The Kansas City Royals acquired Ervin Santana and $1 million from the Los Angeles Angels in an effort to boost their 2013 rotation. The cost of Santana was minor league lefty Brandon Sisk. Â In Santana, the Royals acquire a a 6’2″ right-handed pitcher with good stuff who had a tough 2012 campaign, but has shown a history of being a legitimate number three starter in the big leagues. In 2012, the 29 year-old went 9-13 with a 5.16 ERA in 30 starts spanning 178 innings. He struck out 6.7 per nine innings and walked 3.1 while allowing under a hit per inning, something he’s done every year of his career but two.
Santana throws a fastball, slider and changeup and has, at times, mixed in a sinker, but he appeared to go away from that in 2012. The big difference statistically between his very good 2010 and 2011 seasons and the 2012 season was that he just gave up far more home runs than he had in the past with almost 19% of the flyballs he allowed leaving the yard. For a pitcher who ranged between 9% and 13% that number screams fluke to me. It can’t go ignored, though, that he saw a drop in velocity of about a mile per hour which can lead to some harder hit balls and more balls leaving the park. Santana has had his random issues throughout his career, but always seems to bounce back with solid seasons.
Santana hasn’t been great in his career at Kauffman Stadium, posting a 4.59 ERA in 51 innings, but that is a small sample and would be worth just as little if the numbers he posted were good. In Santana, though, the Royals have acquired someone who can fill the middle of a good rotation and will probably be featured prominently at the front of their rotation. He’s thrown more than 200 innings four times in his career, so he can be counted on to help give a bullpen that has had to throw a lot of pitches the last couple of years a bit of a break. Also of interest, he improved in the second half, posting a 4.34 ERA in 74.2 innings with a strikeout to walk ratio of three to one.
Something to watch out for on the dynamics of the team front is his relationship with Billy Butler. The two of them have had their issues in the past as Butler hit his first big league home run off Santana and they’ve been involved in some beanball issues, hitting Butler twice and throwing in his general direction more often than that.
I like this move a lot, but it isn’t without risks. Santana, as I mentioned before, gives up a lot of home runs. He also isn’t exactly a control specialist, but doesn’t have a fantastic strikeout rate to back it up. I also mentioned a decrease in velocity, which is something that can be corrected or he can learn to pitch with a little bit less in the tank. And that’s not even mentioning the somewhat high price tag for the 2013 season. That said, it’s a one-year risk and one that the Royals had to take in order to boost their team for next season and help to make them a contender. When right, Santana can be a horse in the mold of a Gil Meche. He isn’t an ace, but he can be a three/borderline two. That’s when right. We just hope the Royals get the good Santana.
As with all high priced players the Royals acquire, the option will be there to trade him at the deadline for prospects. The other option is if he’s good, they can offer him a qualifying article and either have him on another one-year deal in 2014 or pick up an extra draft pick (h/t to Keith Blackburn for reminding me about that). Either way, this is a start to an offseason that absolutely had to include acquiring starting pitching.
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