MLB Rumors: Minnesota Twins Free Agent Target-Ervin Santana

By Brad Berreman

The Los Angeles Angels made a bit of news on Tuesday when a report surfaced that may decline the player options on starting pitchers Dan Haren and Ervin Santana in an effort to bolster their efforts to sign Zack Greinke to a multi-year contract extension this offseason.

If that comes to fruition, Haren and Santana immediately go toward the top of the list of available free agent starting pitchers this winter. Both guys should get plenty of interest from any teams that need starting pitching, with cost perhaps being the deciding factor in what teams are interested.

The Minnesota Twins are certain to be among the teams looking to add a proven starting pitcher or two this winter, but if history is any indicator they will not break the bank to do so. That would seem to leave Haren out of the mix for them, as his 2013 option is slated to be worth $15.5 million and it can be assumed he would want to make somewhere in that range in a new deal with a new team. Santana’s option for next season is not cheap either, at $13 million, but since he is less accomplished than Haren he can likely be signed for less money.

That lower cost would seem to put Santana right in the Twins’ cross hairs as a free agent target, and he certainly has more of a major league track record than anyone currently in their starting rotation. Heading into his next scheduled start on Saturday against the Texas Rangers, Santana is 9-12 with a 4.93 ERA in 29 starts (175.1 innings) this season along with allowing a league-high 36 home runs. His overall numbers this season are clearly mediocre, including a K/9 rate of 6.8 and a BB/9 rate of 3.1, but Santana has gone at least six innings in each of his last nine starts with a 2.88 ERA over that span.

For his career, over eight big league seasons, Santana is 96-79 with a 4.30 ERA in 235 appearances (232 starts) with 14 career complete games and seven shutouts. He has been a perpetual underachiever, but Saturday’s outing against the Rangers will be his 30th start of the season and give him five seasons with at least 30 starts made during his career. He also has four seasons where he has pitched at least 200 innings, though he will not reach that milestone this season, which has been a elusive plateau for Twins’ pitchers over the last couple years to say the least.

Santana is not a cure-all for what has ailed Minnesota’s starting rotation, but he will turn 30 in December and should still have some good years left. His velocity has dropped from where it was when he was younger, but his overall durability and ability to log innings should be noted. Those two things should be something Twins’ general manager Terry Ryan covets in general this offseason, even if Santana is not deemed to be a good fit due to his salary demands or any other factors.

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