The saga of free agent pitcher Ervin Santana reached a fever pitch Saturday with multiple reports indicating the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays are the frontrunners to land his services.
With Santana’s free agency lingering well into the start of Spring Training, reports began swirling late in the week that the pitcher had fired his agent (Bean Stringfellow) and would be willing to take a one year deal for 2014 instead of the lengthier deals he had been hoping for. It was believed Santana was waiting for an offer similar to the four year, $52 million deal free agent P Matt Garza received from the Milwaukee Brewers or the four year, $50 million deal Ubaldo Jimenez signed in recent weeks with the Birds. (ESPN.com even reported that Santana was originally looking for a $100 million deal.)
ESPN Deportes reported Saturday Santana had agreed to a one year, $14 million deal with the Toronto Blue Jays but that report was later refuted. Reports surfaced that Santana set a 5pm deadline Saturday to wait for the Orioles to make a better offer, but FOX Sports later reported Santana was prepared to wait “days” to make a decision.
The Baltimore Sun reported Saturday the O’s and Jays made similar offers for Santana’s services, ESPN Deportes had reported the Orioles’ bid to be $13 million plus incentives.
Santana is coming off a 2013 campaign where he went 9-10 with a spectacular 3.24 ERA and 1.142 WHIP for the Kansas City Royals. His career ERA is 4.19 in nine MLB seasons and he carries a 1.281 career WHIP. Santana has had issues with the longball at times in his career-he allowed 26 last season and surrendered a league high 39 home runs in 2012 with the Los Angeles Angels.
Part of the issue for Santana this offseason has been that a team wishing to sign him would have to give up draft pick compensation because he turned down a one year, $14 million qualifying offer from KC. The price would not be quite as high for the O’s, who already gave up their first round pick in the MLB Entry Draft when they signed Jimenez and sacrificed their second round pick when they acquired free agent OF/DH Nelson Cruz shortly thereafter. The cost for the Orioles to acquire Santana would now be just a third round pick. (The Blue Jays’ first round pick in this year’s Draft is protected, meaning it would instead cost them a second round pick to add Santana.)
ESPN also reported Saturday there are concerns surrounding Santana’s elbow among potential suitors.
Should the Dominican born righty ultimately choose to come to Charm City he would join a suddenly very deep staff. Jimenez and Chris Tillman are considered the frontrunners to be the team’s Opening Day starter. Wei-Yin Chen, Miguel Gonzalez and Bud Norris have been expected to round out the rotation after that-but one could lose their spot should the Birds add Santana. Additionally, the Orioles recently acquired two-time former Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana who could be available closer to the All-Star break should he progress in his recovery from a second shoulder surgery.
Beyond that group, the O’s have recently acquired Korean P Suk-Min Yoon-who is expected to start the season in the bullpen. Lefty Zach Britton is out of options and expected to leave Sarasota with the major league club. Former first round pick Kevin Gausman pitched three scoreless innings Saturday night against the Boston Red Sox and remains in the mix to be part of the staff in 2014.
No exact timetable is known for Santana’s decision.