MLB Kansas City Royals

Kansas City Royals: 5 Potential Replacements for Ervin Santana

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Kansas City Royals: 5 Potential Replacements for Ervin Santana

Kansas City Royals: 5 Potential Replacements for Ervin Santana
Mike Dinovo - USA TODAY Sports

Veteran pitcher Ervin Santana pitched the best season of his career for the Kansas City Royals this year. Unfortunately for KC, they might not have the cash available to re-sign him through 2014. If the Royals do re-sign Santana, it could be assumed that in-house pitching from Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura could round out the rotation and keep KC competitive in the upcoming season. If they can't re-sign him, the Royals are left with a small amount of money left and a very large hole to fill in the starting five.

It's going to be difficult for KC to find the same value at the same price tag in free agency this year. Not only do starting pitchers go for huge contracts in today's market, they also get long-term deals. The long list of talented pitchers in the Royals' farm system will limit them from making a huge deal with a high-profile pitcher, unless the situation suits them just right.

Royals GM Dayton Moore has publicly stated that team payroll will be roughly the same as it was in 2013, which leaves the Royals with a very small financial window within which to find a pitcher via free agency. This could mean parting ways with a trusted starter or high-ceiling prospect in order to keep the pitching staff from regressing. Moore also spoke up about the Royals upgrading offensively, which will be the team's primary goal this offseason. If Kansas City uses the majority of its remaining payroll to bring in a power bat, trading for pitching could be their only option.

Here are five compelling options for replacing Santana either through trade or via free agency.

Doug LaCerte is a writer for Follow him on Twitter @DLaC67, "Like" him on Facebook and add him to your network on Google.

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5. Shaun Marcum

Shaun Marcum
Mike Dinovo - USA TODAY Sports

Shaun Marcum's name was bouncing around at about the same time last year as the Royals looked for answers with the starting rotation. Marcum played for $4 million with the New York Mets last year and recorded a disappointing 5.29 ERA and a 1-10 record. Those numbers may not be all that encouraging, but they should give a solid starter a cheap price tag in 2014. Marcum, now 31, has never had an ERA that high in his career, and never recorded an ERA higher than 3.7 in the four years prior.

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4. Tommy Hanson

Tommy Hanson
Gary A. Vasquez - USA TODAY Sports

Like Marcum, right-hander Tommy Hanson should come at a low price thanks to some underwhelming performance. He may be an inexpensive, non-tender candidate, but he definitely needs to fix something in his game. Hanson began his career with a 2.89 ERA in 21 starts with the Atlanta Braves, but his ERA has risen every season since. If someone can help him right the ship and get back to using his raw talent to pitch effectively, he could be an intriguing, low-cost option.

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3. Jeremy Hellickson

Jeremy Hellickson
Steve Mitchell - USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Hellickson is another potential trade target that started his career off with great promise. Hellickson won the AL Rookie of the Year award for his 2.95 ERA in 29 starts with the Tampa Bay Rays. His performance the following year was very similar to his 2011 campaign, but Hellickson struggled last year, posting a bloated 5.17 ERA. Losing a high-end prospect for a shot at such a promising pitcher would be worth it for the Royals.

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2. Josh Johnson

Josh Johnson
Tom Szczerbowski - USA TODAY Sports

Whenever he's healthy, Josh Johnson has proven to be a solid starter in MLB. The league knows that Johnson is injury-prone, and that should scare off enough teams to make him a bargain in free agency. This would be a risk, but it's the kind of risk KC should be willing to take. Pitchers with Johnson's raw skills don't come around very often, especially not for a lowered price.

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1. Tim Hudson

Tim Hudson
Daniel Shirey - USA TODAY Sports

Having veteran righty Tim Hudson in Kansas City would be great for the team and the fans alike. Hudson would have a lot to teach the young pitchers on the staff both technically and mentally, and the former All-Star has plenty of gas left in the tank at 38-years old. Hudson recorded a 3.97 ERA in 131.1 innings pitched last year in his 15th major league season. It took Atlanta $9 million a year to re-sign Hudson, so a similar number will need to be reached by KC. Hudson should care more about winning than paychecks at this point in his career, so it could be possible to bring him to Kansas City at a reasonable cost.