The Toronto Blue Jays have been mentioned as a possible destination for Ervin Santana as soon the news broke that the free-agent pitcher was seeking a one-year deal with a strong offensive team.
Since then, rumors have followed of Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos offering Santana a one-year, $14 million contract.
It’s hard to figure out whether Anthopoulos has actually offered Santana a deal or not, because the GM has a complete “media silence” policy when negotiating deals.
Rumors in the media about the team’s possible moves turn out to be wrong most of time, as the Blue Jays fan base found out when Yu Darvish was being posted and Toronto was falsely predicted to be the favorite team to land him.
Avoiding getting into bidding wars with top free agents has been something that Anthopoulos has done throughout his tenure as the team’s general manager. The biggest free agent that he’s signed so far has been Melky Cabrera, at two-years and $16 million.
But regardless of what’s happened in the past, getting Santana signed needs to be the top priority for the Blue Jays at this point.
It’s not a secret that an under-performing starting rotation was the main reason for the team’s struggles last season.
Toronto’s starters pitched the second-fewest total innings in the American League with 899.1 and put up the second-highest ERA in the AL at 4.81.
With the departure of Josh Johnson, the back end of the rotation still looks like a question mark heading into the 2014 season.
J.A. Happ was projected to be the fourth starter, but has battled a back injury and command issues in spring training.
Esmil Rogers and Todd Redmond both pitched in the rotation last season, but neither of them were impressive enough to be automatically given another opportunity. They’ve both also looked unspectacular in spring training so far.
Young pitchers Drew Hutchison and Marcus Stroman have both looked impressive in spring training, but might be better off starting the season in the minors rather than being rushed to the major leagues. Hutchison is just making his way back from Tommy John surgery and will be on an innings limit this season, while Stroman has only pitched 131 innings since turning pro.
Getting a pitcher like Santana, who had a 3.24 ERA in 211 innings pitched last season, would provide a huge boost to Toronto’s rotation and the team’s chances to compete in the tough AL East.
By having both of its first-round draft picks protected, signing a qualified free agent in Santana would only cost the team its second-round draft pick.
Even that lost pick could possibly be recouped if the Blue Jays sign Santana to a one-year deal and then offer him arbitration next season if he pitches well. If Santana declines arbitration and signs with another team, that would bring the Blue Jays a first-round draft pick back.
If the right-hander struggles, then Toronto can just let him walk away next offseason like it did for Johnson.
With money being the only factor here and not a lot of other risk involved, Anthopoulos has to break away from his usual policy of avoiding big-name free agents and make a strong push for Santana.
The team’s success this season could strongly depend on it.
All stats are from baseball reference.com
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