The 31-year-old starter has been stuck in free agent purgatory while his peers have mostly all signed, shown up to camp, and begun to compete in live Spring Training games.
He was arguably the best among a crop of starting pitchers to hit the open market this offseason. Yet he’s had to sit back and watch Matt Garza, Ricky Nolasco, Bronson Arroyo, Ubaldo Jiminez and AJ Burnett ink lucrative deals without so much as a nibble toward his originally sought after five-year, $100 million asking price.
That $100 million dream began back in November. A lot has changed since winter has turned to spring, and March has become mid-March.
According to Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, Santana is now willing to settle for a one-year deal, so long as it is with a strong offensive team.
Rosenthal believes the Toronto Blue Jays and the Baltimore Orioles to be the best fits considering their offensive output last season and there continued reported interest in Santana throughout the offseason. There’s also the added bonus that both organization’s first-round draft picks are protected. That’s huge considering Santana turned down the $14.1 million qualifying offer made by the Royals. Because of that qualifying offer, whatever team that signs Santana will have to forfeit a pick to the Royals as compensation. If the Blue Jays were to sign Santana, they would have to cough up their 50th overall pick in this year’s draft. If the Orioles sign him, they have to give the Royals the 91st overall choice (the Orioles have already forfeited top picks in signing Jiminez and outfielder Nelson Cruz).
It sounds like Santana has grown tired of waiting. Some had speculated that it would make sense for the players who had declined qualifying offers to wait until after the draft in June to sign with teams, thereby circumventing the draft pick compensation problem. Good luck convincing a competitor not to want to be between the lines when games start.
This offseason was supposed to be Santana’s chance to cash in on one last big money contract. At 31, he is in what many consider to be prime age for a starting pitcher. He had a solid season with the Royals in 2013. His record was just 9-10, but he posted an impressive 3.24 ERA and logged 211 innings with 161 strikeouts and a WHIP of just 1.142. He wasn’t so successful with the Angels in 2012 (but who besides Mike Trout WAS?), but his numbers in 2010 and 2011 are comparable to his 2013 campaign.
Santana’s $100 million asking price came way down once contract negotiation talks really got underway. The other three top pitchers on the market got four year deals for $49-50 million each. Santana was reportedly seeking a four year deal similar to those, though he likely wanted to be paid the highest among that group of players. For that, I can’t blame him; I think he’s the better pitcher.
Obviously, Spring Training injuries can change the landscape of negotiations in a hurry. And we have seen pitchers forced to wait well into Spring Training before signing with a club before. See Lohse, Kyle; 2013. Santana has been a reliable, dependable Major-League starter for nearly a decade now. I’m just ready to see the guy on the mound again.
And based on his reported decision to look into a one-year deal, it seems like he’s just ready to play ball again.