Feb 23: The deal is official and Santana is present in the Sox clubhouse today, per the Athletic’s James Fegan (via Twitter).
Feb 22, 1:15pm: Santana’s contract comes with a $4.3MM base salary if he makes the roster, Heyman tweets. That’s an abnormally large base salary for a minor league pact and likely speaks to the interest that Santana had elsewhere. In essence, the White Sox gave Santana the opportunity to be guaranteed a rate that many would’ve expected him to command on a big league deal, but did so while delaying the need to make an immediate 40-man move.
10:52am: The White Sox and free-agent right-hander Ervin Santana have agreed to a minor league contract, Jon Heyman of the MLB Network reports (via Twitter). The contract is pending a physical. Santana will head to Major League camp and compete for a spot in a thin rotation mix.
Santana, 36, has been a longtime divisional foe for the ChiSox, having spent the past four seasons leading the Twins’ rotation. The final season of his four-year, $55MM pact with Minnesota was almost entirely wiped out by surgery to repair a tendon in his right hand, however. That injury limited him to five starts and just 24 2/3 innings and led the Twins to decline a $14MM option over the righty.
Prior to the 2018 season, however, Santana was both a durable and high-quality workhorse. From 2016-17, Santana ranked 11th in the game in total innings pitched and also ranked 11th among qualified starters with a 3.32 ERA. In all, while his four-year deal with the Twins was marred by last year’s injury and a PED suspension in 2015, he worked to a 3.68 ERA with 7.1 K/9 against 2.1 BB/9 in 525 1/3 innings with Minnesota. When he was healthy and on the field, Santana was generally a quality option on the mound, making him a logical pick for the Sox — especially at this price point.
So long as he is healthy, it seems quite likely that Santana will break camp in Chicago’s rotation. Currently, the Sox are looking at Carlos Rodon, Ivan Nova, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito as the top four in their rotation. Santana will compete with Manny Banuelos and Dylan Covey, among others, in trying to secure that final starting job. Given that slate of rotation options, it’d rank as a surprise if a healthy Santana didn’t secure a place on the roster this spring.
Santana becomes the latest but perhaps most surprising veteran player to settle for a non-guaranteed pact in a second consecutive winter that has been unkind to veterans in their 30s. While last season was obviously a nightmare for Santana, he’d averaged 182 innings of 3.52 ERA ball from 2013-17 with the Royals, Braves and Twins.