The Royals really like buying low on starting pitching and they did it again today. Ervin Santana joins the AL Central as Kansas City sends minor league lefty Brandon Sisk the other way to the Angels.
Santana had a very poor season in 2012 and is owed $13 million in 2013, but the Royals were willing to gamble to improve their pitching staff in hopes of becoming a relevant baseball team in one of the weaker divisions in the sport.
He posted a -0.9 WAR this season to go along with his 5.16 ERA and 5.63 FIP. In 2010 and 2011 he was above 2.0 WAR and had ERAs under 4.00 to pair with his very strong 5.8 WAR in 2008.
Santana’s had four 200+ inning seasons in his career and is entering his age 30 season. While I certainly wouldn’t offer him a long term deal, a one year contract is of pretty low risk for someone who can bring some upside and has no-hit stuff when he’s right.
From a player for player standpoint, the risk was worth taking, the real question is if $13 million is worth it for someone coming off such a bad season. Obviously the Royals think 2012 was an outlier and the real Santana is more like the 2010 and 2011 versions. The Angels take the other side.
It’s hard to imagine that this is the best way to spend $13 million this offseason for a club that needs multiple starters to really explode onto the scene, but if they are willing to expand the payroll it’s a risk worth taking.
Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza, Felipe Paulino, and Danny Duffy are the other four members of the Royals projected rotation at this point, but Chris Volstad and others will enter spring training with their sights on a spot.
Dayton Moore and the rest of the Royals front office needed to target starting pitching this offseason given that their top two pitchers by WAR both came out of the bullpen in 2012. Santana is a risk worth taking if they’re going to increase payroll. If they’re allocating most of their offseason budget on Santana, however, I’d give them a failing grade.
On the Angels side, they got a live body for a player they didn’t want anymore, so you can’t really complain. They’ll likely use some of that Santana cash to bid heavily on Zach Greinke.
Free Agency starts Saturday, so stay tuned for updates.