Tag: Ervin Santana

Pitchers MLB Teams Should Consider Selling in Suddenly Weak Market

This MLB offseason offered little in terms of impact pitchers. And as we look to round third base on it, any that were available are now off the market.

The big three closers—Mark Melancon (San Francisco Giants), Kenley Jansen (Los Angeles Dodgers) and Aroldis Chapman (New York Yankees)—all signed with teams. The Chicago White Sox sent starting pitcher Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox, and the Kansas City Royals shipped closer Wade Davis to the Chicago Cubs.

It has left the market for pitchers looking like August in Death Valley.

No need to look toward a higher power for rain here. All it takes is a few willing executives to reinvigorate the pitching market. Given the climate, that may be advantageous for those holding pitching talent.

Let’s take a look at some pitchers MLB teams should consider selling. 

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MLB Trade Rumors: Hottest Reports as 2016 Deadline’s End Approaches

Only a few days remain before the MLB trade deadline Monday. Yet there are probably still a couple front offices around the league surveying the market and the tight-knit playoff race to determine whether they should be buyers or sellers leading up to Aug. 1.

Those on the fringe may ultimately lean toward selling. Since there are so many teams with a legitimate chance at the postseason thanks to the presence of two wild-card spots, there are a select number of teams already looking toward the future and thus willing to part with major league talent.

With that in mind, let’s check out some of the latest rumors from around the league. That includes a breakdown of what the potential deals would mean for the players and teams involved.


Matt Moore Likely on the Move

Moore isn’t yet all the way back to the level he reached before undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2014. In his final full season before the major injury setback, he went 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA and 143 strikeouts in 150.1 innings to emerge as a legitimate ace.

He’s posted a 4.08 ERA and 1.27 WHIP in 21 starts so far this season. While those numbers are nothing special, they represent plenty of improvement from his limited action last year. Yet despite the progress, Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported there’s a good chance the Tampa Bay Rays will trade him by Monday:

He could represent a nice value buy for a contender. Not only are his stats trending in the right direction, but his velocity is right in line with where it was before the arm problems, with his fastball capable of reaching the mid-90s, according to FanGraphs.

At 27, Moore should also be entering his peak seasons at the same time he gets all the way back to full strength. If he can rediscover his command down the stretch, he’d be a perfect mid-rotation addition for a championship hopeful.


David Robertson Available as Teams Seek Bullpen Help

A lot of high-profile relief pitchers could find new homes before Monday. Help in the final three innings seems like the one thing just about every team could use. Robertson is one of the latest players who fits the bill to pop up in the rumor mill.

The Chicago White Sox closer hasn’t been quite as effective this season. His 4.25 ERA is the highest mark since his rookie campaign. So, while he’s still converted 24 of 28 save chances, Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News reported he could be on the move:

The biggest key for him getting back in top form for the final months is control. His walk rate has jumped from 1.85 last season to 4.68 during the current campaign. That’s the main reason his ERA has increased, and it could give interested teams some pause.

That said, the demand for quality relievers far outweighs the supply right now. So the White Sox should still be able to acquire a couple promising assets from a desperate team like the Washington Nationals if they do decide to move Robertson.


Price Tag High on Ervin Santana

Santana seems like the prototypical trade candidate. He’s a veteran starting pitcher with a strong track record and is enjoying a solid season, posting a 3.78 ERA through 19 starts. Add in the fact the Minnesota Twins have one of the worst records in baseball, and it’d make sense to deal him.

Apparently, they aren’t eager to send him packing with an eye toward the future, though. Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reported the Twins are planning to keep the 33-year-old right-hander unless another team blows their socks off with an offer before Monday:

Maybe putting that idea out there is merely Minnesota’s way of trying to drum up interest in Santana. Even though Spotrac notes he’s under contract through 2019, he’ll be far removed from his peak by the time the Twins are ready to make a serious charge up the standings.

So it wouldn’t come as a surprise if he does end up getting traded before the deadline. He’s not a top-tier starter a contending team would want to lean heavily on during the final months, but he’s more than capable of filling a No. 3 or No. 4 role to bolster a rotation.


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Ervin Santana Injury: Updates on Twins SP’s Back and Return

Minnesota Twins pitcher Ervin Santana missed Saturday’s start with a stiff back. It’s unclear when he will return to the field.

Continue for updates.

Latest on Santana’s Playing Status

Monday, April 25

Phil Miller of the Star Tribune reported that Santana did not throw on Monday, noting that the team is being “careful.”

Duffey to Replace Santana’s Solid Production in Starting Rotation

Right-hander Tyler Duffey will be recalled from Triple-A to start in Santana’s place against the Washington Nationals. The 25-year-old made 10 starts for the Twins last year with a 3.10 ERA and 53 strikeouts in 58 innings.

The Twins dug themselves a hole right out of the gate this season, losing their first nine games, and have been trying to climb out of it with five wins in their last seven games entering play Saturday.

Santana has been solid through four starts, posting a 3.15 ERA with 18 strikeouts and 20 hits allowed in 20 innings. The Twins are looking to him for a strong bounce-back season after he only made 17 starts in 2015, as he was suspended for 80 games due to a failed performance-enhancing drug test.

Rotation depth is not an area of strength for the Twins. Santana and Ricky Nolasco are the team’s only starters with an ERA under 4.42 in the early stages of 2016. A prolonged absence from the 33-year-old Santana would really hurt Minnesota’s chances of competing in the American League Central.

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Ervin Santana Calls Yankee Stadium a ‘Joke’ After Allowing 2 HR to Greg Bird

There is no crying in baseball; we all know that by now. But deriding your work environment when things don’t go your way? That’s apparently fair game for Ervin Santana.     

The Minnesota Twins pitcher took to the media to call Yankee Stadium a “joke” Wednesday after giving up two home runs to rookie first baseman Greg Bird, as captured by Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press:

Bird’s two home runs drove in all four of the Yankees’ runs in their 4-3 win. Santana gave up those four earned runs and seven hits over his 7.2 innings of action, his longest start in nearly a month. Yankee Stadium has been a consistent thorn in Santana’s side in recent years, generating his highest ERA of any opposing stadium since 2012.

Still, it’s fair to wonder if Santana’s comments were more about Yankee Stadium itself or his own frustrations. The former All-Star is in the midst of perhaps his worst big league season, posting a 2-4 record with a 5.53 ERA through his first nine starts. He has posted just four quality starts since returning from his performance-enhancing drug suspension, only one of which has come in his last five appearances.

“In all honesty, I think he’s been trying to do an awful lot because we all know what happened,” Twins pitching coach Neil Allen told Berardino. “I think he’s trying to prove his worth to everybody: the city, the team, everybody. I think he’s trying to do too much.”

Santana, 32, is in the first season of a four-year, $54 million contract. So perhaps he’s pressing. Perhaps he’s a little rusty following the PED suspension. Or perhaps it’s all the stadium’s fault. Odds are it’s much more likely to be one of the former statements than the latter. The Twins won’t be playing in New York again this year, so Santana will be spared from pitching in Yankee Stadium again until 2016. 


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Ervin Santana’s 80-Game Ban Shows MLB Is Netting Stanozolol Cheats

It didn’t take long to catch the first violators of the season.

Just days away from the opening of the 2015 season, the performance-enhancing drug monster that Major League Baseball cannot escape from has snatched up its first wave of offenders.

Minnesota Twins pitcher Ervin Santana received an 80-game suspension from MLB on Friday for violating the Joint Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. The 32-year-old right-hander tested positive for an anabolic steroid called stanozolol, per Chris Cwik of Yahoo Sports. Atlanta’s Arodys Vizcaino was suspended 80 games on Thursday for the same drug.

Stanozolol is also the drug that netted 25-year-old pitcher David Rollins his own 80-game ban on March 27. The left-hander was in line to win a job in the Seattle Mariners’ bullpen when news of his positive test and suspension broke.

That is three suspensions for the same, old-school kind of drug that Rafael Palmeiro tested positive for in 2005. In the two seasons before Palmeiro’s positive test, MLB reported 37 positive tests for stanozolol, which Lee Jenkins, then of The New York Times, said indicated a “changing trend” in the drug of choice for cheaters.

It is also the same substance that got Canadian sprinter Ben Johnson’s Olympic gold medal stripped in 1988.

It’s baffling for this era’s players to be risking games, reputation and money for this kind of steroid, but MLB’s recent rash of suspensions show it is on to at least a section of its offenders.

The drug was popular in the early and mid-2000s among baseball players, but that has obviously not stopped its use these days. Stanozolol basically replicates naturally occurring testosterone and promotes muscle growth and blood cell count.

When Palmeiro was busted for stanozolol, he claimed he unknowingly took it. However, it was reported way back then that the drug is not used in dietary/workout supplements.

Santana went with the same excuse Friday, in 2015 when teams and players are well-versed in what they can and cannot take into their bodies. And if there are ever any questions about something, they are advised to not use it or get a quick answer by calling team trainers, even during the offseason.

Santana said in a statement, via NBC Sports’ Craig Calcaterra:

I would never put baseball, my family, or my country in a position where its integrity is jeopardized. I preach hard work, and don’t believe in short cuts. I am very disappointed that I tested positive for a performance enhancing drug. I am frustrated that I can’t pinpoint how the substance in question entered my body. I would never knowingly take anything illegal to enhance my performance. What I can guarantee is I never knowingly took anything illegal to enhance my performance. That’s just not me, never has been and never will.

These days, that kind of after-the-fact statement is seen as a lame and glaringly weak attempt to skirt responsibility. It is a player’s job to know what he is taking, and there is enough information available a couple of thumb clicks away that not knowing isn’t good enough.

Santana was coming off of a mediocre season with the Atlanta Braves but still landed a four-year, $55 million deal from the Twins. He was expected to be one of their rotation pillars, but the PED bug showed up to eat about half his season.

The good news about all this is that MLB is still catching its cheats, although at what rate or percentage we will never know for sure. What is bad is that the game has not had a PED suspension resulting from a positive test since 2012, when seven players tested positive for banned substances—Biogenesis suspensions did not result from positive tests—but now, before the 2015 season has even started, there are three in the books.

Opening Day and all its pageantry cannot come soon enough.


All quotes, unless otherwise specified, have been acquired firsthand by Anthony Witrado. Follow Anthony on Twitter @awitrado and talk baseball here.

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Why Are MLB Teams so Wary of Top Free-Agent Pitcher Ervin Santana?

Ervin Santana‘s situation isn’t unique. He’s a big-name free agent who’s still looking for work, but he’s not the only one. Stephen Drew and Kendrys Morales are in the same boat.

Santana’s situation is, however, more puzzling. The right-hander is an innings-eater who’s coming off a career-best 3.24 ERA, and he’s floating on a market that has been very kind to pitchers.

We’ve been asking the question here and there for a while now, but in the interests of timing and what-the-heckery, today’s the day we really ask it:

Seriously, what’s the deal? What are teams so afraid of?

There are a variety of answers to that question, and we’ll be getting to those shortly. But first, we should discuss the one thing that’s not holding Santana back. 

Remember when Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported in November that Santana was hoping for a $100 million contract? He must have gotten a quick reality check, as Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported in January that Santana’s asking price had fallen to four years and $60 million.

It’s since fallen even further. As Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported last week, Santana’s asking price is now something in the four-year, $50 million neighborhood. This, as Heyman pointed out, is close to what Matt Garza, Ubaldo Jimenez and Ricky Nolasco signed for.

Since these are easily the three most relevant comparisons this winter’s market had for Santana, he would appear to have his eyes set on an appropriate target. If we look at the situation through uber-simple lenses, that he hasn’t gotten such a contract yet suggests something is standing in his way.

No. Not something. Some things.

First, there’s the obvious: Yes, Santana is tied to draft-pick compensation after rejecting a $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Kansas City Royals in November. That’s a big deal.

You’ve probably heard all about that, so we’ll run through it quickly. When teams give up picks, they also have to give up the signing bonus allotment that goes with that pick. Then there’s the reality that, thanks in part to the death of free agency, as Jonah Keri of Grantland eloquently summed up last April, there’s suddenly more of an emphasis on teams growing their own stars. Giving up draft picks would be a big deal even if bonus money wasn’t an issue.

Now, sure, Jimenez was also tied to draft-pick compensation. Since he was still able to get a four-year, $50 million from the Baltimore Orioles, why shouldn’t Santana get his own four-year, $50 million deal?

We can start with the most basic difference between the two pitchers: Santana’s a year older than Jimenez. He’s through his age-30 season and is now 31, whereas Jimenez is 30 and only through his age-29 season. Since a four-year deal would cover Santana’s age 31-34 seasons instead of his 30-33 seasons, there would be more danger of paying good money for decline years.

You can take this same logic and apply it to Garza, as he too is only 30, but what about Nolasco? He’s the same age as Santana (31), yet he still got a four-year deal. Why should he be an exception?

Looking at it from clubs’ perspective, one thing that could be significant is that it’s been a while since Nolasco had a serious injury scare.

Nolasco had some issues with his right knee in 2010, but his last arm problem was a bout with elbow inflammation in 2007 (per Baseball Prospectus). Santana, meanwhile, was sidelined for 89 days in 2009 with a combination of a UCL sprain in his elbow and soreness in his triceps.

If Santana has a gripe, it’s that his 2013 performance ought to convince teams that it’s worth it to look past his age and his 2009 arm trouble. He topped Garza, Jimenez and Nolasco in innings, and his 3.24 ERA was also the best of the four.

Santana has a legit gripe as far as the innings go. But concerning the ERA, his problem is that front offices are now too smart to fall for that.

Though it’s still a go-to statistic for fans and analysts (I haven’t given up on it yet), Dave Cameron of FanGraphs proposed when Tim Lincecum got a $35 million contract from the San Francisco Giants that ERA appears to be falling out of favor with executives:

The entrenched hold that ERA has had on pitcher valuations appears to be dwindling. It’s time we stop expecting pitchers like this to sign for peanuts simply because of their ERA. That’s not how major league teams are evaluating pitching anymore.

The stats teams prefer to evaluate pitchers with presumably varies from front office to front office. But there are several well-known ones that you and I can turn to, and none say that Santana was the best of the relevant foursome in 2013.

Via FanGraphs:

FIP and xFIP focus on strikeouts, walks, home runs and hit-by-pitches, with xFIP trying to up the fairness by normalizing a pitcher’s home run rate. SIERA is a bit more complicated, as it tries to make something of balls put in play. As for FIP– and xFIP-, those are versions of the two stats adjusted for a pitcher’s park and league and scaled to average (100, with below 100 constituting “above” average).

That none of these stats favor Santana’s performance as the best of 2013 is not surprising. He may have had one of the better walk rates of the four, but he had the lowest strikeout rate and pitched half his games at a very pitcher-friendly ballpark in Kauffman Stadium.

While we’re at it, we can add in the fact that the Royals were eighth in defensive efficiency, according to Baseball Prospectus. None of the other three got to pitch in front of defenses quite as good.

So based on what actually happened in 2013, Santana doesn’t look all that great. And if we look further back over the last three seasons, the picture doesn’t change:

This is especially relevant when it comes to comparing Santana to Nolasco. In addition to being further removed from serious arm trouble, Nolasco was the better pitcher in 2013 and has been the better pitcher over the last couple seasons.

But Nolasco‘s advantages don’t even stop there. Another thing he’s done that Santana hasn’t yet is prove that he can pitch with below-average velocity.

According to FanGraphs, Nolasco‘s average fastball has never been better than 91.5 miles per hour. Over the last three seasons, it’s topped out at 90.5 miles per hour, which is about half a mile per hour slower than the average starter’s fastball these days.

As for Santana, the lowest his fastball velocity has ever gotten was 91.7 in 2012. And if we look at how his fastball velocities correlate with his fastball runs above average (wFB), we see that the year in which his heat was at its slowest is also the year it was most useless:

My personal opinion is that this doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker. According to Brooks Baseball, Santana greatly increased the use of his sinker in 2013, helping to result in a career-best ground-ball rate (46.2). Provided he’s smart, he’ll continue this and stave off a velocity-related decline.

But still, it’s not a good look that Santana’s heat was so hittable in a year in which his velocity strayed so close to league average. If there are teams out there that are worried about how effective he’s going to be once subpar velocity becomes more permanent, well, they have a legit complaint.

Santana’s is a complicated situation, but these are the simple things standing in the way of him getting the contract he wants. He’s tied to draft-pick compensation, he’s not as young as teams would prefer, his medical track record is more iffy than teams would prefer, his recent production is lacking and there are doubts over how he’s going to get by once his velocity starts to go.

These things alone could force Santana to settle for something more like $10-11 million per year rather than $12-14 million per year, not to mention three years and an option instead of four guaranteed years. That he only has so much leverage at this point is just icing on the cake.

Maybe he’ll get lucky in the end, but it’s more likely that Santana isn’t going to be thrilled with the contract he signs.


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Should Texas Rangers Sign Ervin Santana After Holland, Harrison Injuries?

He’s a member of the Texas Rangers now, but remember how Prince Fielder came to be on the Detroit Tigers? It was via a devastating injury to Victor Martinez, which opened up a need for an impact bat and, in turn, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch’s wallet.

I can’t help but wonder if similar circumstances might result in Ervin Santana becoming a teammate of Fielder’s. Or, at the least, I’m wondering if it should happen.

Before anybody gets the wrong idea, LET ME CLARIFY that I haven’t seen any rumors that say the Rangers are circling the free-agent right-hander. Nor am I reporting that they are. This is strictly speculation.

But not baseless speculation. It’s warranted by the very real injury concerns the Rangers have in their starting rotation.

Last month, Derek Holland injured his left knee in a freak accident, requiring him to have arthroscopic surgery. As reported by Gerry Fraley of The Dallas Morning News, Holland is expected to be out until the All-Star break.

Now there’s bad news about another of Texas’ lefties. After missing pretty much all of 2013 with injuries, T.R. Sullivan of MLB.com reports that Matt Harrison is experiencing stiffness in his lower back and that he’s returning to Texas for further examination.

Two of the three surgeries (!) Harrison had last year were on his back. The stiffness he’s experiencing now is apparently in the same area that gave him trouble.

Which, yeah, is not good.

And this leads us to question time: With Holland already down and Harrison possibly going down as well, what do the Rangers stand to miss out on in 2014?

Let’s go to FanGraphs and check out the 2014 Steamer projections for both pitchers:

Steamer has already adjusted for Holland’s prognosis, but aside from that, it still expects him to be a quality pitcher when healthy in 2014. That projected 1.7 WAR jells with what FanGraphs‘ Jeff Sullivan wrote about Holland: “Before he got hurt, it would’ve been wise to project him to be worth something between three and four wins.”

As for Harrison, that projection does come off as being a bit generous considering all he went through in 2013, but we do know it’s not a question of talent with him. Between 2011 and 2012, he was worth 7.7 fWAR. Surely he could manage a 2.3 fWAR if healthy.

But now you have to wonder if Harrison can deliver even that much value. And if you take what the Rangers’ rotation is already due to miss out on with Holland’s injury, they’re looking at a situation where their rotation could be missing out on anywhere between 2-4 WAR if Harrison misses some time.

Maybe that’s not a deal-breaker in a deep rotation, but the Rangers don’t have one of those. Yu Darvish—who is my pick for the American League Cy Young—is amazing, and Martin Perez is decent, but then it’s guys like Alexi Ogando (hurt for much of 2013), Nick Tepesch (4.84 ERA in ’13) and Tommy Hanson (all downhill since the 2012 All-Star break).

Then there’s also the reality that there’s not going to be a large margin for error in the AL West. As I wrote last week, the division got awfully deep this offseason. The A’s got more depth, the Angels got more pitching, the Mariners got the winter’s best talent and the Astros got actual major league talent.

Point being: Yeah, Holland’s and Harrison’s health could cost the Rangers dearly in 2014. They can’t afford to miss out on the production they stand to miss out on. What they need is a safety net.

Which brings us, finally, to Ervin Santana.

I’ll cut to the chase and get right into the numbers. Here’s what Santana did in 2013 and what Steamer projects him to do in 2014:

In short: Santana was pretty good in 2013 and should be pretty good once again in 2014. 

And that’s believable. Since he’ll be going into his age-31 season, Santana obviously isn’t on the verge of a decline phase just yet. It also looks good that, rather than decline in 2013, Santana’s velocity actually experienced a slight uptick. You can get a glimpse of that over at Brooks Baseball.

Now, sure, living with Santana does mean living with home runs. He had a 12.4 HR/FB rate in 2013, the fourth year out of five in which his HR/FB rate finished over 10.0. 

You’re also right to wonder if the move from Kauffman Stadium to Globe Life Park in Arlington would be a tough transition for Santana, as it would basically be a total 180 of run-scoring environments. In particular, it’s possible that Santana’s home run problem would become even worse.

Or maybe not.

There’s something to be noted about the 46.2 GB% Santana posted in 2013: That was a career high, and it was no accident. It coincided with his sinker becoming a bigger part of his arsenal, as Brooks Baseball can vouch:

Santana’s sinker boasted a 60.13 GB/BIP rate, the highest of any of his pitches. He couldn’t have kept the ball on the ground a career-high amount without it.

Given the success he had with his sinker in 2013, here’s thinking Santana won’t be shy about going to it more often in 2014. Especially if he finds himself in a hitting environment as harsh as Arlington. And if that were the case, well, the move from Kansas City to Texas wouldn’t be so bad after all.

If we accept that Santana could help the Rangers withstand the injury blows to Holland and Harrison, the next question is whether the Rangers signing Santana is even practical. With their payroll, per Cot’s Baseball Contracts, already expected to be higher than ever in 2014, can the Rangers afford him?

Well, we can put it this way: Santana is probably more affordable right now than he’s been all winter.

Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports reported in November that Santana was seeking a $100 million contract. That was never going to happen, and now he might be lucky if he gets half that.

This is what Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports tweeted in late January:

This was well after Ricky Nolasco signed for four years and $49 million. Then Matt Garza signed for four years and $52 million. More recently, Ubaldo Jimenez signed for four years and $50 million. Since these were Santana’s three most relevant comps, it’s likely that he’s also in line for something similar.

It doesn’t help that Santana’s market doesn’t appear crowded with suitors. There was talk of the Baltimore Orioles being in on him even after signing Jimenez, but MLB.com’s Brittany Ghiroli says not to count on it.

And one thing the Rangers wouldn’t have to worry about in the short term is forfeiting their first-round draft pick to sign Santana. That pick was lost when they signed Shin-Soo Choo.

And while signing Santana to that sort of contract would mean bumping their 2014 payroll up even higher, the Rangers will be able to clear some space after the season by declining Alex Rios’ $13.5 million club option. His job could go to Michael Choice, and the club’s payroll would level out nicely.

That there’s been zero buzz about the Rangers making a move on Santana could suggest that general manager Jon Daniels is determined to move forward with what he has. In fact, Daniels did tell Kevin Sherrington of the Morning News that outside rotation help is not on the way; “at least right now,” anyway.

Or maybe Daniels just hasn’t yet realized how badly his club could be screwed by Holland’s and Harrison’s health woes. If that’s the case, maybe it won’t be long before he realizes that signing Santana is a move he can and should make.


Note: Stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted/linked.


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Predicting 4 Pre-Opening Day Moves That Will Shake Up the League

In most years, the free-agent market would be barren in early February. Roster upgrades would be difficult to find, leaving general managers scouring for low-risk, high-reward options to augment their respective rosters.

This year is different.

With pitchers and catchers reporting over the next week, an abundance of talent is still available on the free-agent market. Sure, the Masahiro Tanakas and Robinson Canos of the world are long gone. That doesn’t mean difference-making players aren’t available.

Between now and March 31—or March 22 and 23 in the case of the Dodgers and Diamondbacks—moves will be made before the season begins. 

The following five teams will all fill holes, add impact players and change their respective outlooks for the 2014 season.


Statistics courtesy of Baseball-Reference and FanGraphs, unless otherwise noted. All contract figures courtesy of Cot’s Baseball Contracts.

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What an MLB Team Is Getting in Ervin Santana, by the Numbers

One of the great dangers Major League Baseball teams face when bidding on a player in free agency is what I like to call “The Contract-Year Star.”

It takes talent to succeed at the highest level of baseball, sure, but sometimes a player will put in more focus and attention when he knows that a big contract is waiting on the open market. Teams are then forced to decide how much of this increased production is going to stick. 

There is no greater test case for this theory than right-handed pitcher Ervin Santana. The 31-year-old reignited his career with the Kansas City Royals in 2013.

Take a look at the numbers he put up last season and how they compare to the rest of his career. 

The fact that we can even talk about Santana getting a multi-year deal is a small miracle. He was cast off by the Los Angeles Angels—who desperately needed starting pitching in 2013last winter and traded to the Royals for minor league reliever Brandon Sisk

Santana has evolved as a pitcher, especially last year, which would seem to help increase his value on the open market. Take a look at the way he used his sinker in 2013, compared to how it was used in the past. 

It comes as no surprise that Santana’s increased use of the sinker led to a steep drop in his home run rate from 2012 (2.0 to 1.1). He was also the beneficiary of luck in 2013, setting a career high with a 76.9 percent strand rate that was 4.3 percent better than his career average. 

Santana went from playing primarily in Los Angeles’ pitcher-friendly environment—which made the 39 homers he gave up in 2012 all the more alarmingto a better hitting park in Kansas City. He’s always given up a lot of home runs (at least 26 every season since 2010) but his 2013 total (26) is something to be happy about given the change in parks. 

These numbers paint a good story, but since we want to look at what teams will and should pay for, it is also important to compare Santana’s long- and short-term performances to that of other pitchers. 

As luck would have it, Santana compares favorably to two pitchers who also hit free agency after the 2013 season: Ricky Nolasco and Ubaldo Jimenez.

Nolasco has already found a home, signing a four-year, $48 million deal with Minnesota. 

If you like to use WAR, as I do, it should also be noted that Santana (19.6) and Nolasco (20.0) have basically provided the same WAR totals in their careers, even though Santana debuted in Los Angeles one year before Nolasco debuted in Florida. They were born one day apart in 1982. 

By these standards, Santana should be looking at a deal close to what Nolasco got from the Twins. That’s a far cry from the $100 million he was reportedly looking to get when free agency started. 

Going back a little further, since one-year sample sizes tend to be problematic when evaluating a free agent, Santana fares much worse. Take a look at this blind resume of two pitchers from 2010-13. 

Player B is Santana. His numbers took a beating in 2012, posting a negative Fangraphs‘ WAR total, 5.16 ERA and 1.97 homers per nine innings. Even working around that season, however, it hasn’t been lights out for the right-hander. 

Player A was Santana’s teammate, Jeremy Guthrie, last season. The 34-year-old also pitched more than 200 innings with a respectable 4.04 ERA in 2013, despite giving up a league-leading 236 hits and pedestrian 111-59 strikeout-to-walk ratio. 

Over the last four years, Santana and Guthrie have been worth roughly the same amount of value. Even though Santana will be superior to Guthrie moving forward, it is alarming how close the two have been recently. 

As Steve Adams of MLB Trade Rumors noted in his free-agent profile on Santana, another problem that limits his upside is lack of strikeouts. 

For a player who is positioned as one of the top pitchers on the free agent market, Santana doesn’t strike hitters out at an elite rate. His 6.9 K/9 in 2013 was below the league average of 7.2 for starting pitchers, and he hasn’t averaged more than 7.0 punchouts per nine innings since 2008. 

There are three things a pitcher has direct control over: home runs, strikeouts and walks.

Santana has always been an excellent strike thrower, averaging 2.8 walks per nine innings throughout his career. 

It’s the other two areas where Santana is lacking. He hasn’t averaged more than seven strikeouts per nine innings since 2008, meaning any team that signs him will need to have a great defense behind Santana to get the most bang for their buck. 

At his best, Santana is a very good mid-rotation starter who will eat a lot of innings and, occasionally, provide league-average or better ERA totals. When you factor in the draft compensation attached, it’s no wonder why his market has been slow to develop. 


Note: All stats courtesy of Fangraphs and Baseball Reference unless otherwise noted. Video via MLB Advanced Media.

If you want to talk baseball, hit me up on Twitter. 

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Why Alex Rodriguez’s Appeal Is Slowing Down the 2014 Free-Agent Market

A few weeks into the offseason, the open market isn’t quite yet, well, open for business.

The biggest name to sign a deal with a new team is…Tim Hudson? The former Atlanta Braves pitcher, who agreed to a two-year, $23 million deal with the San Francisco Giants on Monday, is a perfectly fine get for a team that’s been on the lookout for pitching.

But with all apologies to Hudson, who has had himself a great career to this point, he’s also a 38-year-old coming off a broken ankle that cost him the second half of 2013.

That profile doesn’t exactly scream “big-name signing.”

It’s not uncommon for it to take time before the hot stove starts cooking. The moving and shaking and wheeling and dealing usually gets going around the time of the winter meetings, which are coming up in early December, a little less than three weeks from now.

But aside from the timing and what seems to be a consensus opinion that this free-agent class is lacking, it’s also possible that there’s another dynamic to blame for this offseason’s slow start.

Here’s a hint: His initials are Alex Rodriguez.

It may seem a tad trite to bang the A-Rod drum as reason behind why more of the top-tier names, like Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury, Shin-Soo Choo and Ervin Santana haven’t signed, but there just may be something to that stance.

You’re well aware by now that Rodriguez, who played last season even after being suspended by Major League Baseball for 211 games last August for his alleged involvement in the Biogenesis scandal, is appealing the ban.

The arbitration process, though, which didn’t begin until after the playoffs, remains in a holding pattern, as the two sides are continuing with their no-love-lost “courtship,” which was yet again delayed last week when Rodriguez fell ill.

At least the hearings have advanced to the stage where witnesses are being called, with the latest expected to be Yankees president Randy Levine, according to the New York Daily News.

When might all this actually come to an end with a ruling? For an update, here’s Andrew Marchand of ESPN New York:

The 211-game suspension should be upheld, reduced or eliminated by Christmas, probably a bit sooner. After the appeal hearing’s conclusion, arbitrator Fredric Horowitz will have 25 days to decide. He can come to a decision at any point.

So what does this have to do with the free-agent market exactly? As is always the case this time of year, it comes down to money, cash, dough, the green stuff.

Whatever you want to call it, the Yankees may or may not have a lot more lying around, depending on the outcome of Rodriguez’s appeal. That’s because next year, the Yankees third baseman is due at least $25 million—and in all likelihood upward of $31 mill, if he hits merely six more home runs to tie Willie Mays for fourth all-time.

That’s quite a chunk of change that the Yankees could be throwing at another prime free agent or three this winter.

Part of the reason this is so important is that the club is attempting to stay under the $189 million payroll for 2014 to avoid once again having to pay the ever-increasing luxury-tax penalty.

One imagines that, in such a scenario, not knowing whether a potential $31 million will fall on the debit or credit side of the ledger could be the sort of thing that pushes pause on a potential spending spree.

And not just for the Yankees. So much of free agency is about agents and reps determining and defining the market for their players, which becomes especially challenging when one of the deepest-pocketed teams in the sport can’t say for sure whether they can even open up their wallet, let alone flash the cash.

Cano, in particular, is in a tricky spot. As the Yankees’ longtime star second baseman and top name on the market, he’s looking to land a massive contract. Because his maybe-former teammate is holding things up, though, Cano already has indicated that he’s willing to wait until the new year—if it takes that long—according to John Harper of the Daily News.

To be sure, Rodriguez’s appeal process is far from the only obstacle that’s standing in the way of the inevitable domino effect that comes when a big name or two finally does sign.

As mentioned above, getting the general managers together in one place—that would be the winter meetings in Orlando, Fla., from Dec. 9-12—often proves to be baseball’s version of an aphrodisiac for trading.

Plus, there’s that whole hold-up surrounding the as-yet unresolved agreement between Major League Baseball and Nippon Professional Baseball with regards to the posting process for Japanese players. Caught in the middle of that is star pitcher Masahiro Tanaka, who arguably would be the top available arm on the market—if made available.

But in the end, it’s hard to ignore or argue that Rodriguez’s ongoing (never-ending?) appeal isn’t hijacking, or at least stalling, this year’s free agency.

Plus, it’s fun to pull a page out of the league’s book and blame A-Rod.

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