Ervin Santana has been good but not great. He was 17-10 last season, with a 3.92 ERA, 1.320 WHIP and he chewed up 222.2 innings. At 28 years old, he isn't likely to improve very much, but he could hold those numbers for some years. The Yankees lost Andy Pettite this week, who had a career 3.88 ERA, so Santana could be a logical replacement. But why would the Angels deal a valuable piece of their young rotation?
The Angels acquired Wells from the Toronto Blue Jays in a trade for Mike Napoli. Wells is owed over $80 million over the next four seasons, leaving some Angel fans to scratch their heads about the deal, considering they sent away a player who had 20+ HR in three straight seasons. The three-time All-Star is 32 years old and, while his 31 HR was the most he'd hit since 2006, he will be a burden on the Angels payroll until he is 36 years old.
Dan Haren is owed $46.5 million over the next three years. He provides the Angels with a solid #2 in their rotation, behind Jered Weaver. Haren has six straight years of 200+ innings, 190 strikeouts and a WHIP under 1.30. Though his second-half struggles are well documented, Haren is capable of pitching like an ace. The Angels aren't exactly a cheap organization and they seem to think the price is right for what Haren will give them. They intentionally went out and got him, so it doesn't seem like he will be going anywhere.
Jered Weaver, the Angel's ace, led the league in strikeouts last season, and is the home-grown anchor of the Angels rotation. A product of nearby Long Beach State, the former first round pick is only 28 and entering his prime. However, he is also due for a major contract extension and will likely command something close to the other established aces in baseball. The SoCal native has repeatedly said he intends to spend his career in Los Angeles, but he will likely be paid top-dollar for the next five or six years, minimum.
The Angels only true slugger, and most potent run producer, 27 year old Kendry Morales also has a big payday coming. Before his freak injury in 2010, he broke out during his first full-time starting opportunity in 2009, batting .306 with 34 HR and 108 RBI. In just 51 games last season he was at .290, 11 and 39. He is eligible for arbitration after this season and should get a substantial pay increase. A hitter with Morales' power is at an especially high premium in Los Angeles, where Mike Scioscia's small-ball approach leaves them low on thumpers. Morales will get his money.
If they could find a suitor for Santana, the Angels could still field a very competitive rotation with Weaver and Haren at the top, followed by Scott Kazmir, Joel Piniero, and youngster Trevor Bell. They also have Matt Palmer and Anthony Ortega, who have shown starter potential. With the young talent coming up, Santana could quickly find himself the odd man out, if he encounters another bout with inconsistency that plagued his early years. And he would make for an expensive sixth starter.
Santana is owed $19.2 million over the next two seasons. He then has a 2013 club option worth $13 million, or a $1 million buyout. If the Angels don't deal him, they risk two things. One, he could have another good season in the range of 2010, something around 15-18 wins, sub-4 ERA, in which case, come the last year of his current contract, he would be looking to get a raise in his next one and could get very expensive for a #3 starter. On the other hand, if he relapses, he becomes a very expensive back-of-the-rotation guy.
Teams like pitchers who are good against their rivals. Santana has a career 4.31 ERA against the Red Sox, 5.55 against he Yankees, 5.44 against the Rangers and 4.60 against the National League. It's difficult to justify paying a #3 SP $.19.2 million over the next two years if he can't be relied upon to go out and win the big divisional games. The Angels are a team that regularly competes for the division title or AL wild card, and finds themselves in meaningful series with those teams in August and September. Those numbers don't justify the cost.
In 84 starts on the road, Santana has a 5.00 ERA and 1.409 WHIP. Going along with the idea of important games against rivals, he is 4-5 with a 7.24 ERA at The Ballpark in Arlington. He is 1-2 with a 4.58 ERA at Fenway Park. He's 0-1 with a 7.94 ERA at the new Yankee Stadium, and had a 5.19 ERA at the old one. While this doesn't help the Angels attempts to trade him to New York, this also makes him that much easier to let go of, if the right offer came along.
Mike Trout might be the top prospect in all of baseball, but with Peter Bourjos and Hank Conger likely to see the majors in 2011, the Angels minor league system is looking very thin. If they don't find a return for Santana that fills major league needs, they could look to grab some valuable prospects, and if Santana continues his 2010 success in 2011, the Angels could fetch an attractive package for his services, while unloading his contract obligations.
The Angels are a playoff contender every year. To be successful in the playoffs, a team needs three starters they can give the ball to with some confidence. Santana is 2-2 in eight career playoff games, with a 5.56 ERA. Even worse are his two career playoff STARTS in which he gave up six runs in 4.1 innings in a loss to the White Sox in the 2005 ALCS and five runs in 5.1 innings to the Boston Red Sox in the 2008 ALDS, both series the Angels would go on to lose. If he can't perform in crunch time, he will forever be a liability to an organization that expects to win.