Santana, 26, was mostly effective for a new-look Pirate bullpen this year, posting a 3.26 ERA with a minuscule 1.63 BB/9 over 66 1/3 innings, though his peripherals (5.79 K/9 against 2.70 BB/9 after the All-Star Break) slid precipitously in the season’s second half. Still, it’s a tough blow for a Pittsburgh bullpen in search of reliable contributors following the unit’s halcyon “Shark Tank” period, which anchored the club in its most successful run in over two decades from 2013-2015.
Since Santana has accrued just over a season’s worth of big-league service time, the Pirates will have him under club control through at least the 2024 season, assuming he returns to the mound on schedule to begin the 2020 campaign. The revamped pen, headlined by a dominant Felipe Vazquez and out-of-nowhere stalwart Richard Rodriguez, ranked middle of the pack by most available metrics this season, though it does boast plenty of upside in all corners. Offseason acquisitions Michael Feliz and Kyle Crick, both beset by command issues throughout their careers, still offer tantalizing stuff with years of cheap control remaining, and Keone Kela, a midseason pickup from the Rangers, showcased much-improved command during his short stint with the Buccos and would figure to feature prominently in the corps’ back end for at least the next two seasons.