We’ve all been here before. It was barely four days ago that it seemed Ervin Santana was about to join the Toronto Blue Jays on a one-year pillow contract. Then the Orioles were players and Santana would decide by end of day Saturday.
Then no decision. Then the Braves’ curious decision to stand pat and roll with a highly volatile starting rotation jumped up to bite them all at once and suddenly the tightwad squad from the ATL looked like they might spend some money on a player from outside their organization. As the news on Kris Medlen got worse, the Braves became bigger and bigger players for the services of Ervin Santana.
It appears the Barves got their man, as MLB.com’s Mark Bowman reports the Braves and Santana are in agreement and will announce a one-year deal later this morning. No terms were released at this time.
The #Braves are nearing the completion of a deal with Ervin Santana.
— Mark Bowman (@mlbbowman) March 12, 2014
Ervin Santana and #Braves agree 1 year deal, pending physical. Santana arriving to Braves park in Orlando right now.
— Enrique Rojas/ESPN (@Enrique_Rojas1) March 12, 2014
What this means for Ervin Santana
All things being equal, Atlanta is a perfect landing spot for Santana. They feature the high-powered offense he so cravenly sought and they’re also a great team due many wins in a weak division. If Big Erv and his newly independent representation think a higher win total is going to land him a better deal next winter, more power to him. He’s wrong, but that shouldn’t stop him from having another good year.
Santana returns to another pitcher’s ballpark with another great defense behind him. The heavy air and spacious surroundings at Turner Field will suit the former Royal and Angel just fine, as those identical conditions served him well in Kansas City and at times in Anaheim. Santana can re-enter the market after his one-year deal is up with clearer eyes and a better sense of what kind of price tag he commands, provided he strings together another healthy and workable season.
It’s the end of what I can only assume was a long and arduous process, twisting in the wind with the qualifying offer clouding his judgement and suppressing his potential earning power. He joins a team with playoff aspirations which probably matters to Santana on some level. Not that he wasn’t up for the AL East grind but if you’re looking for a soft landing spot, you could do a lot worse than the 2014 edition of the NL East.
"I want to pitch in the NL East because Marlins and Phillies and Mets"
— Steph Rogers (@StephR2D2) March 12, 2014
What this means for the Braves
It means the best laid plans are mice and Wren often go awry. The dream of a cheap, young, in-house rotation died on the failing ligaments, strained biceps, and urethan malfunctions of Medlen, Beachy and Minor. Atlanta spent on their own players, locking Freddie Freeman, Craig Kimbrel, and Andrelton Simmons up to long-term extensions but the outside help was minimal. The Braves with Santana and those players is a lot nicer to think about than “Ervin Sananta, Opening Day starter” but Atlanta made their bed.
Santana is a great fit for ATL, no matter the circumstances of his arrival. His newly minted two-seam fastball and ground balling ways allow him to exploit the exploits of Andrelton Simmons, turning hits into outs like it’s his job (which it is.) The soft lineups and heavy air can help him prevent home runs, the looming weakness in Santanta’s slider-heavy attack. To say nothing of their superlative outfield defense, where Jason Heyward quietly roams as one of the five or six best fly catchers in the game today.
Of course, Santana won’t be ready for Opening Day as his Spring Training begins…today. Getting himself into game shape and building up his arm strength takes time, the kind of time only live hitters delivers. Hopefully Minor’s injury is, um, Minor and he can Santana can join the club before too much early season damage is done.
What this means for the also-rans
The Orioles didn’t really need Santana, though their interest was genuine. They added Ubalado Jimenez and Nelson Cruz this offseason so any other draft picks forsaken are an afterthought. Still, the Orioles have a certain air of optimism as they prepare to head north. Ervin Santana represents a luxury the O’s could afford to let slip.
The Blue Jays, on the other hand, are not so lucky. Unlike the Braves, who jumped up to address their starting pitcher need in less than a week, the Blue Jays spent five months sitting on their wallet and wishing for health and prosperity from pitchers not known to be healthy or prosperous. Toronto spent its money last year, this much is clear. The couch cushions were largely barren, though nobody could fault Santana for choosing an ideal fit like Atlanta over the cozy confines and competitive disadvantage of the Great White North.
Blue Jays fans will howl louder because it looked as though Santana was theirs. Instead, a club with a great need jumps in to claim that prize as their own. Blue Jays fans have plenty of reason for howling, don’t get me wrong. But giving up a draft pick for a one-year deal on a pitcher with numerous question marks is simply not the way this club works. Not to suggest a team without a playoff appearance in more than 20 years should close itself off to new operating procedures, but that day won’t come until long after the head bean counter in charge dashes from the scene – right before things get nasty, if history holds.
Ervin Santana is, or is about to be, a member of the Atlanta Braves. It’s the move they probably wanted to do in November but Atlanta, like everybody else, was scared off by the asking price. A whole lot of time and a whole lot of re-listing and here we are. Not by choice but by circumstance, Atlanta gets a good piece for their rotation at what can only a tidy price. When both sides of a deal are motivated to get it done, it’s amazing how quickly things can move.