Santana could net the Royals a similar return as the Cubs received for Matt Garza
The Royals, after going all out to rebuild their starting rotation in the offseason, have been reluctant to wave the white flag on the 2013 season. I didn't even include Royals right-hander Ervin Santana in yesterday's rankings of the top starting pitchers available on the trade market because the feeling was that he wasn't available and they weren't selling.
At eight games back in both the division and the wild-card race, they're not out of contention. But they haven't played well (47-51 through July 24th), and Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports tweeted yesterday that they're now at least willing to listen to offers for starting pitcher Ervin Santana.
With Santana eligible for free agency at season's end, the return will be limited. But after the Cubs received four very good prospects from Texas for free agent-to-be Matt Garza, the Royals realize they have a guy who has been pitching just as well, if not better, and could net a similar trade package.
An exec who watched Ervin Santana last night says "I'd take him over Garza. Hit 95-96 a lot. Slider was 85-86. And commanding everything"— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 25, 2013
The 30-year-old Santana tossed eight strong innings on Wednesday, allowing just one earned run in eight innings in a win over Baltimore and lowering his ERA to 3.06. It was the 14th time he's pitched at least seven innings and the eighth time he's allowed one earned run or less in his 20 starts. He's completed six innings in 19 of those starts and has allowed more than three earned runs just five times.
That level of consistency is unbelievable. It wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say Santana is pitching like an "ace" in 2013. Acquiring an "ace" starting pitcher is costly, even if it's just for 10-12 starts. In the next few days, general manager Dayton Moore should get a pretty good idea of what he can get for Santana.
Here are five teams that will likely have strong interest and what kind of trade package they'd have to put together.
Replacing Tim Hudson (pictured), who is out for the season after fracturing his ankle on Wednesday, would likely take at least a couple of young pitchers from a farm system deep in pitching talent. David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote that the Braves will now consider adding a starter.
While two of the team's top prospects are likely off the board with Alex Wood now in the big league rotation and J.R. Graham out since mid-May with a shoulder injury, the Braves would likely have to include right-hander Cody Martin (2.86 ERA, 100.2 IP, 91 H, 42 BB, 108 K between Triple-A and Double-A) and last year's first-round pick, Lucas Sims (3.03 ERA, 77.1 IP, 53 H, 31 BB, 83 K in Low-A), whom ESPN's Keith Law ranked (Insider subscription required) as the 50th-best prospect in baseball in his recently released midseason prospect rankings.
Giving up the 50th-best prospect in baseball and another good young pitcher might seem like a lot for a two-month rental. But the Braves are in a strong position to make the playoffs with an eight-game lead in the NL East and a young group of inexperienced starters leading the way. Santana would give them a clear No. 1 ahead of Mike Minor, Julio Teheran and possibly Brandon Beachy, who is due back from the disabled list shortly.
RHP Ervin Santana
RHP Cody Martin
RHP Lucas Sims
Rookie Brandon Workman has done a fine job (12 IP, 4 ER, 9 H, 3 BB, 9 K in two starts) filling in for Clay Buchholz, who is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. But the first-place Red Sox are in a battle with three other very good teams in a tough division, and they'd likely benefit from having a more reliable and experienced option to take the mound every fifth day.
The Rays have won 19 of 22 to pull within a half-game of the Sox. The Orioles are only three-and-a-half games out and have already made upgrades to their rotation and bullpen via trades. The Yankees are seven back, but they're also looking to make an impact move before the deadline. It's the Red Sox's move.
With Workman pitching well, the Sox don't necessarily need to add another back-of-the-rotation starter to upgrade their team. Adding a front-line starter like Santana should make them a significantly better team, though.
And they certainly have the minor league talent to acquire him. In this case, I think they could get a deal done with a package centered around Double-A starter Anthony Ranaudo (pictured), who is having a breakout season (2.80 ERA, 103 IP, 76 H, 39 BB, 99 K) after an injury-plagued 2012. Ranaudo, Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer would give the Royals a formidable trio of upper-level pitching prospects with a chance to make an impact in the 2014 season.
In addition to Ranaudo, the Red Sox would send Triple-A outfielder Bryce Brentz to Kansas City, giving them another option to fill the void in right field next season. The 24-year-old has an .808 OPS with 16 homers and 15 doubles in 75 games.
Red Sox acquire:
RHP Ervin Santana
RHP Anthony Ranaudo
OF Bryce Brentz
With the A's reportedly on the lookout for starting pitching, I predicted a blockbuster deal between them and the Brewers that would bring starter Yovani Gallardo, along with second baseman Rickie Weeks, to Oakland.
That would require a significant financial commitment from ownership, however, since both players are signed beyond 2013 and top pitching prospect Sonny Gray would also have to be included in that deal. Going after a rental like Santana wouldn't require either.
It would require them to part with some good, young lower-level talent, though, including 19-year-old third baseman Renato Nuñez, who has a .780 OPS and 15 homers in Low-A ball, to go along with right-handed starters Michael Ynoa (2.14 ERA in 15 Low-A starts before promotion to High-A) and Raul Alcantara (2.71 ERA, 113 IP, 115 H, 15 BB, 85 K in 20 starts between High-A and Low-A).
The A's rotation would include Santana, Jarrod Parker, Bartolo Colon, Tom Milone and either Dan Straily or A.J. Griffin, with Brett Anderson an option if he returns healthy later in the season.
The Royals would have a pair of very talented teenagers manning the left side of the infield in Low-A ball with Nuñez and 17-year-old shortstop Adalberto Mondesi.
RHP Ervin Santana
3B Renato Nuñez
RHP Raul Alcantara
RHP Michael Ynoa
As good as Santana is pitching, it's far-fetched to think any team would give up a top prospect who is on the verge of the big leagues for two months of his services. In the case of the Cardinals, their farm system is considered one of the best in the game because they have so many of these types of prospects.
Eliminating that entire group of top prospects, including outfielder Oscar Taveras and pitchers Carlos Martinez and Michael Wacha, as trade bait puts the Cardinals in a difficult position if they are to acquire an impact starting pitcher like Santana. Even Kolten Wong (.815 OPS, 7 HR, 15 SB in Triple-A), who would be a perfect fit in Kansas City with their gaping hole at second base, might be too much to give up for Santana.
That doesn't mean it can't happen, though. The two teams will just have to be creative by expanding the deal to include an additional player in an effort to balance out the deal. In addition to Santana and Wong switching teams, the Cardinals would acquire Johnny Giavotella (.805 OPS, 7 HR, 7 SB in Triple-A) to replenish their depth at second base and outfield prospect Elier Hernandez, who has a .765 OPS in the short-season Pioneer League.
The Royals would also receive Double-A outfielder Mike O'Neill (.796 OPS, 15 SB, 64 BB, 25 K), an on-base machine who could be a terrific fourth outfielder in the near future.
RHP Ervin Santana
2B Johnny Giavotella
OF Elier Hernandez
2B Kolten Wong
OF Michael O'Neill
With news that lefty starter Ross Detwiler will be out at least another month with a back injury, the Nats could intensify their search for a replacement. Rookie Taylor Jordan has filled in capably (3.68 ERA in five starts), but the Nats are going to need a more reliable option if they are going to get back into contention.
By acquiring Santana to team with Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Jordan Zimmermann and Dan Haren, the Nats would possess the type of rotation capable of leading the team on the kind of run necessary to make up several games in the standings in a short period of time.
To land Santana, they'll have to give up one of their young center field prospects, likely Michael Taylor (.766 OPS, 7 HR, 32 SB in High-A), lefty pitching prospect Sammy Solis (3.75 ERA in six High-A starts; returning from Tommy John surgery) and second baseman Danny Espinosa (pictured), who would fill the Royals' hole at second base in 2014 if he can bounce back from what has been a miserable season. He had 38 homers and 37 stolen bases combined between 2011 and 2012.
RHP Ervin Santana
2B Danny Espinosa
OF Michael Taylor
LHP Sammy Solis