Now that Felix Hernandez is officially in the bullpen, the Mariners should be ramping up their search for a mid-rotation arm. Today, we look at Minnesota Twins righty Ervin Santana.
Ervin Santana has been on the radar of a lot of Mariners fans for a while. I waited, like many fans, for the Twins to fade so the Mariners could claim Santana last August. It didn’t happen, but my interest in Ervin Santana did not wain.
Now that the Twins have waived the white flag on 2018, it may be time for the Mariners to start looking at acquiring Ervin Santana again. The team is in a unique position to claim Santana and could be a huge lift to the current rotation (if you need a refresher on how August trades work, click here).
The Mariners have the financial resources to absorb the contract and will get the first crack of every single playoff contender. We don’t know if Santana has been placed on waivers, and are unlikely to know until he is either traded or claimed. But more importantly, can Santana actually make the Mariners better? Let’s dive in.
Ervin Santana is a 35-year-old right-handed pitcher for the Minnesota Twins. The 14-year veteran is the owner of a career 4.04 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP, a 4.26 FIP in 2,404 innings pitched. Pretty solid-average numbers. However, he has missed most of the 2018 season and has made just 4 starts so far.
As he works his way back, trying to digest his 2018 numbers is pretty pointless. Yet if you look at his last 3 full seasons (2015-207), Santana has thrown 500 innings of 3.47 ERA ball. His 4.16 FIP shows some luck, but overall solid production, as does his 116 ERA+ (100 is average). In addition, Santana is averaging 7.2 K/9 and 2.7 BB/9. Not great, but not terrible either.
All of this production accounts for a total of 10 WAR in his last 3 seasons. Stuff-wise Santana has been relatively consistent in that time period. A low 90’s fastball, a sharp slider and dominate slider, and a decent changeup.
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However, coming off the injury, Santana has seen his velo drop by 3 MPH and has yet to find the break on his slider. This is where the Mariners scouting department must play a major role in determining whether this is a blip in the radar or an actual long-term concern.
If they sign off, the question of compensation is an interesting one. If the team so chooses, they can have Santana for a month or all of 2019. The team option for 2019 is a reasonable $14 million, and it is highly unlikely the team would make a trade without intending to activate that option.
In addition to the team option, Santana has a vesting option for 2020 but will not reach the activation level, so he will be a free agent after 2019.
As a guide, we can use Mike Leake who, like Santana, is a solid but not top of the rotation arm who is making some money. Unlike Leake, Santana will only need to be paid for another year and 2 months, which in the case of absorbing salary, makes him more expensive than Leake.
Remember, Leake was traded to the Mariners, along with $1 million of international slot money, and $18 million from the Cardinals, in exchange for… nobody remembers. In truth, the player Dipoto gave up, Rayder Ascanio is an inconsequential piece. It was basically just a salary dump.
The Twins will need more than Ascanio to move Santana, but probably not much more that. In addition, Santana recently voiced his displeasure about the direction the Twins took at the trade deadline. So to say there is some bad blood there, might be an understatement.
The Twins don’t appear to be interested in a fire sale and have a load of young talent in the pipeline. However, getting something potentially useful for an expensive, aging, and upset arm might have appeal to the Twins.
Any player on the Mariners 40 man roster would need to be put on waivers first, but the Twins have a high enough waiver claim that a deal could actually be easy to reach. A player like Nick Rumbelow may be interesting to the Twins. So to might lottery tickets like Cesar Izturis Jr., Chuck Taylor, and Donnie Walton.
At the end of the day, Santana is likely the only chance the Mariners will have to grab a potential middle-of-the-rotation-arm, and it’s a risk the team should absolutely take. Santana has a year of club control left, a reasonable contract, and a nice floor of a #4 type of starter. These types of arms aren’t widely available in August, and the Mariners should jump over the opportunity to add Santana for the rest of 2018 and 2019.