A report surfaced Monday evening from CBSSports.com’s Jon Heyman about the Orioles being one of the players on the sweepstakes for LHP Johan Santana.
Baltimore is one of three teams reportedly interested on the 34-year-old left-hander as NJ.com and the Star-Ledger’s Andy McCullogh reported Tuesday that the New York Yankees have joined the Orioles and New York Mets in the race. The two-time Cy Young award-winner, who didn’t throw a single pitch in 2013 as he continued to rehab a torn shoulder capsule, is looking to make a comeback from an injury that normally washes away big league careers with regularity.
Heyman’s column mentioned guys like RHPs Chien-Ming Wang, Mark Prior and Rich Harden as ones who suffered the injury and never returned to the dominant form they were accustomed to before it. However, what Santana is going through is different from those aforementioned victims of the career-threatening injury as he has suffered the same fate twice.
When Santana last pitched in 2012, observers around the game remember seeing the dominating repertoire he put on display as a member of the Minnesota Twins during the early part of the summer. Then, he threw the Mets’ first no-hitter June 1 and never returned to form. Many around the game affirmatively believe that Santana’s 134-pitch outing that early summer night caused the demise of what was poised to be a solid season. Instead, the Venezuelan went 6-9 with a 4.85 ERA and had just 111 strikeouts in 21 appearances. In those games, Santana also walked 39 hitters in just 117.0 innings of work.
Santana clearly isn’t the player he used to be and hasn’t totaled either 200 innings or 200 strikeouts since he finished third in the National League’s Cy Young race in 2008. Even though his changeup still remains as one of the more deceptive pitches hitters face across the MLB, the fastball doesn’t blow by hitters like it used to. More high-80s, low-90s fastballs has made Santana become more pedestrian and less like the superstar he once was. The Orioles wouldn’t mind having a veteran presence in their starting rotation that is full of youth and inexperience — they lost in the sweepstakes for veteran 40-year-old RHP Bartolo Colon to the New York Mets as he received a 2-year, $20 million deal, pending a physical — but Santana isn’t what that rotation needs.
Baltimore needs a guy who can go out and deliver 200-plus innings to the tune of 16 or 17 games won as a true ace or No. 2 of this staff. Banking on RHP Chris Tillman to be what he was in 2013 may be a stretch, but it’s what the Orioles have put on their plate. Santana could possibly be a guy the Orioles sign, if they so choose, to a minor-league contract and hope he rehabs and retools his game into the pitcher that he once was.
If a team decides to bring in the aging southpaw, it could end one of three ways:
- He could be RHP Freddy Garcia and be a spot starter, who becomes a long-relief pitcher, who becomes a middle reliever and is seemingly trapped in a revolving door between the majors and minors.
- He could turn out to be LHP Francisco Liriano and turn into one of the best comeback stories in MLB history.
- He could become LHP Dontrelle Willis and fade to black into the abyss known as “out of baseball”.
Dan Duquette has sat on his hands for most of the winter meetings and observed as most of his “targets” have been signing elsewhere. If he wants to take a chance on Santana, he must do it at the right price. The market value for him will not be high, but with both New York clubs involved, the money potentially thrown at him won’t be anything the Orioles can compete with.