After watching his high-profile peers fly off the market this offseason, starting pitcher Ervin Santana appears to have finally found a home. He has agreed a contract with the Atlanta Braves, according to David O'Brien of The Atlanta Journal Constitution and Enrique Rojas of ESPN.
The team confirmed the move on Wednesday morning:
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported the details of Santana's contract:
Kevin McAlpin of the Braves Radio Network posted a picture of Santana and general manager Frank Wren at the press conference announcing the pitcher on Wednesday:
MLB.com's Mark Bowman provided info on Santana's timeline:
McAlpin also brought us Santana's thoughts on joining the team, while O'Brien reported on Wren's thought process behind the decision:
Santana had a very busy first day with the team, as he immediately took part in a bullpen session, according to the Braves' official Twitter feed:
The expectation was that Santana would be scooped up fairly quickly after he enjoyed a career year in 2013. He posted a 9-10 record with a sparkling 3.24 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and 161 strikeouts with the Kansas City Royals this past season.
According to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, Santana was seeking a four-year deal with $50 million as recently as late February, but it became clear that no team was willing to make such an offer.
Rather than sitting around forever, the 31-year-old righty ultimately lessened his demands. Per Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Santana came to accept the possibility of inking a one-year deal:
This was a huge concession on Santana's part considering his initial asking price. According to ESPN's Buster Olney, Santana received only a fraction of what he originally hoped:
After Santana's change of heart regarding his potential contract, however, more options seemingly opened up for him. He had a desire to sign with a high-scoring team, which led to the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles becoming front runners:
It would have been very easy for Santana to grow frustrated throughout the process, and some reports suggest that he did. Dionisio Soldevila of ESPN Deportes reported on March 6 that Santana had fired agent Bean Stringfellow:
Jay Alou of the Proformance Baseball agency later refuted that report:
Stringfellow's status remains unclear, but he felt as though Santana's psyche was fine when asked about the situation days before he signed, per Heyman.
"He's concentrating on his workout," Stringfellow said. "Obviously, he'd rather be in camp, as he's always in camp at this time. But he understands the process, and the business aspect of it. He's doing well."
Now that Santana has finally landed with a new club, he can focus on baseball rather than negotiations. He is a bit behind since spring training is already in full swing, but it shouldn't be a big issue since he has been working out for teams.
In many ways, the one-year deal could be a blessing in disguise for Santana. There isn't much security involved, but perhaps Santana will view it as a "show-me" contract that can lead to a bigger deal next offseason.
If Santana replicates or improves upon his 2013 production, then it is unlikely that he will struggle to net a long-term contract thereafter.
Santana is a nine-year veteran who has had a measure of success at the MLB level, but the perception seems to be that he is a middle-of-the-rotation starter at best. While it may be true that he'll never be the ace, No. 3 and No. 4 starting pitchers are extremely important.
Teams need deep pitching staffs in order to succeed come playoff time, and Santana is the type of guy who can create an advantage when put up against other No. 4 starters.
Inconsistency has plagued Santana for much of his career, as he was up and down throughout his tenure with the Los Angeles Angels, and that may have adversely affected his bargaining power as well. Santana is a wiser and more experienced pitcher now, though, so it will be interesting to see how he fares in 2014.
Santana may prove to be the steal of free agency, and he has plenty of incentive to work hard and thrive during the upcoming season.
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