Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

For Royals, Ervin Santana to the Braves was the Best (Realistic) Outcome

Once Ervin Santana became a free agent after he declined the Royals’ qualifying offer at the start of the offseason, we basically all knew his days in Kansas City were over. Even though the Royals had a need for another front of the rotation pitcher this winter, most fans assumed Santana would receive a fat paycheck from another team on a multi-year deal. As his market began to shrink, some may have started to believe the Royals would get back in the hunt for Santana’s services, even while the team’s front office continued to insist they were at their spending limit. Yesterday, those last shreds of hope were dashed as Santana inked a one year deal with the Atlanta Braves. The Royals are officially starting the season without their second starter from 2013.

However, all is not lost. Thanks to the collective bargaining agreement, the Royals are not coming away completely empty-handed. In fact, once it became apparent that Erv would not be returning to the home dugout at Kauffman Stadium next year, the best-case scenario was exactly what happened when he signed that contract with the Braves. I also think this deal was a great one for the Braves and Santana, but this being a Royals-centric site, I’ll get right to the impact in Kansas City.

There were quite a few teams interested in Santana this offseason, but no one came close to his contract demands until he said he would accept a one year deal. At that point, there were rumors he was close to signing with the Blue Jays, but the Orioles were also said to have a similar offer on the table. For the Royals, both of those destinations would not have provided as much compensation as what they will receive from the Braves.

Now, this is where it may get kind of murky, so stick with me.

The team who signed Santana would be surrendering their first round draft pick, unless it was protected at the top of the round, or if they had already signed a qualifying offer free agent. If their pick was protected or already surrendered, they would then give up their second round pick, unless they had signed a second QO free agent, etc. The Blue Jays have the 9th and 11th picks in this year’s draft, and the Orioles had already signed Nelson Cruz and Ubaldo Jimenez. In other words, Toronto would be giving up their second rounder, while the Orioles would give up their third rounder.

Still following? Good. Now, you should know that the Royals won’t be receiving the exact draft pick surrendered, so it’s not a simple “trade,” if you will. No matter where Santana signed, the Royals were going to get a draft pick that falls after the first round. Even if he signed with the Orioles, the Royals would still receive a compensatory pick after the first round of the draft, even though the Orioles would be giving up their third rounder.

Now, you’re probably wondering why it matters what team signed Santana, since the pick was always going to be after the first round. Simply put, the Braves giving up their first round pick shortened the first round by one position. If the Orioles had signed Santana, the pick the Royals would have received was going to be 29th overall. With the Braves dropping out of the first round, that pick becomes the 28th overall. Why is that one draft position important, especially with a draft class as deep as this one is going to be?

I would link you to a clever video here to reveal the answer, but you’re probably fed up with this tedious process, so I’ll get straight to the point: money.

As you probably know, each draft slot is assigned a dollar value, and each team only has a certain amount of money to spend in the draft without facing financial penalties. The Royals, being the small market team that they are, can always use additional money to add as much talent as possible, so the 29th pick would have provided a nice bit of extra cash to their draft pool. However, the 28th pick has a higher value (as one should expect, it being a higher pick than the 29th one), and with that, comes more money for the organization to spend on their draft picks. The difference between the two picks in last year’s draft was $27,000, and while that may not seem like a ton of money in the grand scheme of things, every little bit helps. Perhaps the Royals can take a little bit of money off the top of a few under-slot signings, and add that to the $27K to nab an over-slot guy in a later round. The actual draft position and slot amount may change before the draft, since Kendrys Morales has yet to find a new home, but the overall point remains. A higher draft pick is a good thing. For a team with financial limitations, having a bit more draft money to play with is always going to be beneficial.

It would have been great to see Santana back in a Royals uniform this season, but among the realistic potential scenarios, him signing with Atlanta was the best of the bunch. And hey, with Dayton Moore’s track record of acquiring former Braves, a reunion is just on the horizon anyway.

I’m kidding, of course. Mostly.

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