Ervin Santana has been one of the more highly-coveted free agent right-handed pitchers on the market, but he still has yet to find a destination among 30 potential suitors even with Major League Baseball set to begin their season at the end of the month.
Maybe the 31-year-old is asking a bit much for his services — ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reported Santana asked for a long-term deal over $100 million — or maybe there are just some concerns about where his game would be a fit. Earlier Friday afternoon, FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal reported that Santana intends to join an offensive-laden club and the Orioles and the Blue Jays have shown interest and fit that mold.
But the Blue Jays were eliminated from contention from an earlier report from Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com and he suggested that the Orioles may be at the forefront of discussions now. There have been contract numbers thrown out similar to what Ubaldo Jimenez received from the Birds — four years, $50 million — but Santana has done a complete 180 and shifted his mindset to a one-year deal.
He wants to be in camp… now, but finding the right landing spot has been a lot more complicated than even he anticipated.
There have been mixed reports stating that Santana is either representing himself or if Jay Alou of Proformance is leading the contract negotiations with franchises. Either way, the Dominican native wants to be on a squad preferably before Opening Day and the Orioles might make the most sense.
And with a one-year deal being the likely situation at this stage of Spring Training, the reward would outweigh the risk.
The Orioles would have to spend a little dough. His former club, the Kansas City Royals, made a qualifying offer to Santana at season’s end in 2013 of $14.1 million. He is due those type of figures and while pricey, it’s something the Orioles and Dan Duquette have shown they are willing to do at the late stages of baseball’s off-season.
Baltimore would have to forfeit a draft pick in order to sign Santana, but given that the club has already done so in bringing Jimenez and outfielder Nelson Cruz to town via free agency, that doesn’t appear to be an issue either.
If this move comes to fruition, the Orioles would be acquiring a pitcher with strikeout potential, who shows up to work healthy and has pitched over 200 innings five times in his career, including last season where he threw 211 innings in Kansas City. While the numbers have dipped off — Santana hasn’t pitched to an above .500 overall record since 2010, when he won a career-high 17 games with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim — he still possess top-to-middle-of-the-rotation kind of talent which the Orioles seriously lack.
There’s a lot of uncertainties surrounding this team’s pitching staff from top to bottom as there’s a lot of faith being entrusted in guys like Chris Tillman and Darren O’Day, to name a few, to be as good as they were last season. And with questions at the back end of the bullpen, an addition of Ervin Santana can only change things for the better.
When the Orioles-Nation staff projected the 25-man roster for the Birds — visit the link HERE for the predictions — Tucker, Alex and I provided our projected starting rotations and bullpen arms. An addition of Santana would likely mean the rotation would shape up to something like this:
1. RHP Chris Tillman
2. RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
3. RHP Ervin Santana
4. LHP Wei-Yin Chen
5. RHP Miguel Gonzalez
RHP Bud Norris would get bumped to the bullpen and according to my projections, that would make RHP Edgmer Escalona the odd man out. This Orioles rotation will likely feature four right-handed pitchers regardless, so the potential to add Santana wouldn’t alter manager Buck Showalter‘s thought process of what his rotation will be set up like.
There’s a lot of hearsay and there’s a lot of uncertainty encompassing Ervin Santana, but his desire to play immediately may mean this ship is finally ready to dock at a camp in Florida. For the Orioles’ sake, they hope it’s Sarasota.