The last of this offseason’s top free agents, Ervin Santana, still does not have a home for the 2014 season. Santana is reportedly weighing favored one-year deals from the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays worth roughly $13-14 million, but has other offers on his table as well. Sunday afternoon, the Minnesota Twins identified themselves as one of those potential suitors, offering the 31-year-old righty a three-year deal estimated between $30-36 million. Santana’s main interest still lies in a four-year deal worth $50 million, but he has since turned his focus toward a one-year deal, followed by a lucrative deal next offseason. This route comes with high risk, however, as it’s completely reliant on a continued high-level performance in 2014.
Minnesota’s offer to Santana shows they aren’t necessarily finished improving their starting rotation for the upcoming season, but also comes off as both puzzling and frustrating to Twins fans.
Santana has been solid over the course of his nine-year MLB career, but he has really increased his value significantly over the last handful of seasons. He started more than 30 games in each of the last four seasons and carried a sub-4 ERA over more than 210 innings in three of those four. Last season, Santana produced his best numbers since a 2008 run at the AL Cy Young. Through 32 starts and 211 innings, he sported a 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 6.9 K/9 and 2.2 BB/9.
Santana’s first season in the AL Central was arguably his most efficient campaign, and his success pitching within the division further makes him a desired option for Minnesota. In 10 starts against AL Central opponents in 2013, Santana produced a 1.98 ERA, 0.87 WHIP and 8.2 K/9.
Santana is dominating at times and would be an absolute perfect fit in Minnesota. Their offer, however, frustrates fans due to poor timing and adds further confusion to the Twins’ quick re-signing of Mike Pelfrey.
Signing Santana now would create a jumbled mess in the rotation and could potentially damage the team’s future. His addition would secure the final starting spot in the Twins’ staff and would eliminate any chance of rotation hopefuls Scott Diamond, Samuel Deduno or Vance Worley earning their place on the roster. Santana would certainly be more valuable than any of these three starters, but Pelfrey likely won’t be, especially when his new contract ends after only two seasons. All out of options, Deduno, Diamond and Worley would need to be either traded or released and would have no place in Minnesota’s near future.
It will be interesting to see where Santana ends up in the coming days. While his addition to the Twins would be exciting, it could create unforeseen problems and shed a frustrating light on a better situation that could have been. With slightly more patience earlier this offseason, Minnesota likely could have improved their starting rotation even further than they eventually did at roughly the same price.