It had to be expected that this would occur. As soon as the rumors began to surface that Ervin Santana was looking to receive a five year contract in excess of $100million, any hopes that Santana would sign the qualifying offer were likely dashed. Indeed, as expected, Santana declined the qualifying offer, entering free agency.
However, that does not necessarily guarantee that his time with the Royals has finished. Santana has stated that he enjoyed being in Kansas City, and he has seemingly made an effort to integrate himself into the culture of the city, frequently posting tweets about the Chiefs. It seems like a lot of effort just to pretend to enjoy an area.
Santana has also been a bit of an enigma during his career. Although he had an excellent 3.24 ERA and a 1.14 WHiP, Santana is still a year removed from his disastrous 2012 season that saw him go 9-12 with a 5.16 ERA for the Angels. In fact, over his career, Santana has gone 105-90 with an ERA of 4.19. He had seasons with an ERA over 5.00 in 2007, 2009 and the aforementioned 2012 campaign. Is this really the type of pitcher that can get $100million on the open market?
Given his career numbers and tendency to have a good to solid season followed by a poor season, it may be that Santana finds himself in the same situation that Kyle Lohse found himself in last year. Lohse had resurrected his career with the Cardinals under the tutelage of Dave Duncan, going from a below average starter to a pitcher that produced a 30-11 record with an ERA of 3.11 in his last two seasons in St. Louis. Like Santana, he also turned down his qualifying offer in search of that big payday. However, Lohse ended up signing a week before the season started, receiving a three year, $33million contract from the Brewers. Is a similar situation waiting for Santana in free agency?
If Santana finds himself waiting for a contract in the middle of January, could a reunion with the Royals occur? If they were willing to pay him over $14million for one year, then it would seem likely that they would have interest in keeping Santana around on a multi year deal at roughly the same amount per year.
Although Ervin Santana declined his qualifying offer, that does not necessarily mean that his time in Kansas City is over. It could be that he is overvaluing himself on the market, and could face the same harsh reality that Lohse did last year – that no one wants to spend that much money on a pitcher who has yet to perform that well consistently.