Apr 14, 2013; Kansas City, MO, USA; Kansas City Royals pitcher Ervin Santana (54) delivers a pitch against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning at Kauffman Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports

Ervin Santana Could Change Everything

Now that a lot of discussion of the Matt Garza deal has given us optimism about Ervin Santana being back in Royal blue, as well as a lot of interest in Santana, it is time to talk about all of the benefits a pitcher of his caliber would mean to this particular team.

It is obvious that the rotation would be better with Ervin, but it would also change the near and short-term rotation needs in a significant way as well as define some of the roles for other players.  This is how the rotation should be set up if Santana were in it:

  1. James Shields
  2. Ervin Santana
  3. Jason Vargas (only in front of Guthrie to break up lefties)
  4. Jeremy Guthrie
  5. Danny Duffy

So, the first thing Ervin would do is give a definite structure to the rotation by solidifying the five spot, and that would make is so that Luke Hochevar and Wade Davis can start working with the bullpen in mind from day one of spring training.  Two caveats; 1) Dayton Moore might want to give Wade Davis another shot in the rotation due to the trade and this could make Santana less attractive to him GM; 2) I would also be open to cutting Hochevar for monetary reasons if it means getting Santana in the fold since he is over priced.  Trading him would be preferable, but you gotta do what you gotta do.  Cutting Davis with the number of years of control to go and aforementioned trade implications is unlikely.

Once those pieces are taken care of, a huge part of Santana’s value beyond his pure production can be planned out.  This structure would allow the Royals to spend some time considering the best way to handle Yordano Ventura and Kyle Zimmer.  Both might be ready in the near future, and both are likely to be useful in some way late in the season if they are managed properly.

Neither will need to start in the rotation this year this way, which is good, because neither can handle a full season of baseball yet.  This is true of Danny Duffy as well, but he will have to be managed at the big leagues so I will skip that discussion for now.  Ventura threw 150 innings across three different levels last season, so he can hopefully go 170 or slightly more this season without wearing down.  Zimmer didn’t quite throw 120 due to being shut down in August when he was experiencing some shoulder stiffness.

There are a couple of ways to handle this.  One is to bring them along slow in the spring, or even delay their beginning.  That way they don’t really start the every 5th day grind until later than usual.  Then they will be around to fill in for the big league squad, or take a spot later in the year if needed.  And if they are watched closely could also contribute from the bullpen in case of a close race in August, September, and maybe even October if the season worked out right.

The downside to this is a quick injury in the rotation would not be filled by Ventura or Zimmer.  Zimmer really shouldn’t be in the majors that quick regardless since he could use a little time on the farm yet.  An early vacancy could be filled by Davis or

Aug 4, 2013; New York, NY, USA; Kansas City Royals starting pitcher Ervin Santana (54) pitches during the first inning against the New York Mets at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Hochevar, or if once you put them in the bullpen you want to keep them there, maybe Chris Dwyer could take a couple of starts.  The difference between any of them for a couple of starts and Yordano is likely to be negligible.

If you want them to be available all season, then the management needs to come in the form of skipping starts, at the minor or major level, in a systematic manner to reduce workload early in the assumption that will be needed for the big league team at some point.  Also, neither should be needed to start in the playoffs with a shortened rotation and a solid one and two if Santana were around.

There are also some other advantages to having Ervin on the team for the next several years.  One being the potential price tag for resigning James Shields.  This would give the Royals some leverage.  Tell James that he can test the market as the Royals would have Santana, Guthrie, Vargas, Duffy, Ventura, Zimmer, and maybe others like Sean Manaea that might be available for the coming future.  That is not to say they should definitely not sign Shields at that point, but there might be more leverage in negotiation, and less pain if he leaves.

Another part to consider is his value as a mentor.  I know Shields gets a lot of credit for this, but I have heard little in the way of Santana being an example for the young members of the rotation.  Yordano Ventura seemed to have a similar demeanor to Santana, very calm on the mound, maybe even stoic.  That is a sharp contrast to Shields who is more the fiery competitor.  Duffy seems to be more emotional like him.  Of Zimmer and Manaea I don’t know, so this part of possible value is hard for me to assess.

What does a guy like Ervin Santana mean to the Royals?  A lot:

  1. Better rotation
  2. Defined roles for all pitching staff
  3. Ability to take it slow with prospects
  4. Less pressure to overpay and resign James Shields
  5. Veteran presence for Yordano and possibly other

It doesn’t necessarily need to be Ervin Santana, but someone to slot second in the rotation changes this team significantly and we already know a little something about Santana.  There is only one other pitcher of his level still sitting around waiting to be signed, Ubaldo Jimenez.  Not that Paul Maholm wouldn’t be welcome in the rotation, but he is not in the same class.  In the next couple of days I will work on the comparison between Santana and Jimenez so we can figure out which one to dream about.

Tags: Baseball Ervin Santana Kansas City Royals MLB

  • jimfetterolf

    Santana is easily preferably as he won’t cost us a draft pick given to the Indians. Ubaldo is a non-starter based on that alone unless he’ll take a one year contract for $6m. Santana has positives and he’ll probably come in at less than Garza with the draft pick, so his agent is who Dayton Moore is talking to IF Moore thinks he needs him. I would go with what we have in house, but the GM has better information than I do and I wouldn’t disagree if he could sign Santana for Dutton’s suggested 3/40, maybe with an option or vesting for a 4th year and some incentives based on innings.

    • Eric Akers

      I have seen some comments about 1 year contracts for someone due draft pick compensation. But I must say that I cannot see one year being worth losing a draft pick. I do wonder if Santana would take a 1 year deal with us though.

      • jimfetterolf

        I saw on MLBTR that Ubaldo might be considering one to enhance value, like Jackson a couple of years ago. For Santana it might be perfect if signed with the Royals, who would pay him more than another team and put him in the best situation to repeat his ’13 results. Would also be perfect for the Royals, short commitment to give Ventura and Zimmer a little more time, then QO both Santana and Shields and cash the draft picks. Tampa has done that a few times. And Shields may find that Greinke money isn’t available for a 34 year old, so becomes a little more reasonable.

    • Brian Henry

      The draft picks are being WAYYY overvalued. What is the expected value from one sandwich pick? Anyway, if I am spending 50ish million dollars I would rather give up the pick if it means getting the better guy.

      • jimfetterolf

        Think it was one of the guys at fangraphs who valued a comp pick at $3m. For a team like the Royals or Tampa or other similar markets who build with the draft, a comp pick may be worth even more than money, as there is still talent available at that point in the draft.

        The big problem with Santana/Ubaldo is that both have issues and neither is clearly “better” or even good enough to confidently justify $50m and 4 years for the Royals.

  • unclejesse40

    So if I was the Royals manager on a video game I would do the following things to the major league rotation, bullpen, and AAA rotation. Not saying this works in real life but this is how my brain works.
    MLB Rotation would be 1. Shields 2. Santana 3. Vargas 4. Guthrie 5. Duffy I am fine with most of this rotation but the one thing that I would try to work out is an agreement with James McDonald like the one we signed with Brad Penny, come to spring training but you can have an opt out clause super early in the year. I would like to see McDonald at the back end of that rotation at least for a little to see if he could learn anything from Santana which I have said before on here that he reminds me a great deal of. Now for the bullpen I would have Holland close (duh) and fill it out with Herrera, Collins, Coleman, Joseph, Teaford. As you can see Hoch was traded as well as Davis to clear 2014 payroll for Santana. You will also notice that Crow was left off the list. That is because he would be sent down to pitch in Omaha’s rotation, which would look like 1. Ventura 2. Dwyer 3. Zimmer 4. Verdugo (Duffy if McDonald rocks) 5. Crow.
    Thats what I would do, but again its only a video game!

  • moretrouble

    If KC were going to spend big dollars to keep one pitcher, it should be Shields. Santana would solidify the rotation this year and probably make KC one of the favorites in the playoff hunt, but losing Santana and Shields over a two year period…well, that would be unfortunate. They’ve got to begin to clear spots for Duffy, Ventura and Zimmer, so I can’t see keeping both Shields and Santana. I think they have to let one of them walk and I’d prefer they keep Shields.

  • unclejesse40

    AJ Burnett now says he is going to pitch in 2014. Yippie, not only would I love to see Burnett in KC it also means that one more big time pitcher is driving Santana’s price down. Lots of teams are going to be all over Burnett and a one year deal.

    • Brian Henry

      I believe he said he would pitch in Pittsburgh if he came back, but more supply can only be a good thing.


    I think we need to resign Santana or Shields, and right now Santana seems like the more affordable and available option. In all likelihood, we won’t be able to afford Shields after this season. Obviously, Shields is the better pitcher but Santana offers a reasonable #2 in a rotation that will mostly be filled with young guys and aging mid-rotation starters. If Duffy, Ventura or Zimmer comes into their own soon, hopefully one of them could take over at the top of the rotation.