Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Vast Improvement (?): Ervin Santana

Ervin Santana is a Twin.  Four-years, $55MM deal.  For the Twins he presents another foray into the free agent market for second tier starting pitching.  I like it!  I like it when it is compared to Edwin Jackson’s four-year $52 million deal last year.   I have been critical of the Twins for some time but it is nice to see them spending some money on decent players with some upside (even if there were other guys I’d rather see wear a Twins uni).  The good:  he immediately improves one of baseball’s worst starting rotations (sort by any metric you want, they all look bad).  If, and it’s a big if, Nolasco can turn into the pitcher they paid for not the pitcher he was, the rotation looks much more palatable.  A Hughes, Santana, Nolasco, Gibson, Meyer/May/Pelfrey combo looks intriguing.  It looks even better when compared to Hughes, Nolasco, Gibson, Pelfrey, Milone… seriously, wow.  Sadly, this still isn’t a very good rotation and the addition of Santana caused me to mention to Adam how sad it is that the addition of Santana simply made the rotation, not terrible. He is a fly ball(ish) pitcher with strikeout numbers trending in the right direction (thank goodness) and a history of giving up the long ball.  You can hope a move to Target Field will help though the defense behind him will continue to be bad.  I am hopeful he can pitch to his recent track record.  Moving to the AL might hurt but the AL Central is not the toughest of divisions.  

Now, at 32 (tomorrow), durability has to be somewhat of a question.  Fangraphs pointed out back in October that Santana relies more on the slider than any right-handed starting pitcher.  And we all remember a certain lefty with a high reliance upon a slider.  Speaking of Liriano, would you have been upset if the Twins brought back Franky at three years, $39MM?  That seems about right… same age as Santana, similar pitcher, fewer years for less dollars and most importantly, no draft pick.  It is a contract that seems to fit the recent Twins MO.  Admittedly, I do not know the ins and outs of the Liriano deal nor likelihood he would have left the Pirates for a move back to Twins. 

The MLB Trade Rumors breakdown of Santana  is great and they basically pegged the contract.   It is a bit interesting to see the Twins target one of the only pitchers on the market that received a qualifying offer.  With the Twins not likely to compete for a few years it stings a little bit giving up a draft pick to sign Santana.   All-in-all I am a happy Twins fan today.  I don’t believe this makes the Twins a contender nor do I think it hamstrings them from making other, productive signings.  Committing $13.5 million per year to Santana is not onerous.  Hopefully, when the Twins get to the back half of this deal, Santana will be a foundational piece of a team stringing together division titles.

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