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.