Published on December 11th, 2014 | by Thompson0
Ervin Santana Newest Member of Twins’ Crowded, Mediocre Rotation
Terry Ryan and the Minnesota Twins made their one move of the Winter Meetings, reaching an agreement with Ervin Santana on a four-year, $55 million deal that features a vesting option that goes into effect if Santana tosses 200 innings in 2018, which would make the deal worth $68 million. It’s the biggest free agent deal in Twins’ history, which says a lot. It’s a smidge bigger than what Ryan gave Ricky Nolasco this time last year, which says even more. Terry Ryan doesn’t dip his toe into the free agent market very often, and when he does, it’s just a toe. No splashes will be made in Minnesota, because all the water’s ice most of the year, but according to Mike Berardino’s source, Santana really likes pitching in the cold, which he’ll be doing a lot in April, and hopefully October, at Target Field.
I called this one way back in September. Ryan offered Santana a three-year, $33 million deal before last season only to be turned down for a make-good, one-year deal with Atlanta worth $14.1 million. He did make good, although he was inconsistent, and will now have job security through 2018 at least.
Santana’s inconsistency last year isn’t a concern, especially if he follows in Phil Hughes’ footsteps and just stops walking folks. He also had terrible run support in Atlanta, and that won’t be the case with the Twins the next four years. They were seventh in runs scored, averaging 4.4 per game, and the lineup has only gotten better. The defense, however, has gotten worse with the arrival of Torii Hunter, but Byron Buxton should be covering a lot of ground at Target Field before this contract ends.
Santana is a nice addition to Minnesota’s crowded, mediocre rotation. He’s shown flashes of having ace-like stuff, especially his slider, per Parker Hageman of Twins Daily.
Ervin Santana has an effective slider: 46% miss%, highest among RHP. 120 of his 179 strikeouts on slider last year. pic.twitter.com/2I1kqXwH2q
— Parker Hageman (@ParkerHageman) December 11, 2014
Santana has provided around 3 wins above replacement or better five times in his career, including a season in the American League Central with the Kansas City Royals just two years ago. His strikeout numbers were a bit inflated in his first National League season, but you can expect him to strike out seven batters per nine innings, something the Twins have sorely missed since another Santana was traded to New York, and it’s something they’ll sorely need given their below-average defense everywhere except the left side of the infield.
What this signing does tell us is Terry Ryan isn’t afraid to create competition for his up-and-coming starting pitchers, and he’s not likely to sign many bullpen arms this offseason. Tommy Milone, Mike Pelfrey, Alex Meyer, and Trevor May will likely fight for the fifth spot in the rotation, and losers of that fight will likely pitch in the bullpen, be released, or optioned to Rochester. Money isn’t really an issue for the Pohlads, and paying someone not to play or even play for someone else does have value considering the young players the Twins have coming up. It is telling that Ryan would sign three starters to three-year deals or better in consecutive years. Perhaps he doesn’t see Meyer or May as top-of-the-rotation starters anymore. Take from it what you will, but there’s a method to his madness.
The Twins will also have to take someone off their 40-man roster to make room for Santana, and my money’s on recent Rule 5 pick JR Graham being sent back to Atlanta. Why not? We’re already giving them a second round pick for signing Santana. Might as well give up the bullpen arm that throws 100 mph. I like Graham, and wouldn’t be against releasing Milone. Billy Beane knew something Terry Ryan didn’t. He sure looked like damaged goods at the end of last year, and his stuff wasn’t great before that.
So Terry Ryan made good on his promise to improve the pitching staff, but until Meyer or May or Berrios turns into an ace, the Twins will continue to be irrelevant. If they can stay in the race until after the All-Star break, it’ll be a successful year for rookie manager Paul Molitor. Judging by the moves of the rest of the AL Central, though, it’s highly unlikely the Twins stick with Detroit, Kansas City, Cleveland, or Chicago. It’ll be another season in last place for the Twins, but it might be their last, and they may not lose 90 games.