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.
#Braves will announce Ervin Santana signing this morning at Champion Stadium.— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) March 12, 2014
Ervin Santana and #Braves agree 1 year deal, pending physical. Santana arriving to Braves park in Orlando right now.— Enrique Rojas/ESPN (@Enrique_Rojas1) March 12, 2014
The team confirmed the move on Wednesday morning:
The Braves have agreed to terms with RHP Ervin Santana on a one-year Major League contract. Santana will wear uniform number 30.— Atlanta Braves (@Braves) March 12, 2014
Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported the details of Santana's contract:
ervin santana gets $14.1M— Jon Heyman (@JonHeymanCBS) March 12, 2014
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:
Wren said Santana will throw a pen and live BP before making his first exhibition start. This means he'll likely be ready by mid-April— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) March 12, 2014
McAlpin also brought us Santana's thoughts on joining the team, while O'Brien reported on Wren's thought process behind the decision:
Ervin Santana: "I'm very excited to be in this organization with young talent. It's going to be a fun season for us this year" #Braves— Kevin McAlpin (@KevinMcAlpin) March 12, 2014
#Braves Wren called it an "incredible decision" by team brass to approve the signing and go well over the planned $100 million payroll limit— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) March 12, 2014
#Braves hated losing draft pick as compensation, but Wren said the bigger picture is to win at the major league level.— David O'Brien (@ajcbraves) March 12, 2014
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:
Sources: Ervin Santana now seeking a one-year deal, and wants to sign as quickly as possible.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 8, 2014
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:
If Ervin Santana takes a 1-year deal for something in range of $10m to $14m, that'll be for about $100 million less than first asking price.— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 8, 2014
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:
Source: Ervin Santana has fired Bean Stringfellow as his agent— Dionisio Soldevila (@dSoldevila) March 7, 2014
Jay Alou of the Proformance Baseball agency later refuted that report:
@Ken_Rosenthal Ervin Santana is still represented by the same person that he first signed with 15 years ago. No change— Jay Alou (@JAloujr) March 7, 2014
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.
Was signing this contract the right move by Santana?
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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