It was announced today that the Kansas City Royals had taken another step in their attempt to build a solid rotation for next year by acquiring Ervin Santana and cash from the Los Angeles Angels in exchange for Minor League reliever Brandon Sisk. Santana did not have a good season last year and has been a bit hit or miss throughout his career, but nonetheless this is a positive move by the Royals.
Despite having an ERA above five last year (and in 2009), he had an ERA of 3.38 and a no-hitter in 2011 his career record is above .500. Santana can also work deep into games, something with which Royals pitchers had a major problem last year. He averages over 200 innings per season and in 2011 he averaged almost seven innings per start. The Royals will be hoping that last year was a fluke and that he can return to something closer to his 2011 figures in 2013. If he can do so it would make him a major addition to the rotation next year and there is actually good reason to believe that he will rebound.
Santana’s major problem last year was home runs; he led the league by conceding 39 of them over the course of his thirty starts. It worked out to an average of 2.0 home runs per nine innings, exactly twice as high as it had been in 2011. But his other stats (except ERA, obviously) were mostly unchanged. His WHIP in 2012 was only slightly higher than it was in 2011 and actually lower than it was in 2010 when he went 17-10 with a 3.92 ERA. It stands to reason then that if can cut down on the number of home runs he concedes next year he will be much improved, if not necessarily back to his best.
And I think he will concede fewer home runs next year. For one thing, he will be playing in the spacious dimensions of Kauffman Stadium for half his games and that is no bad thing for a pitcher struggling to keep the ball in the yard. But looking at his previous home run totals, the next highest after last year is only 27. The 39 last year thus smacks of a fluke season and his numbers would probably have been better next year anyway. But in Kauffman Stadium they should definitely be better.
Santana was probably not one of the Royals first choices for a new starter given his mercurial history. But he is a decent addition and especially for only the cost of a single Minor League reliever he came at a very good price. More than anything, however, this is an excellent attitude shift by the Royals. Dayton Moore has spent years trading away Major League talent to bolster the Royals farm system. That he has been successful is inarguable, but it always the tactic of a team in the bottom half of the table. Now that most of that farm system has come to the Major League level it is very refreshing to see the change in attitude toward giving away farmhands in an attempt to put the finishing touches on a roster to compete in the top half of the table. It may not come off next year, but Moore is going for it and it is great to see.