Johan Santana is no longer one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball, but the Baltimore Orioles hope that there is something left in his magical left arm.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, the O's agreed to a one-year deal with the two-time Cy Young Award winner:
Johan Santana #orioles deal is for 1 year— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) March 4, 2014
Eduardo A. Encina of The Baltimore Sun provided further details on the deal:
#Orioles make Johan Santana deal official. Minor league deal, big-league spring invite.— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) March 4, 2014
Heyman is also reporting that the contract involves incentives, which isn't uncommon for a player with Santana's injury history:
Johan Santana gets $3M plus performance bonuses on minor-league deal. #orioles— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) March 4, 2014
Signing the 34-year-old lefty is the latest in a series of high-profile moves that Baltimore has made recently, per Heyman:
Johan Santana signing, once announced, is 3rd big orioles move this spring.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) March 4, 2014
Roch Kobatko of MASN reports the time frame for Johan to contribute for the Orioles:
Duquette says "reasonable time frame" for Santana helping Orioles is June 1
Joel Sherman of The New York Post added more details of the contract:
Johan Santana’s minor lge deal with #Orioles: $3M base in MLB, $5.05M available in bonuses. 5/30 opt-out date
I'd like to thank the Baltimore Orioles for giving me the opportunity to comeback to the game I love
I'll do my best to comeback as quick as I can to help the team and get to know the fans base!!!
I'm excited about meeting my new teammates and coaches
The Orioles weren't particularly active early in the free-agency period this offseason, but they inked both outfielder Nelson Cruz and starting pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez in February. While Santana is the biggest name among them, he is also the biggest wild card.
Talk regarding the Santana signing picked up steam in recent days, especially after this Instagram photo of Santana and Orioles pitcher and fellow Venezuelan lefty Eduardo Rodriguez hit the Internet:
With a career record of 139-78 along with a 3.20 ERA in 12 seasons with the Minnesota Twins and New York Mets, Santana is one of Major League Baseball's most accomplished pitchers of the past decade.
According to Encina, he'll get to wear his No. 57 in Baltimore as well:
Johan Santana will wear No. 57, Peguero previously had that number.— Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard) March 4, 2014
The four-time All-Star has a lot to prove, though, after missing two of the past three seasons due to injury.
Santana sat out the entire 2011 season after tearing the anterior capsule in his left shoulder. He returned in 2012 and threw the first no-hitter in Mets history, but he suffered the same ailment in the spring of 2013 and sat out all of last season as well.
While the concerns regarding Santana's health are obvious, Orioles first baseman Chris Davis seemed excited about the possibility of the team signing Santana before it came to fruition, per Encina:
There's no doubt that in the past he was one of the best. Hopefully, he can regain his form and be a help for us. There are some things you just can't coach and experience is one of those things and he definitely brings that to the table.
Velocity is a big question mark for Santana in the wake of his throwing session on Feb. 25. According to George A. King III of the New York Post, Santana threw in front of seven teams, and his fastball topped out at just 81 mph.
Despite that, Santana was encouraged and excited about the progress he made as evidenced by a tweet following the session:
Today was a very good day off the mound, getting better!!!— El Gocho believe it! (@johansantana) February 25, 2014
Although Santana has never been known for having a blazing fastball, velocity is important for any pitcher. Santana's best pitch is his devastating changeup, but it may not have as much of an impact if his fastball remains around 80 mph moving forward.
Is this a smart signing by the Orioles?
Regardless of that, this is a low-risk, high-reward signing for the Orioles. A fairly reasonable financial commitment is being made, and the one-year term is ideal from Baltimore's perspective.
It isn't easy to come across quality lefties, and Santana can certainly be one if he finds his form.
Santana's role has yet to be determined, but Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com suggested that he could be used as a reliever. Pitching out of the bullpen is nothing new for Santana, which he did frequently in the first four seasons of his career, and it may prove to be the best option in terms of preserving his health.
This signing likely won't decide the AL East like it might have had it happened five years ago, but the Orioles are essentially playing with house money, and Santana has the ability to provide amazing value.
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