April 29: Santana has elected free agency, per an announcement from the White Sox. Daryl Van Schouwen tweets that the decision relievers the ChiSox from any further financial obligations regarding Santana, which seems to suggest that the veteran righty agreed to a 45-day advance consent clause as part of his contract.
Players with more than five years of service time earn the right to retain their salary even after being released or rejecting an outright assignment in favor of free agency. The 45-day advance consent clause, however, gives teams the option of cutting loose a veteran with six-plus years at any point within the season’s first 45 days (barring an injury) without being on the hook for the remainder of his salary. (Trade Rumors’ Zach Links examined 45-day advance consent clauses in depth a few years ago.)
April 26: The White Sox announced this morning that they’ve designated veteran right-hander Ervin Santana for assignment. His spot on the active roster will go to Eloy Jimenez, who has been reinstated from the bereavement list.
Santana’s stay with the Sox proved to be brief, as he made only three starts before the team shifted course today. The 36-year-old righty pitched just 13 1/3 innings for the Pale Hose, allowing 14 runs on 19 hits and six walks with only five strikeouts.
Chicago inked Santana to a minor league contract with a rather hefty $4.3MM guarantee at the MLB level in hopes that he could bounce back from an injury-ruined 2018 season. Santana underwent surgery to repair a tendon in his pitching hand in February of 2018, and lingering effects from that procedure limited him to just 24 2/3 ineffective innings with the Twins. Following that injury shortened campaign, Minnesota declined a $14MM option on the righty.
Prior to that injury, however, Santana was not only durable for the Twins but quietly one of the league’s more effective starters. Santana turned in 392 2/3 innings of 3.32 ERA ball with 7.2 K/9 against 2.6 BB/9 for the Twins from 2016-17. The 2017 campaign saw Santana toss five complete games — a rare feat in this era of baseball — including three shutouts. From 2010-17, Santana avoided any absences due to injury and averaged 30 starts and 192 innings per season (despite an 80-game PED suspension at the onset of the 2015 season).
It’s now uncertain whether Santana can reestablish himself as a viable rotation piece at the big league level, although given his track record and the sheer number of teams that could use rotation reinforcements, one would imagine that he’ll get the opportunity to do so. He’ll first have to clear release waivers — it’s unlikely that the Sox find a trade partner for the righty — but once he does, he can sign with any club on either a minor league contract or an MLB deal worth the prorated league minimum.
As for the Sox, they’ll look to internal options to help right the ship in what has been an awful rotation to begin the year. While Carlos Rodon has performed well through the season’s first month, each of Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Ivan Nova and Santana have pitched poorly. Dylan Covey, Jordan Stephens and top prospect Dylan Cease are all looming in Triple-A as potential options, or the team could simply plug Manny Banuelos into the fifth spot in the rotation moving forward. Some type of spot starter will likely need to be recalled in the coming days, however, as Giolito is on the shelf with a hamstring injury at the moment.