclear” at this point.
  • The Angels are still not interested in chasing James Shields, even if his price may have dropped somewhat, GM Jerry Dipoto tells Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register (via Twitter).
  • For their part, the Twins have no intentions of going after free agent righties John Axford and Alexi Ogando, LaVelle E. Neal III of the Star Tribune tweets. As he notes, the market has several attractive right-handed relief arms, though it is not clear whether Minnesota has any interest in adding to its pen. Both Axford and Ogando made my list of interesting players to watch. I consider the pair to be among the remaining free agents who could either break out or break down in 2015.

AL Central Notes: Johan, Hughes, Reimold, Swisher, Sox

Though Johan Santana‘s comeback attempt briefly stalled when he experienced some shoulder discomfort, it appears he’s back on course, as Jon Heyman of CBS Sports tweets that the former Cy Young winner will throw a bullpen session today and is tentatively scheduled to pitch Game 5 of the Venezuelan Winter League finals next week. Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN reports (via Twitter) that the Twins will be scouting each of those showings, though his sense is that a return to his former stomping grounds isn’t in the cards for Santana.

More on the Twins and their division…

  • Right-hander Phil Hughes told MLB.com’s Rhett Bollinger that he was excited to sign a long-term extension with the Twins in December due to the high level of comfort that he felt in his first year with the club. Hughes implied that he entered the offseason hoping to work out a longer deal and was clearly able to do that, signing for an additional three years and $42MM on Dec. 22. However, Hughes noted that he wouldn’t have signed if he didn’t think the team was close to contending in the near future. Minnesota’s enviable farm system and their willingness to spend on veterans, demonstrated by signing Torii Hunter and Ervin Santana this winter, were both factors in Hughes’ decision as well.
  • The Indians are showing a great deal of interest in Nolan Reimold, reports Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com (on Twitter). Cleveland is trying to sign the former Oriole to a minor league deal, Kubtako notes, though he adds that the Orioles remain in the mix as well. Reimold, 31, has battled significant injuries over the past few seasons but does own a solid .251/.324/.439 batting line in 1134 big league plate appearances.
  • Nick Swisher struggled through the worst season of his career last year with the Indians, though many of his struggles were likely attributable to knee problems that plagued him all season. Swisher, who underwent surgery on both knees in August, explained to MLB.com’s Anthony Castrovince that his knees were so bad that he literally could not walk to the bathroom at night (Twitter links). He admitted to Castrovince that he wished he’d had the operations sooner, but wanted to play through the pain due to the investment that the Indians made in him. Cleveland inked the Ohio native to a four-year, $56MM pact two offseasons ago.
  • At their annual Sox Fest event earlier today, White Sox GM Rick Hahn told reporters, including MLB.com’s Scott Merkin, that bullpen depth and another utility infielder to use versus left-handed pitching were the two primary items remaining on his offseason wishlist (Twitter link). Hahn also said that minor league signee Geovany Soto has a good chance to make the team out of Spring Training, so long as he can show that he is healthy (via CSN Chicago’s Dan Hayes).

Quick Hits: Moncada, Dodgers, Johan, Varona

In an interview with Mike Ferrin and Jim Duquette on MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM (audio link), Rays president of baseball operations Matt Silverman said his team will scout Yoan Moncada as they would any prospect of “great intrigue,” but “given our financial situation, I wouldn’t expect us to be the winners of an auction.”  Silverman feels this is another example of how difficult it is for successful small-market teams to replenish their systems, as “all of the [player acquisition] structures, whether it’s the draft or international, put us at a disadvantage.

Here’s some more from around baseball…

  • A group of South Korean investors are talking with the Dodgers about buying a minority stake of the franchise, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports.  The news was originally reported by two South Korean newspapers, one of which (the Korea Joongang Daily) reports that the discussed terms were $370MM for 20 percent of the team.  A source with knowledge of the talks told Shaikin there is a “zero” chance the Dodgers’ ownership group would give up control of the team in these negotiations.
  • The Phillies face a tough road back to respectability but they can get there within two to four years if they augment their financial resources with good young talent, Fangraphs’ Jeff Sullivan opines.  The worst-case scenario would be if they make the wrong moves and revenues decline, thus putting the club in a long streak of losing seasons, a la the Orioles prior to their 2012 playoff appearance.
  • Peter Greenberg, Johan Santana‘s agent, said his client doesn’t have any structural damage in his shoulder, FOX Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi tweets.  Santana was recently scratched from a Venezuelan Winter League start due to his shoulder, though Greenberg said Santana might return to pitch in the league playoffs.
  • Cuban outfielder Dayron Varona receives a scouting report from ESPN’s Keith Law (Insider subscription required), who praises Varona’s running and plus arm but has some questions about his hitting.  The current popularity of Cuban players could inflate Varona’s market, Law feels, though he thinks Varona will sign for “close to eight figures as a potential big league backup.”
  • The Blue Jays could consider Everth Cabrera as an option at second base, CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman tweets.  Presumably the Jays’ interest would hinge on the outcome of Cabrera’s ongoing legal case, which may not take place until April.  Heyman also notes that Rickie Weeks “seems to be further down [Toronto’s] list.”
  • ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield lists the five teams he felt improved the most and least this winter.

Pitching Notes: Santana, Shields, Haren, Lynn

Johan Santana‘s comeback bid has hit a snag, as the southpaw was scratched from a planned Venezuelan Winter League start with shoulder soreness (via the league’s Spanish language website). Though he will surely find another opportunity to showcase for MLB clubs, shoulder health was already an obvious concern for the two-time Cy Young winner.

Here are some more notes involving starting pitching:

  • It has been a challenge to find obvious fits for free agent righty James Shields, but ESPN.com’s Dan Szymborski (Insider link) makes the attempt by focusing on which clubs would stand to receive the greatest boost in projected wins. Three NL West teams (DodgersGiantsPadres) and a trio from the AL Central (TigersRoyalsWhite Sox) join the Marlins as the clubs that the ZiPS projection system thinks would benefit most by signing Shields.
  • The Marlins have not yet received any trade offers for righty Dan Haren, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reports. Miami is in an interesting spot with regard to the veteran, as Jackson explains.
  • Before reaching agreement on a three-year deal that bought out all of his arb-eligible seasons, the Cardinals and righty Lance Lynn considered longer extension scenarios, Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. That did not come to fruition because the team was interested in delaying Lynn’s free agency by one or two years whereas the pitcher was only interested in foregoing the open market for a larger, longer pact. Lynn explained that he would be open to revisiting talks later: “It’s not something that we could get situated, but there’s always going to be a process later. If everything goes well and I pitch the way I’m capable of, I’m sure that will be revisited down the line.”

Free Agent Notes: Moncada, Olivera, Belisario, Santana, Zito

While he awaits clearance from the government, Cuban second baseman Yoan Moncada is putting on showcases for interested teams. The Yankees have already put the 19-year-old through the paces, according to Ben Badler of Baseball America. In addition to New York and the previously-reported Giants, Moncada has worked out for the BrewersRangersRed Sox, and Padres, per MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez. Meanwhile, the DodgersRaysCubs, and Phillies have shown interest. For their part, the Twins will not seek a private workout because they believe the bidding will go too high, Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN tweets.

Here are some more free agent notes:

  • Fellow Cuban second bagger Hector Olivera will begin a two-day open showcase in the Dominican Republic tomorrow, Badler reports on Twitter. Olivera figures to be more of an immediate contributor than the younger Moncada.
  • Clubs interested in righty Ronald Belisario, as with Burke Badenhop, include the Blue Jays and Nationals, per Jon Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter). The 32-year-old has run up solid innings totals over each of the last three years, but has seen his ERA steadily move north during that stretch. On the other hand, ERA estimators have viewed him as a solidly average performer in each of those seasons, with a low strand rate likely causing most of his troubles in 2014.
  • The YankeesBlue Jays, and Padres are three of the approximately six teams pursuing lefty Johan Santana, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com tweets. An upcoming Venezuelan league start could have some bearing on where the one-time ace ends up.
  • Another prominent lefty is plotting his comeback as well. Per Henry Schulman of the San Francisco Chronicle (Twitter link), Barry Zito still plans to return to baseball after a year off and will put on a showcase this spring. The 36-year-old last threw in 2013, working to a career-worst 5.74 ERA over 133 1/3 innings.