5:38pm: Miami has reached out to the Halos on Santiago and other, unspecified starters, according to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi (via Twitter).
3:25pm: The Angels have received inquiries from a number of teams about left-hander Hector Santiago, and they’re willing to listen to offers for him, reports ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick (on Twitter). The team is also getting hits on Matt Shoemaker, perhaps unsurprisingly, per Jon Heyman of Fan Rag (via Twitter).
Los Angeles is said to be amenable at least to considering scenarios involving the two controllable starters, but only if it would improve the team’s roster right now or in the “near future.” That near-term focus is precisely why it’s hard to see a match coming together, particularly for Shoemaker.
Santiago, 28, is earning $5MM this season and is controlled through the 2017 campaign via arbitration, so he’s more appealing than a number of arms that are of similar quality but either hit free agency at season’s end or are making considerably more money. The lefty is in the midst of his weakest season at the Major League level but still owns a respectable 4.32 ERA with 7.8 K/9, 3.8 BB/9 and a career-best 38.7 percent ground-ball rate. His 91.8 mph average fastball is a notable step up over last season’s average of 90.3 mph and represents the highest mark he’s ever posted in a full season out of the rotation.
Metrics such as FIP, xFIP and SIERA feel that Santiago’s been fortunate to keep his ERA where it is this season, but Santiago has long outperformed those metrics. As a fly-ball pitcher that generates a large number of pop-ups, Santiago has been able to routinely post BABIP marks that are considerably lower than the league average (having Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun in the outfield doesn’t hurt), and he’s also proven to be adept at stranding runners; his 76.6 percent left-on-base percentage is 14th in the Majors over the past five years among starters with at least 500 innings pitched. Those factors have contributed heavily to the career 3.78 ERA Santiago has been able to post out of the rotation in spite of ERA estimators that project his earned run average to check in somewhere in the vicinity of a full run higher.
Crasnick lists the Orioles, Pirates and “possibly” the Astros and Mets as speculative fits for Santiago after speaking to a pair of big league executives (links to Twitter). Those two execs also listed Miami as a possible fit, but Crasnick adds that the Marlins, who are known to be looking for a stabilizing force near the back of the rotation, are currently “aiming their sights higher” than Santiago. Considering their desire for a large quantity of innings down the stretch, perhaps that’s not surprising; Santiago’s career-high in innings pitched was last year’s 180 2/3 frames, but he averaged a lesser 152 innings from 2013-15 due to some time spent in the bullpen in 2013 and 2014.
The Orioles have long been tied to a left-handed rotation upgrade, and Santiago would be an improvement over many of the names that Baltimore has trotted out to the mound this season. Santiago wouldn’t fit the Pirates’ mold of pursuing pitchers with high ground-ball rates, but he’d give them a capable arm for the back of the rotation that could take some of the pressure of their bounty of young starters that could be leaned upon heavily over the final months (e.g. Tyler Glasnow, Jameson Taillon, Chad Kuhl, Steven Brault). The Astros have a short porch in left field which could spell problems for a fly-ball prone lefty, while the Mets reportedly continue to prioritize bullpen help. However, given the uncertainty that currently exists in their starting ranks, it wouldn’t be a total shock to see them jump into the market for a starter over the next week as the non-waiver deadline approaches.