11:10am: Santana’s deal comes with a $1.5MM base if he makes the big league roster, tweets Lynn Worthy of the Kansas City Star. He can also earn an additional $1.75MM via incentives. Santana can ask for his release May 15 if he’s not on the Royals’ 40-man roster, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
10:52am: The Royals announced Tuesday that they’ve signed old friend Ervin Santana to a minor league contract. The veteran right-hander will presumably head to Major League Spring Training and vie for a roster spot.
Santana, 38, didn’t sign with a team for the 2020 season and hasn’t appeared in the big leagues since an early-2019 run with the White Sox failed to pan out. He starred for the Royals back 2013 — the start of a five-year run that marked the most consistently productive stretch of the two-time All-Star’s career. Santana racked up 211 innings of 3.24 ERA/3.93 FIP ball with Kansas City that year but found a harsh market in free agency after rejecting a qualifying offer and eyeing too large a contract early in the winter.
He eventually opted to take a one-year deal with the Braves — one that continues to benefit Atlanta to this day — before returning to the market in the 2014-15 offseason and cashing in on a four-year, $55MM contract with the Twins. Santana was the Twins’ most consistent pitcher for much of that deal, but the wheels came off in year four after he underwent surgery to repair a tendon in the middle finger on his right hand. After pitching to a 3.47 ERA in his first 500 innings in Minnesota, Santana was clobbered for an 8.03 ERA in just 24 2/3 innings in the final year of the deal. He signed with the ChiSox that offseason but was tagged for 14 runs in 13 1/3 innings.
It’s been quite some time since Santana was a productive big league starter now, but he’ll head back to the Royals organization in search of a job somewhere on a staff that looks heavily reliant on young, still-developing arms. Kansas City’s rotation has veterans Mike Minor and Danny Duffy locked into spots, and Rule 5 gem Brad Keller is set to open a fourth year in the rotation as well.
Jakob Junis gives the club an inconsistent but at times solid option, and Kansas City has a bevy of upper-level pitching prospects in the form of Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, Daniel Lynch and Jackson Kowar. Both Singer and Bubic made their MLB debuts in 2020, but neither is exactly a lock to hold down a spot all year — particularly given the difficulties of managing innings workloads in the wake of the shortened 2020 schedule.
The 38-year-old Santana will give the Royals a veteran depth option to compete for either a rotation spot or a long-relief job. He’s been pitching in the Dominican Winter League this offseason, logging a 2.61 ERA and a 25-to-11 K/BB ratio in 20 2/3 innings to date.