The Ervin Santana Conundrum

On December 6th, 2013 the Mariners gave the 4th largest contract in MLB history to 31-year-old slugging 2B, Robinson Cano. The deal came as a shock to everybody and the reported contract of 10 years at $240 million was met with more hostility than praise. If nothing else, the deal seemed to symbolize to a desperate Seattle fan base that the Mariners were going to be big players this offseason.

Fast forward 50 +days later, and the Mariners biggest addition was the signing of former Brewers 1B Corey Hart. GM Jack Zduriencik indicated to Seattle media that the team wasn't expecting any more major signings but would continue to "tweak" with the roster and complete several smaller deals. It was a very concerning statement to fans who expected much more after the flashy signing of one of the games elite players.

He later added:

"We’re reaching out and are going to bring some players to Spring Training that aren’t big investments, but are veteran players that might have a chance to fill a role and take some pressure off these younger kids," Zduriencik said. "I don’t think we’re going to jump in and invest where some of these dollars are going. It just doesn’t make sense when you take a 30-, 31-, 32-year old pitcher that wants five or six years and there is some history there of injury or inconsistencies. That’s a pretty big risk, and I think we have to look at this in the big picture."

Sounds very clear that the Mariners aren’t interested in either Ubaldo Jiminez or Ervin Santana. However; MLB insider Chris Cotillo (@ChrisCotillo) tweeted that the Mariners have indeed been in contact with Santana. Santana is expected to command more money than fellow FA pitcher Matt Garza just received (4/50) and has been rumored to be looking for 7/100. That isn’t gonna happen, but would it be wise for the Mariners to invest in him? Lets dive a little deeper and find out.

Ervin Santana is a RHP entering his age 31 season. Last season Santana posted the second best season of his career for the Kansas City Royals. Santana finished the year with a 3.24 ERA, a 1.14 WHIP and a bWAR of 2.9, all very respectable numbers.

However; a closer look at his numbers reveal that Santana might have been a little bit lucky. His Xfip, a stat used to project a pitchers actual ERA by adjusting to neutral ballparks and team defense, was slightly higher than his actual ERA at 3.69. His strand rate was the second lowest of his career, and lowest since 2009. His BABIP, or Batting Average of Balls In Play, was .267 which is also the second lowest in his career. Santana also led the AL in a rather dubious category: HR allowed.

But what do these numbers tell us? It tells us that Santana is very reliant on his defense, and his mediocre 6.9 K/9 rate certainly supports that statement. Seattle’s defense ranked in the bottom third of the league in 2013 and while Cano certainly helps, it doesn’t look as though Seattle’s D will drastically improve, especially in the OF . If Santana is in a jam, it doesn’t appear likely that he’ll be able to get guys out on his own, which is a mark against him.

Overall; Santana is not a great pitcher, but a good one. Santana will also cost the Mariners its 2nd or 3rd round pick, (depending on when Morales signs) which must be considered. On the right deal, all players look great. But I’m not giving up a draft pick for a guy who has never been, and likely never will be, elite. If Santana is willing to look at a deal similar to Garza’s, its worth having the conversation. If not, than Jack Z must walk away

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