Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Braves Snag Santana

The Braves scooped up Santana well below the market rate 
When pitchers and catchers reported to spring training four weeks ago, I'm sure the last thing the Atlanta Braves thought they'd need would be more starting pitching. But a sudden rash of injuries to Kris Medlen, Mike Minor and Brandon Beachy left them short on arms, prompting yesterday's signing of Ervin Santana to a one-year deal worth $14.1 million.

Despite forfeiting a draft pick the Braves still got a great deal by essentially acquiring Santana, who originally wanted $100 million and was still seeking a four-year deal recently, for the cost of his qualifying offer. Plus they were able to avoid giving him a multi-year deal, which would have been risky given his spotty track record (Santana's posted full season ERAs over five in 2007, 2009 and 2012) and likely unnecessary, assuming something doesn't happen to Julio Teheran and that at least one of the aforementioned injured hurlers returns to health this year or next.

Given his level of success last year and throughout his career (six years with at least 30 starts, five with over 200 innings) I'm surprised Santana was still available. Durable, effective and still relatively young at 31, Santana would have been an asset for any team and is a more than capable last-minute fix. FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference both agree he was worth around three wins above replacement last year when he bounced back from a miserable 2012 to give the Royals 211 innings of 3.24 ERA ball (the best league and park adjusted ERA of his career). He also posted the second-best WHIP, walk rate and K/BB ratio of his career, teaming up with James Shields to form a dynamic duo at the top of Kansas City's rotation

Santana couldn't get the Royals over the postseason hump last year but should make an impact as a mid-rotation starter for the reigning NL East champions. Though he's another year older and thus more prone to age and injury regression, moving to the National League and a pitching friendly park should help Santana duplicate, if not improve, his 2013 production and thus his earning potential for next winter. Turner Field will help neutralize his home run tendencies, too, which makes his 2014 outlook even rosier.

So long as Santana stays healthy and doesn't have one of his patented disaster years, Atlanta's going to get their money's worth.

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