Baltimore the best landing spot for Ervin Santana?

Published: Mar 09, 2014 17:34pm EDT
By Jeff Kryglik, Sports Writer for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Mar 09, 2014 @ 05:34pm EDT


Free-agent RHP Ervin Santana has yet to find a landing spot in what has been a long off-season for the Dominican native, but two teams - the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays - remain the two top contenders for his services.

There have been numerous reports tying Santana to both clubs at different points of the off-season, but it stills appears as if they are the two most likely candidates in baseball. Santana has stated that he wants to be a part of an offensive-minded ball club and the Orioles and Blue Jays certainly fit that mold. Both clubs have their lineups constructed based on the production of power hitters and guys who can play between the left-and-right-center gaps. 

Even with the similarities in style, Baltimore looks like a better fit for Santana for a few reasons:

1. They've already forfeited two draft picks in acquiring both free agent RHP Ubaldo Jimenez and OF/DH Nelson Cruz. 

Even though Baltimore would have to give up yet another draft pick in order to acquire the 31-year-old pitcher, how much risk will Dan Duquette and the rest of the front office tie into giving up another youthful selection for a pitcher who has eclipsed 200 innings five times already in his career?

The Orioles want to win. They've made it clear in their acquisitions of Jimenez and Cruz that they don't want to fall behind the eight ball in the AL East. This division is still one of the toughest in all of baseball where even a .500 record of 81-81 could mean last place. 

And Santana wants to be a member of a winning ball club. 

2. While the Orioles just started returning to their winning ways, the Blue Jays spent a lot of money during last year's off-season and it failed.

As bad as the Orioles were from 1998-2011, the Blue Jays have not tasted the postseason since winning the second of their back-to-back World Series titles in 1993. Toronto hasn't seen better than a third-place finish in the AL East since 2006. The culture of winning isn't there.

While some may argue that one rebound season in 2012 hasn't instilled a winning attitude in Baltimore, following up with an 85-win season in 2013 confirms the sentiment around the league that even though Baltimore isn't a perennial World Series contender per se, they are a winning ball club. 

Santana wants to be in a clubhouse where the general consensus in the locker room is to have a goal beyond just making the postseason. Some would argue that the Blue Jays are a club looking to get back to the postseason, while the Orioles - in a similar boat - are looking to legitimize themselves in what could be a transitional year for the aging New York Yankees.

3. While he wouldn't be the ace of the staff, inserting Santana as a likely No. 3 starter would take a lot of pressure off of his game. 

Santana hasn't seen an overall pitching record above .500 since 2010 and while that may be an indictment on the teams he has played for, it also could be a measure of his prowess as well. In 2012, as a member of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, he allowed a career-high 39 home runs. Santana was also the No. 3 starter for the Angels.

In Baltimore, however, being a No. 3 starter and playing at Camden Yards might mean something different. For one, he will have a much better offense supporting him. Whenever the Birds happen to face the Boston Red Sox, they'll be matched up with John Lackey as he is their likely No. 3. He would have a tougher matchup against the Rays as their projected No. 3 is Alex Cobb.

But he wouldn't always be matched up with No. 3 guys either.

Plus, the Orioles want this more than anything from their starting pitchers: Get through the sixth inning.

Santana does that as that will help the Orioles in more than one area. While Ervin failed to throw a complete game last season, he has nine since 2010 and three of which were shutouts. Baltimore had just two complete games last season - tied for 24th in MLB - and as a team collected 78 quality starts - also good for 24th in Major League Baseball in 2013. 

Santana was second on the Kansas City Royals - his club in 2013 - behind only RHP James Shields (27) with 23 quality starts. RHP Chris Tillman was the best pitcher on the Orioles in 2013 and he only amassed 21 quality starts.

That shows what kind of talent Santana has.

4. The Orioles have a more talented roster than the Blue Jays in terms of offensive prowess and that may allow him to better showcase for a larger deal in the future.

In baseball, a player's early 30s can sometimes be classified as the end of their prime. Santana is looking for a one-year deal and wants to be in camp sooner rather than later. He wants to be on a winner as winning produces the high-dollar deals.

But maybe the Orioles will look to retain his services beyond just this season if they happen to make the move and if Santana sees what is surrounding him, he might not think it's all that bad of an idea. 

Ultimately, the Orioles want to move forward with RHPs Kevin Gausman and Dylan Bundy as the future of their starting rotation. But they still are in the early developmental sages of their Major League careers, Bundy more so than Gausman, and it will take some time before they can be regarded as established professionals.

On the contrary, the offense has one of the best extra-base hitters in the game in 3B Manny Machado, one of the best power hitters in the game in 1B Chris Davis and CF Adam Jones is a combination of the two. Add in RF Nick Markakis, SS J.J. Hardy's pop with his bat, the recent addition of Nelson Cruz and possibly the rising prospect that is 2B Jonathan Schoop, there is a lot more on this roster than Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion. 

That's the two core guys of the Blue Jays. There are other pieces, but the Orioles have a much stronger lineup one-through-nine than the Jays. 

Time is ticking as Opening Day is just 22 days away. Where Santana will end up is a matter of where he feels like is his best place to win and where he can best showcase his repertoire to the rest of the MLB.

As with everything else surround Santana this off-season, there are still a lot of uncertainties encompassing the veteran righty. 


Comments (2)

  • Michael Owen   Mar 10, 2014 @ 05:58PM
    One question guys: Is Baltimore the best landing spot for every Free Agent?

    I think the biggest thing missed here though is what Santana really wants. While yes I'm sure he wants to win and while the sentiment of the O's being a winning ballclub with a winning culture is debatable, what Santana wants is to get PAID. With him likely getting justy a 1 year deal wherever he goes, he's going to want to collect as much money in this cash grab as possible. Santana has never been known as a great "team" guy, as a matter of fact he was run out of LAA after some implications that he was a selfish "me first" player that didn't buy into their system.

    If you ask me, the O's can have him. You'll get what he is: an innings eater that will give up a ton of dingers and finish with a .500 record -

  • Lance Rinker   Mar 9, 2014 @ 05:41PM
    Nice work Jeff. I agree - I also think that the Orioles are the best fit for Santana and they have done more to prove they have a winning formula, whereas the Blue Jays have to rely on aging veterans to stay healthy, which none of them have much of a track record of doing so. -

Jeff Kryglik
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